Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals are on a roll lately. The fact that the Redbirds are an MLB-best 19 games over the .500 mark, and have an MLB-best +86 run differential is due in large part to the success of the staff ace. Let’s not forget that he’s sporting a minuscule 2.33 ERA and that Wainwright is tied for the MLB lead in complete games thrown with 3.I want to focus just a bit more on Adam Wainwright’s complete games, all but one of which was a shutout. When you are the man who has to shoulder the responsibility of leading the number 1 team and pitching rotation in the entire MLB, it’s got to be at the forefront your mind a lot. It doesn’t seem to phase the Brunswick, Georgia native much though, even though he never got to pitch for his favorite team.
Though drafted by the Atlanta Braves with the 29th pick in the 2000 draft, Adam Wainwright never cracked the starting rotation. He decided to forgo college for a crack at making the team. Other than a $1.25 million signing bonus, and being traded along with Ray King and Jason Marquis for Eli Marrero and J.D. Drew in 2003, that’s about the only favors that the Atlanta Braves gave Adam Wainwright.
Dave Duncan and Tony LaRusa saw something they liked in the righty, and the rest is history. His curve has developed in to arguably the best of any starting pitcher, his cutter and other fastballs not far behind that. In an era where pitch counts and sabermetrics seem to dominate, Adam Wainwright breaks the mold, and the new regime of Derek Lilliquist and Mike Matheny are content to ride his arm, even if he does (God forbid) throw more than 100 pitches in a game.
His last 3 starts have been some of his best. In his last 24 1/3 innings, he has allowed just 5 earned runs, struck out 21, and walked just 1 man. I can’t fail to mention that they’ve all been wins too, as Waino has improved to 8-3 now on the year.
Adam Wainwright also has two complete game shutouts this season, one each versus the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers. Though his home starts certainly bring about much more favorable results, the consistency, strike throwing power, and reliability of Wainwright cannot be understated. His 1.35 ERA, .180 BAA, and 0.73 WHIP at home this year speaks greatly to the fact that Wainwright feels most at home….well….at home. Though not his first home, this is the place that Adam Wainwright calls home, without thinking twice.
Finally comfortable in his own skin, trusted by an organization that loves and greatly appreciates his positivity and often times quirky attitude, Adam Wainwright can now thrive. Needless to say, his new favorite team is the St. Louis Cardinals, and his new favorite city is the Gateway City. St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was very wise to give him a $97.5 million extension over the next 5 seasons. Waino showed his appreciation by being somewhat self-depricating in his press conference after the signing, but even more by wearing his heart and excitement on his sleeve, as he often does in his new home. He has thrown more innings than anyone this season, is tied for the most complete games by any pitcher, is tied for the most wins with four other starters, is 7th in Ks, and is 9th in ERA.
While many may say that complete games are commonplace in this league, all you have to do is look at the stats. Of the 27 pitchers who have tossed complete games on the season, only 9 have an ERA that exceeds 3.50, and only 9 have fewer than 5 wins. The quality of pitching has certainly improved, but only the best give their team’s bullpens the night off.
For those of you who think that complete games are overrated, think again. The more a team uses their bullpen, the fewer options a manager has the next day, and that builds on itself quickly. The more innings that come from starters, the better. No one is better than that of late that Adam Wainwright. Every time he goes out, I’m convinced the St. Louis Cardinals will win. A 20-win season is not out of the question, and 12 more wins would give Adam Wainwright 100, in just 6 short years of starting games. His K/BB ratio of 84/6 is absurd, his pitches have great life and movement, and he’s just solid. There’s no reason to think that 12 more wins this season shouldn’t be an easy feat for Waino, especially if he starts as many games as last year (32 starts would leave him with 20 more this season).
Look out National League, Adam Wainwright is coming, and he’s focused on long outings, careful and controlled pitching, and beating your team with his confounding mix of pitches. It makes me wonder quite often how many batters curse him after his 12-to-6 bender forces a strikeout, and just how many Atlanta Braves fans curse management for letting him go.