St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright’s Last Days

The St. Louis Cardinals have been leaning on Adam Wainwright for years, although it may be time to start thinking he’s not the same Wainwright and may never be again.

Throughout the St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason and early on in the season, I was big on Adam Wainwright and his ability to lead this team and be an effective starting pitcher. However, reality is starting to set in for me.

Currently, Adam Wainwright has a 4.71 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.63 FIP, and a 4.29 SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA). All of these numbers are career highs for Wainwright. He does have nine wins on the season, but we all know that wins are no determination on how well a pitcher is performing.

As a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, this is extremely hard to watch. At the beginning of the season last year, Wainwright was absolutely dominant before going down with the Achilles injury. He had the life on his fastball and was locating it well along with his dominant curveball. 

However, Wainwright has not been the same this season. He’s struggled with his mechanics, he’s struggled with velocity at times, he’s struggled with location, and he’s just flat out not been the Adam Wainwright we’ve come to expect throughout his career.

Throughout this season, Wainwright has lost the effectiveness of both his sinker and his four-seam fastball. His sinker has a -12.1 pitch value and his fastball has a -5.8 value and the two pitches have a 184 and 180 wRC+ against this season. At their height these two pitches carried a 9.4 rating (Sinker in 2010) and a 12.4 rating (Fastball in 2013).

While Wainwright’s sinker has been on a downward trend since the 2010 season, it has never carried a line drive percentage above 30% for a full year prior to this season. This season the pitch carries a 32.5% line drive percentage. His fastball is worse as it carries a 41.2% line drive percentage and a staggering 27.9% groundball percentage.

Wainwright’s BB/9 is at 2.54, which is close to his career worst BB/9 of 2.55 which came in his 2009 season. This is largely due to his inability to locate that fastball, as he is throwing it for a ball 13.4% of the time.

Granted there have been glimpses of greatness this season for Wainwright, as he shut out a good Miami Marlins team back in July on just three hits and had a stretch in July where he allowed no more than two runs in a total of four starts. However, Wainwright has only had three starts all season without a walk and is on pace to allow the most home runs in his career. 

It’s just all around a not good year for the Cardinals’ senior member of the rotation. Which begs my next question. Are we seeing the last of Adam Wainwright? Wainwright will be turning 35 in a few days and if things continue to go downhill as they have this year, he may just consider hanging it up at the end of this season.

Wainwright is absolutely one of the leaders of this team and is absolutely a great clubhouse guy. His character is second to none and he’s been one of the best pitchers to ever wear the Cardinal uniform. However, the Cardinals cannot afford to have him take up a spot in the rotation that could be occupied by someone more effective. 

“It’s frustrating. I don’t know what else to say other than just got to keep going and I’ll come out of this eventually”

While he is under contract for two more seasons, there’s Luke Weaver, Alex Reyes, Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn who all will be looking for a spot in the rotation next year, with Jaime Garcia being the only one to likely come out of the rotation.

Taking the rotation as it is there is just one spot available without a potential Wainwright retirement. If Wainwright cannot pitch effectively, then he knows just as well as we do that there is no place for him on this team.

Now, if Wainwright is willing to reinvent himself as an effective middle reliever, then his career could be extended. I just don’t see Wainwright as an effective starting pitcher beyond this year. Even Wainwright admitted to the media last night that he’s frustrated and really doesn’t know what to do.

Brian Stull quoted Wainwright as saying “It’s frustrating. I don’t know what else to say other than just got to keep going and I’ll come out of this eventually.” Wainwright also mentioned that there isn’t anything that he can point out to fix, saying “just wait til next game”.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals just aren’t in a position of “wait and see” after this year. I’d love for Wainwright to go on a hot streak and finish the season as the Wainwright we all know and love. However, right now it’s hard to see that happening as Wainwright is ineffective and it’s not just a “phase” or bad luck.

This is a scenario that I don’t want to happen, but a scenario that could become unavoidable as the seasons draws near to closing. If I am wrong, I will absolutely own up to it and will welcome Wainwright’s ability to turn things around.

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