Adam Wainwright has been a mainstay in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation for nearly a decade. The three-time All-Star is hoping to bounce back from nothing short of a down year.
Adam Wainwright‘s poor performance can be attributed to the fact that he only appeared in seven games in 2015 for the St. Louis Cardinals. Bouncing back in 2016 did not go well. He gave up a career-high 102 earned runs.
Prior to that, his highest total was eighty-seven runs in 2012. The number of home runs allowed was also a career-high at twenty-two in 2016. His pitches that once were throwing hitters off balance in previous years were simply not working. Further proved by his averaging ten hits per nine innings.
That doesn’t create excitement to see Waino pitch this upcoming season. He didn’t change anything as far as how often he throws certain pitches. All of his percentages for how often he threw his pitches were within one percent of what they were in his last full season, 2014, when he posted a 2.28 ERA and 20 wins.
A good Spring Training would have sparked some hope. But through four St. Louis Cardinals appearances, Wainwright has a 10.97 ERA with opposing hitters posting a .395 average against him. Not encouraging numbers at all.
At one time, not too long ago, a bad spring would not phase a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Wainwright was a trustworthy arm at the front of the rotation. But he is now 35 years old, coming off of a season-ending injury just two years ago. He clearly did not bounce back as a starter at the level he wanted following this injury.
It just is not plausible to think he will magically be a new pitcher at his age.
If Wainwright can pinpoint something in his mechanics that changed due to an Achilles injury, then he may have a chance to return to form. However after watching as much video as I could find, his mechanics don’t differ much, if at all, pre- and post-injury.
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The other small point of positive view that could pull Waino back into almost being the pitcher of old is his size. A 6’7″ frame can certainly play a huge factor. His delivery is great at using this height to his advantage. If he can find a way to make his pitches seem as though they are bearing down, he can pull through and have another decent year in the middle of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation.
It is not a stretch to say that Wainwright is not the pitcher that he once was. And it should not be a surprise that he never will be again. He is at the end of his career. 1768.1 innings, and that is just as a Major League pitcher, will take its toll on any arm. Added with his season ending injury in 2015, Waino’s body has a lot more miles on it than most 35-year-old pitchers.
This is not pointing fingers at age, in fact to this point in his career he hasn’t really had a drop in velocity as expected. According to FanGraphs, his fastball velocity has sat around 90 MPH for his whole career. His age, while just a number, does explain some things though. He is still throwing as many strikes, but it is the quality of those strikes that are lacking.
I am not making a wild accusation of Wainwright that he lost his control. But as he gets older, his stamina has decreased. He is getting tired and making mistakes with his pitches. In 2014, he went six innings or fewer in eight of his thirty-two games.
Last year, he had twenty-one of his thirty-three starts that ended in six innings or fewer. His pitch count was not down all that much, he went from 3,258 pitches in 2014 to 3,195 last year.
It is entirely possible that all of Spring Training, Waino has been working on new grips, which is why he didn’t fare well. However, his effectiveness and stamina are down. All signs point to his ability to stay in top form late in the game is eroding.
I would be happy to be wrong. Wainwright having a good season is only positive for the St. Louis Cardinals. It just doesn’t look at all like it will happen. Expectations for him are low; proceed with caution. He may show glimpses of being the Waino fans fell in love with over the past nine seasons, but he will never be that pitcher again. Father time is cruel like that.