St. Louis Cardinals: A New Michael Wacha for 2017?
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Michael Wacha, appeared in his final spring training game today. Will we see a new, invigorated Michael Wacha in 2017 or more of the same?
The St. Louis Cardinals depart Roger Dean Stadium today having closed the book on 2017 spring training from Florida. The Cardinals will travel to Memphis for tomorrow’s “Battle of the Birds.” A note to anyone planning to attend: the Memphis forecast looks highly questionable for tomorrow’s game so stay tuned for updates.
Before becoming too overly excited about seeing the St. Louis Cardinals appear here in Memphis, let us take a last look at the spring performance of Michael Wacha. Surely we all remember the dominant Wacha that carried the St. Louis Cardinals through the postseason, and surely we all remember the frustrating Wacha who floundered for a few seasons. Which Wacha will appear in 2017?
This spring, Wacha was gently (I just cannot find a word to accurately describe this “change”) inserted into the fifth starter role when Alex Reyes fell to Tommy John surgery. The St. Louis Cardinals had originally planned on Reyes and Wacha battling for the spot. With the injury, Wacha took the fifth spot.
I’m not sure he would have won the spot but his numbers this spring are nothing to shake a stick at. Before we look at them, let’s look back at the glory days of Michael Wacha.
Wacha appeared in St. Louis in 2013 in which pitched 64.2 innings. He struck out sixty-five batters in these sixty-four-plus innings and only surrendered twenty earned runs. He left 2013 with a 2.78 ERA.
2014 wasn’t too much worse. Wacha appeared for the St. Louis Cardinals in nineteen games (four more than he did in 2013). In 2013, Wacha started only nine of the fifteen games in which he appeared. In 2014, however, he was utilized exclusively as a starter in the 107 innings he pitched. In these, he struck out ninety-four batters and ended the season with a 3.20 ERA on thirty-eight earned runs.
2015 was another good year for Wacha. He appeared in and started thirty games accounting for 181.1 innings. Wacha showed that he was here to stay as a starter who was increasing his workload. In 2015, Wacha K’d 153 batters while allowing sixty-eight earned runs for a 3.38 ERA.
2016, on the other hand, was when the wheels fell off. In twenty-four starts across twenty-seven total games, Wacha K’d 114 batters but also allowed seventy-eight earned runs and 159 hits earning a 5.09 ERA. Wacha’s shoulder had become the culprit for his troubles and he battled it all season.
So, when spring training arrived, the question around Wacha was whether he still had his stuff and/or whether his shoulder would continue to prohibit his level of play. Let’s take a look at his spring numbers at the conclusion of his final tune-up today.
Wacha started seven games this spring and faced twenty-six total innings. In these he allowed twenty-four hits, eight runs (seven of them earned), and two home runs. In addition, Wacha K’d twenty-two batters this spring. His final spring ERA was 2.42. Is he back?
Before I jump to any harsh conclusions, let’s remember that these are spring training numbers. Need we remind ourselves of the good-to-great spring had by Mike Leake in 2016 only to watch him have a tough time in the season?
Let’s take a little journey back through Michael Wacha’s previous St. Louis Cardinals springs. In 2016, Wacha pitched in 17.2 innings and recorded a 4.08 ERA (see the above paragraphs to note season numbers for comparison). In 2015, he appeared in 20.1 innings and recorded a 1.77 ERA, and posted identical numbers in 2014.
While the 2017 spring wasn’t the impressive numbers of his 2014, 2015, or even his 2013 (appeared in 11.2 innings earning a 0.00 spring ERA), Wacha has posted some nice stats this spring. The real question will be whether these continue into the season.
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According to RotoChamp, Wacha’s projections have him pitching anywhere between 115 and 129 innings in 2017. These differing projections show him earning a 3.76 ERA at his best or a 4.20 ERA at his worst. One projection suggests he will earn at-best an 8-6 record and another shows him at worst a 6-7 record. His strike out numbers range from a projected 97-108.
These numbers aren’t earth-shattering but aren’t too terrible either. These would be a decent enough fifth starter and the St. Louis Cardinals hope he will be at-worst this. What do I think? I predict that Wacha will perform well enough this season and should hover around the 3.50-ERA mark.
When all the dust settles, meaning the trade deadline, I think things can get really interesting for Michael Wacha. I’m not sold he will remain with the St. Louis Cardinals. If he is performing well enough, I look for the team to consider using his value to open the logjam of pitchers and to gain some needed support or power at that time.