St. Louis Cardinals: Which Starting Pitcher Is Most Important?

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 10: Starter Carlos Martinez
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 10: Starter Carlos Martinez /
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St. Louis Cardinals
ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 10: Starter Adam Wainwright /

Will a return to classic Adam Wainwright spell the solution to the St. Louis Cardinals’ success?

It’s tough to know what to make of Adam Wainwright at this point in his career. The guy is so honest in his self-criticisms, yet so confident in his abilities that you want to believe he can regain some of the form that made him a 20-game-winner for the St. Louis Cardinals as recently as 2014.

What’s more, his surgery to clean up some cartilage in his elbow at the end of last season promises to help Wainwright regain some of the velocity he lost in the last couple of years.

However, it’s difficult to deny his declining performance following his return from a missed 2015 season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. The post-2015 Waino is striking out fewer batters, getting fewer ground balls, giving up more home runs (and getting hit harder) than ever before.

Some of this might be due to that elbow issue and that reduced velocity, but if it’s simply Father Time catching up to the 36-year-old, no one would be surprised.

Why Wainwright is the most important starting pitcher

If Yadier Molina is the heart and soul of the St. Louis Cardinals and Tommy Pham is the emerging vocal leader of the clubhouse, Wainwright is the guy who can be both.

He can lead by example or call out his teammates when necessary, and he knows how to have fun playing a game that’s supposed to be fun! Yet, all of these traits are more impactful when you’re a force on the bump. If Waino gets rocked again in 2018, his leadership abilities only go so far.

Still, Wainwright doesn’t have to be the ace to have a huge impact. If he shows that he’s got more miles in the tank, it would be a tremendous example to the team’s young power arms that pitching smart is more important than throwing hard.