St. Louis Cardinals: The resurgence of a ‘healthy’ Michael Wacha

SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 12: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on May 12, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 12: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on May 12, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals lost Saturday night versus the San Diego Padres, but the 2018 resurgence of Michael Wacha continues.  The question becomes, will he stay healthy?

Michael Wacha pitched six strong innings and gave up one earned run  on Saturday night against the San Diego Padres in a 2-1 loss that went 13 innings.  In fact his performance was his strongest of the season with giving up only three hits, allowing one walk, with five strikeouts. Consequently,  Wacha has turned out to be one of the St. Louis Cardinals most reliable starters in 2018.

After Saturday’s game, Wacha is now 4-1 with a 3.09 ERA in eight starts.  His 43.2 innings pitched is only behind Carlos Martinez (50) and Miles Mikolas (46.2).  Wacha’s 36 strikeouts only trail Martinez (47).

Michael Wacha’s 2018 thus far compares well to his banner All-Star year of 2015 when he went 17-7 and had a 3.38 ERA.  His 2015 FIP was 3.87 vs 3.77 so far in 2018, and his WHIP in 2015 was 1.213 vs 1.328 currently in 2018.

Questions have surrounded Wacha’s durability during his career with the Cardinals.  After falling to 138 innings pitched in 2016 from his 181 innings in 2015, Wacha’s increased his innings to 165 in 2017. Currently, Wacha should achieve his starts and innings pitched of 2015, based on his stats thus far in 2018.

What’s different in 2018 for Wacha?

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Michael Wacha spent the off-season working on an elevated fastball and improving his curveball, to compliment his cutter.  The improvement in his pitches has also resulted in an improvement in confidence on the mound.

Now the question will be Wacha’s reliance and durability as the season progresses.  There are several question marks that have devoloped recently with the starting rotation, hence Wacha becomes even more important to the Cardinals.

Adam Wainwright looks like he will return to the DL after Sunday’s start.  Wainwright has been in the St. Louis Cardinals plan this season as the team transitions to younger arms.

The original plan was to have Wainwright fill a starter’s role this season as the team develop younger talent such as Weaver, Jack Flaherty, and Alex Reyes.  However, with Wainwright’s performance on Sunday and his renewed pain in the right elbow, the future for Adam Wainwright this season is questionable.

-Carlos Martinez is on the 10-day DL with a strained right lat.  However, it’s not considered serious, and the hope is Martinez will only miss one start.

Luke Weaver showed some brilliance in his early starts this season, but his ERA has elevated to 4.91 in his last seven starts.  Even though his last start vs San Diego was much better, there are questions concerning his durability for the entire season.

-Jack Flaherty has shown promise in two starts with the Cardinals(3.60 ERA in 10 innings), and waits in Memphis for another call up.  Nevertheless, the number of innings a young arm like Flaherty could contribute this season is still uncertain.

-The long-awaited return of Alex Reyes to the major league club appears to be around the corner.  The Cardinals have slotted Reyes to be a starter this season upon return.  However, due to his Tommy John surgery last season, his innings will be carefully monitored.

As stated earlier, there are questions about Michael Wacha’s durability during an entire season.  During the 2014 season, Wacha suffered from shoulder discomfort and fatigue, spent time on the DL, and only pitched 107 innings. The discomfort and fatigue have recurred from time to time and affected his 2016 season.

So it’s still too early to know if the resurgent Michael Wacha is going to give the St. Louis Cardinals an entire healthy season.  Only time will tell, but a healthy Michael Wacha will be important to the 2018 Cardinals.

Next: Cardinal moves the Cardinals need to make

Let us know your thoughts on Michael Wacha.  Will he stay healthy?  Thanks for reading.

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