The St. Louis Cardinals have been receiving huge contributions from one player that was unexpected. September will be a big test for him longterm.
There is a good chance that the vast majority of St. Louis Cardinals fans didn’t see the year that Adam Wainwright has put together in 2019. The 38-year-old starter was brought in on a $2M deal that can earn him a lot more than that.
Wainwright was a fringe starter at the start of the season and expectations were very low after the last three seasons were filled with injury and below-average performance when he has been pitching (averaged an 86 ERA+ from 2016-2018). The start of the season itself wasn’t even that great after his first start of the year was a four-inning dud against the Pirates.
After that first start though, Wainwright hit a groove, at least when he has been pitching at Busch Stadium. Waino’s home-road splits have been one of the oddest stat lines in the past few years as he has a 2.43 ERA at home but a 6.03 ERA on the road.
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Regardless of why Waino bucked this trend his last time out pitching seven innings of one-run ball against those same Pirates at Pittsburgh. This start marked Wainwright’s second straight seven-inning start and while he hasn’t been getting many strikeouts, whatever fountain of youth Wainwright has been drinking from has continued to work and even make him stronger in the month of September.
Waino is currently ranked 29th among National League starting pitchers with a 1.9 WAR which again nobody expected. Before getting into the debate about whether or not Waino has earned another contract this Winter, I do think it’s important to see how he finishes the year and into the postseason.
Wainwright has currently pitched 149.1 IP which is the most he has thrown since 2016 when he threw 198.2 innings at just the age of 34. Wainwright hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down yet but is it not reasonable to question if the body of a 38-year-old may not bounce back the way it used to at the end of the biggest workload it’s had in two-plus years?
I want Waino to follow in Bartolo Colon‘s footsteps and keep pitching but as a pitcher who will very likely be a member of the postseason rotation, it’s fair to question how well Waino’s body is going to hold up.
That is why I say that September is going to be a big test for Wainwright. If his body holds up and he keeps showing that he can go out there every day, then I think it’s a great idea to resign him. If he falters though, I would suggest the Cardinals should proceed with caution when it comes to resigning Wainwright.
It is not unreasonable to say that the Cardinals need to have Waino in their postseason rotation but that Mike Shildt needs to find a way to start Waino at home as many times as possible. If Wainwright’s first two starts of September are any indication, he will be just fine down the stretch but it is a situation that would benefit the team to keep their eye on when it comes to next year.