The Cardinals’ starting rotation has been in shambles this year, but the one consistently stellar performer has been the 39-year-old Adam Wainwright. A few years ago, Wainwright appeared to be on his last leg. But he has adjusted and found ways to get batters out while relying on moxie and guile.
It seemed that the Cardinals were on the fence about whether to bring back Wainwright because of his advanced age, but the team’s decision to retain him has paid off. Wainwright has been one of the team’s most consistent pitchers this year, and in a season where the rotation has been decimated with injuries, the need for Wainwright to turn in a strong season was integral for the team to stay afloat. And Wainwright has delivered.
According to Codify, Inc., among pitchers with at least 600 pitches in 2021, Wainwright leads them all in pitches inside the zone that batters have laid off, at 37.8 percent. The league average is 28.9 percent. Clearly, Wainwright has become a master of pitch trickery.
While the Cardinals might have been hesitant to re-sign Wainwright because of their doubt that he could put up stellar results at his age, there shouldn’t be a question about whether the team will attempt to keep him next year. The question, though, is twofold: Will Wainwright want to play another season, and will there be a baseball season next year? The renewal of the collective bargaining agreement puts the season in jeopardy.
While Wainwright has done his part to keep the Cardinals on the fringes of playoff contention, many other pitchers haven’t been able to hold up their ends of the bargain. While I’m sure Wainwright would love to end his career with his team on top once more, he might have to settle with retiring while still being able to get batters out at a high level. That’s a higher note than most go out on.