Adam Wainwright's issues shouldn't alarm St. Louis Cardinals fans yet
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright's velocity drop this spring looks concerning, but fans shouldn't worry about him at this point.
Never believe what you see in Spring Training. That's the cliche that St. Louis Cardinals fans are clinging to after two poor Adam Wainwright starts to begin Spring Training this season. His fastest pitch in these two starts was 86 mph, which is 1.5 mph slower than his average fastball at the beginning of Spring Training last year.
At the end of 2022, Wainwright struggled to get enough extension on his pitches after a line drive hit him in the knee in a game on Aug. 28 against the Atlanta Braves. For the rest of the season, Wainwright limped to a 7.22 ERA and a .358 opposing batting average.
Wainwright's problems seem to have carried over into Spring Training for 2023. In five innings across two appearances, his diminished velocity has contributed to eight hits and four earned runs across five innings. For those with more of a Statcast bend, he also surrendered four balls that had exit velocities exceeding 104 mph.
Despite these obviously concerning signs, I don't think it's time to proclaim that he has lost his stuff or will succumb to surgery, ending his career and forcing him to exit with a whimper. Wainwright mentioned that he has been going through complications from back spasms going back to before the Cardinals arrived in camp.
Additionally, St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Derrick Goold tweeted that Wainwright had a burn on his index finger that peeled his skin while starting. This litany of maladies plaguing Wainwright surely hasn't allowed him to perform to his full ability.
If the injuries aren't the explanation, another possibility is that this is simply who Wainwright is in his final year. Although year-to-year velocity among pitchers rarely fluctuates as much as Wainwright's has, it's worth noting that even if it isn't all the way back to last year's numbers, his recovery from these injuries should close the gap at least a bit.
I won't lie: Although I try not to put stock into Spring Training, Wainwright's early results don't fill me with hope. But this man has made a career out of adapting to his changing arsenal as he's aged; he's adjusted to fastball dips before, but there is a limit to how slow a fastball can be and still get hitters out. However, once he overcomes the minor injuries affecting him now, he should clear this hurdle and make the best out of the stuff he has. It's very early, so let's not proclaim doom just yet.