Adam Wainwright is an aging veteran, plagued by a seemingly brittle body. However, entering 2017, look for Waino to become himself again.
As Adam Wainwright starts to get up there in age, now entering his age 35 season in 2017, more questions start to surround his health. We all know the history. Tommy John in 2011. Achilles tear in 2015. Despite his amazing talent and consistency, Waino has seemingly been unable to stay on the field, and in his mid-30s, most would think these bumps and bruises are going to catch up with him. However, I’d like to argue the opposite. I’d like to tell you all, that Adam Wainwright, is just alright.
Despite my claim that Adam Wainwright is the same pitcher still that he always was, we cannot avoid his 2016 campaign. Despite posting a winning record at 13-9, many would argue this was the least impressive season of his 11 year career.
In 2016, Wainwright posted a quite mediocre 4.62 ERA, with career highs (by a fair margin) in earned runs, WHIP, walks, and home runs given up. These statistics prove, as I said, that 2016 was, indeed, Adam Wainwrights least productive year as a Cardinal starter.
It would be wrong of me, as a writer, to deny these abrasive statistics, and claim blindly that Wainwright came back to the Cardinals from his injury without any bumps in the road. He flat out struggled in 2016, in a way he had never before in his career. However, the injury he suffered in 2015 is not an easy one to come back from, and the fact that he was able to perform to any level of success in the immediate year following such an injury should be a good sign for the Cards.
P.S.-There’s a certain First Baseman for Philadelphia that never got back to what he once was after suffering the same injury, against none other than the Cardinals, in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, with Wainwright sidelined by Tommy John.
But here’s why Wainwright’s story should be different.
As mentioned, Waino missed all of 2011 on account of Tommy John surgery. In 2012, he then proceeded to have what was, to that point, the worst year of his career statistics wise, barely pitching over .500, with an ERA just hundredths below 4.00, and a whip of almost 1.250. 2012 was the only blemish preventing Wainwright from attaining 5 consecutive healthy years of 200+ IP between 2009 and 2014, as he only threw for 198.2 (the exact amount, by the way, that he pitched last season).
So, my point is, Wainwright has shown a history of coming back slowly from injury. In 2013, two years removed from Tommy John, he put up one of his best seasons, logging a career high 241 innings, and pitching to the tune of a 2.94 ERA en route to an All-Star Game appearance and a second place finish in the Cy Young voting.
Of course, these are two completely different injuries, happening at different times in Waino’s career. However, there were signs in 2016 that Uncle Charlie will be able to come back from this one as well.
In 2016, at the plate, Wainwright hit .210 in 62 at bats, tying his highest mark since 2008. More impressively, in his 69 plate appearances, Waino slugged 10 extra base hits, including 2 homers, and even, yes a triple, en route to a .452 slugging percentage.
The point I am getting at, is that for Wainwright to have a career year in batting in 2016, and even leg out a triple in the process, it must mean that his Achilles was at least mostly healed, to the point that it should be ready to go 100% in 2017. The injury Waino suffered has proved in the past to be a tough one to get past, especially for a player entering the back end of his career. But for Wainwright to have the offensive year he did last season means that his Achilles isn’t going to be what cuts his career short, and that his down 2016 on the mound was most likely just a product of his proven lack of quickness to rebound from injury on the pitching end.
Of course, it is possible that Wainwrights hot offensive year in 2016 proved just the opposite. It’s possible that it proved that, yes, he did recover from the injury just fine, and even so he still gave the Cardinals the worst season of his career on the mound. Perhaps it proved that, yes, he is 35 years old, and that Father Time has caught up with old Uncle Charlie.
This should be one of the great draws of 2017 for Cardinal fans, and another reason to watch the Red Birds this upcoming season. Was Waino just slow coming back from a year on the sidelines, but is now poised to get back to himself, and put a smile on the faces of Cards fans everywhere? Or, rather, did his struggles last year, despite his apparent health, show us that the game has passed our hero by? I don’t have the perfect answer. We all just need to watch to find out.