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Adam Wainwright Going the Distance not Good for Cards

It is easy to proclaim Wainwright’s three-hit shutout as a “turn back the clock” performance, but the Cardinals should not have let him go nine innings.

I liked what I saw from Adam Wainwright last night. He pitched an incredible game. He only allowed five runners to reach base, including just two doubles, one single, and two walks. He even added a respectable ten percent swinging strike percentage. All of those numbers are just as great as his performance. The only problem is that he threw 120 pitches en route to a complete game.

The complete game means that the bullpen got a day off, but the Cardinals don’t have one for awhile. Their next day off is August 1, which means that they are in the middle of a 17 game stretch with no break. That does not mean good news for Wainwright in his next start.

Wainwright had thrown 120 pitches in a game on eleven different occasions before last night. In the outing following those games, he has posted an ERA of 3.27. That is not a huge difference from his career ERA of 3.08. It obviously isn’t better, but that is bearable. The problem is when we look at games after a long outing when he was pitching on normal rest.

His ERA in the six outings he has had after 120 pitches and four days of rest is 5.11. I realize that this is a small sample size skewed mostly by a two inning, nine run outing. However, we can’t just throw that one out because we don’t like the results. I should also note that Wainwright has had some bad outings the start after 115-119 pitches as well.

The evidence points to him at least being much more consistent if he can get an extra day of rest after a really long outing. Unfortunately, he won’t get that extra rest for another two weeks. Mike Matheny could have pulled his starter after 96 pitches through seven innings or after 109 pitches through eight innings. He chose to keep Wainwright in there and damage how effective he’ll be next start.

I know that giving the bullpen the day off is a nice idea. However, a tired bullpen means a weaker two, three, or four innings. A tired starter means a weaker five, six, or seven innings. With Wainwright, that is often towards the higher side.

It has always been easy to lean on Wainwright for more. He has always given more innings, more pitches, and more greatness than anyone else the Cardinals had. None of that means that he should be used until he can no longer pitch. Two innings from the bullpen would have made a win against San Diego five days from now much more likely.

The other case that can be made for leaving Wainwright in so long is that he just had an entire All-Star break. In fact, he actually had eight days off between his two most recent starts. That means he was well-rested for this start, but it has little to no bearing on the next. The decisions you make in game affect the future, not the past. Therefore, it is wise to weigh future games more than past games when making in-game decisions.

Matheny obviously thought that Wainwright could go much longer into this game due to his long rest. Otherwise, he would have taken him out after seven or eight innings. In this instance, he was thinking backwards. Wainwright is now going to be more tired than usual going forward. In a setting where every game matters a lot, each Wainwright’s next couple of starts just got a little bit harder.

Photo captured by: Jeff Curry – USA TODAY Sports