As things stand, Adam Wainwright will be on the Hall of Fame ballot, but not much more. If he wants to make his case for Cooperstown legit, this is the year to do it.
Throughout his 11 year career with St. Louis, Adam Wainwright has put together a resume that will put him in the distant discussion for the Hall of Fame. If he wants to propel himself up in the eyes of the Baseball Writers, there’s no better year than 2017 to make that happen.
Entering his age 35 season, Wainwright, in 11 years in the bigs, has pitched in 320 games, to the tune of a career 3.17 ERA. In a path that started in the bullpen, Wainwright eventually worked himself into the starting rotation in 2007, and hasn’t looked back since, starting 254 games in the last nine years.
Pitching to an overall 132-75 record in those years, Wainwright’s best seasons came between 2009 and 2014, in which he placed in the top-3 of Cy Young voting four out of five years (Wainwright missed the entirety of 2011 with Tommy John). In every one of those four amazing seasons, Waino pitched over 225 innings, with a high of 241.2 in 2013 to lead the league.
Along with his high Cy Young placings, Wainwright also accumulated two All-Star game appearances, two Golden-Glove Awards, and placed in the top-20 of the MVP vote four times within this span. However, 2008 was the year which holds old #50s best winning percentage, a year in which he went 11-3 in 20 games started for the Red Birds.
Injuries and Old Age
As mentioned, Wainwright missed the entirety of the 2011 season with Tommy John surgery. Yet, he was able to come back from this set in full force, pitching at an elite level 2012-2014.
The same could not be said for 2015. After just four appearance, in a season which handed him his first career Opening Night start, Wainwright tore his Achilles tendon while batting in the top of the fifth inning against Milwaukee. While he would manage to come back in late September for a successful relief appearance in a double-header against Pittsburgh, he would not make an appearance in the NLDS loss to Chicago.
While Wainwright did pitch to a winning season in 2016, he showed signs of breaking down. His year-long ERA, 4.62, was the highest it had ever been in his career as a starter-by a good margin, too, the second highest sitting at 3.94. Wainwrights whip sat far above 1.000, hovering around 1.500, a bad sign for a starting pitcher, as it shows Waino constantly had men on base. As well, Wainwright, for only the second time in his career, pitched under 200.0 innings in a year which he also made 30+ starts.
This is expected from an older pitcher experiencing injury, and, in fact, I believe he’s done a very good job all considering in the last couple of years healing himself and making himself a contributing part of the Cardinal staff again. However, this season coming up, if he wants his team to succeed, and to have any shot at the Hall of Fame, he needs to do something special.
Hall of Fame Discussion
All we’ve discussed about Wainwright’s accolades, and his difficulty with injuries, will put him, as of now, on the Hall of Fame ballot, but probably not much further. Maybe he’ll stay on the ballot for two or three years, but the odds of him getting into the Hall of Fame at this point are slight to slim.
However, a case could still be made. It is true that for a five to six year period, Wainwright was one of the most dominant right-handed pitchers in the league. It is true that he was at the top of the staff of two pennant winning teams, as well as a World Series Champion, and on the roster for another. And who will ever forget his absolutely devastating curveball to freeze Carlos Beltran, one of the best postseason hitters of all time, ending Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS in New York?
However, if Wainwright once to make a real case for Cooperstown, he’s going to have to do something more, something special. And of all the seasons in his stint in St. Louis, there’s better year than now for Waino to step up.
With young right-hander Alex Reyes sidelined with Tommy John surgery, and the star-studded Cubs hot off their first World Series win in 108 years, I’m hard-pressed to think of a better time to have a Hall of Fame like performance from the veteran Wainwright. Not only do the Cardinals need someone to pick up Reyes’s slack, but they were already behind the Cubs as it were.
A legendary season-long performance by Wainwright, propelling the Cards into the playoffs in what would most likely be a Wild-Card spot, and possibly past the Cubs in a playoff round with two shut down performances, is not only what this franchise needs, but it would insert the Waino right into the eyes of the BBWAA as a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate. It’s a lot to ask from a 35 year old just two years removed from ankle surgery. But if the ace could pull off a historically great season, and push the disadvantaged RedBirds past the Cubs into the postseason, it’s something that baseball minds would be talking about for years.