Will Waino be bueno?
After sitting out the majority of the 2015 season with a torn Achilles tendon, Adam Wainwright is fresh, healthy, and ready to start a new season. Recently, in a Cardinal media session after pitching in the first official practice of Spring Training, Wainwright was quoted saying, “My arm feels amazing.” When asked what sitting out almost all of the last season meant for his arm, he said, “I missed the last 5 months of the last year, and it did me some good. I was able to save a lot of bullets, get rested up, heal a lot of things that were kind of achy on me.” These quotes will make any Cardinals fans optimistic because Wainwright is expected to be the ace of a rotation that will be key to the team’s success. However, Wainwright turns 35 years old in August, which is years past a normal pitcher’s prime. So, what can we realistically expect from Wainwright?
If he is completely healthy, there is absolutely no reason why Wainwright cannot have another productive season as the ace of the rotation. Last year, before his injury, Wainwright was spectacular. He pitched 28 innings, had an ERA of 1.61, and he did not give up a single homerun. Although those numbers would have likely risen over the course of a full season, his start to last year was absolutely spectacular. If he was able to pitch at that high of a level last year, then rested his arm for a year, what’s to say he maintain that high level of performance again for the Cardinals?
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) February 23, 2016
Age is also a non-factor due to Wainwright’s interesting history. Since 2010, Wainwright has sat out for nearly two full seasons. He had Tommy John surgery in 2011 and he sat out almost the entire year last year because of his torn Achilles tendon. His arm doesn’t have the same mileage as most pitchers do at his age. he has only thrown 695.1 innings over the course of 4 seasons. Right now, realistically, Wainwright is a 34-year old pitcher in a 32-year old’s body.
Wainwright has proven that as he has aged, he has become a smarter and more efficient pitcher. Over the last couple seasons, Wainwright has shown no signs of decline in his statistics. In his last two full seasons in 2013 and 2014, he made the All-Star game, pitched with a sub-3 ERAs, and finished in the top 3 of the NL Cy Young award voting in both seasons. Of course, it might be a stretch to expect a Cy Young winning campaign for Wainwright, but Cardinals fans can expect for him to at least be in the conversation. If, and this is a major if, Wainwright stays healthy for the entire season, I expect him to start over 30 games with a sub 3 ERA and finish in the top-5 of the NL Cy Young voting.