Adam Wainwright hasn’t been Adam Wainwright this month. In four September starts, he’s pitched to a 5.57 ERA over 21 innings. He isn’t as sharp. The pitches lack snap, and life. His ground-ball rate over the four starts has dropped to 39.8 percent. He’s calling it a dead–arm phase and isn’t engaging in happy talk. Just the opposite. Wainwright assessed his recent work in blunt terms.

“With my arm, there’s just no explosiveness to anything right now,” Waino told reporters after allowing four earned runs in six innings during Tuesday’s 5-0 loss at San Diego. “Everything is just kind of rolling in there right now and I don’t have the right bite on the heater, don’t have the right bite on the cutter, and I don’t have that late finish on the curveball. The only pitch I threw today for swing and miss was (the) changeup. I’ve just got to keep bobbing and weaving right now.”

Some pertinent numbers on the second-greatest starting pitcher in franchise history:

— In his last seven road starts Wainwright has a 5.71 ERA and has allowed seven homers in 41 innings. Wainwright has a 4.44 ERA in 13 road starts this year.

— He has a 2.61 ERA at Busch Stadium season, but it’s no longer an entirely safe space for him. Two of his three most recent three home starts were on the poor side, and in the other he had to battle like mad to fend off the Brewers and limit the potential repercussions to one run. In his last three home starts, Wainwright has a 5.40 ERA with 26 hits allowed in 15 innings. His strikeout rate in the three games is 9.7 percent, and opponents have stung him for a .394 batting average, .417 onbase percentage and .455 slug. These are not the usual Wainwright-Busch statistics.

— There’s been obvious fraying in other aspects of his performance in 2022. The contact rate (84.5%) would be the highest against him in a season. The contact rate (91%) on strikes would be the second-highest against him.

— His glaringly low swinging-strike rate (6.7) would be the lowest of his career in a season.

— His strikeout rate (18.1%) would be his lowest in a season since 2017. Wainwright struck out 21% of hitters faced from 2018 through 2021.

— Uncle Charlie is being uncooperative this season. I’m talking about Wainwright’s famously fantastic curve ball. Here are the yearly whiff-swing rates on the curve since 2019:

25.3% in 2019
33% in 2020
27.3% in 2021
22.3% in 2022

And here are the yearly strikeout rates on at-bats that end with the Waino curve:

29% in 2019
30% in 2020
26% in 2021
23% in 2022

This season opponents are batting .247 against the Wainwright curve – the highest in the yearly stretch that began in 2019 – and have four homers and 11 doubles against the pitch.

Wainwright has been a treasure as a Cardinal. Overall he’s putting together a season that would please most pitchers of any age – but especially a 41-year-old starter.

In 30 starts and 184 innings he has a 3.38 ERA and 3.57 FIP. And he’s limited hitters to a .256 average and .683 OPS. But even then the .683 OPS against him would be the highest since 2019. As I noted, there’s been some deterioration on the margins – mostly the swing-miss stuff – and he’s been losing steam late in the season.

Maybe it’s a dead arm that will spring back in his next start. Or maybe it’s a matter of age, and the inevitable impact of pitching 2,674 major-league innings (including postseason.)

Wainwright loves to pitch. He REALLY loves to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans. He’s also a competitor that’s filled with an immense amount of pride. I don’t think Waino would return for another season unless he was convinced that he could perform to the high standards that he’s set for himself. I’m not trying to ease Wainwright toward retirement. Not at all. I’d love to see him get to 200 individual wins, an accomplishment that has symbolic power with Hall of Fame Voters. I’d like to see him go on and defy age and the lowered expectations that come with it. So here’s hoping that he finishes strong in 2022.

NOTES ON MY SCORECARD

Accounting Department: the Cardinals (87-62) are 6–6 in their last 12 games, but the leveling off hasn’t impacted the NL Central standings. The Cards lead the Brewers by 8.5 games and have actually increased their lead by 1.5 games since Sept. 13 … the Brewers have lost three straight to the Yankees (1) and Mets (2) and have lost ground in the wild-card scrum. The Padres, who currently hold the No. 2 wild card behind Atlanta, lead the Phillies by 1.5 games and hold a four-game lead over the Brewers. Milwaukee trails Philly by 2.5 games in the sprint for the third and final NL wild-card prize.

With Tuesday’s dreary loss, the Cardinals dropped to 36-35 on the road this season and have a sad 8-17 mark in road games against winning teams … overall the Cardinals are 27-31 against opponents that have winning records … unless the Cardinals win both remaining games in the San Diego Series, they’ll be 0-5-3 in eight road series against winning teams.

Quote On The Cardinals From Padres Reliever Nick Martinez: “We may see them again in games that matter more in the next month. We’re showing everyone who we really are when we bring the energy.”

The Padres Are Opposed To Albert Pujols Hitting Career Homer No. 700: But that only applies to the next two games played at Petco Park. San Diego Union-Tribune sports writer Jeff Sanders collected opinions on the subject. Pujols has 698 home runs and needs to hit at least two over the Cardinals’ final 13 regular-season games.

* From lefty Blake Snell, who starts Wednesday’s game vs. Pujols and the Cardinals: “Nope, no home runs for me. I’m happy for him and all his success. It’s been fun. I’ve been watching him play (since I was a kid) and even more so now that I get to compete against him. I think that’s the coolest thing, but I don’t want anything to do with anyone’s accomplishments or milestones.”

* Reliever Pierce Johnson had a good idea, expressing his desire to see Pujols hit some home runs at Dodger Stadium this coming weekend. And Snell absolutely agrees. “That’s the perfect place for him to do it,” Snell said. “Go do it in L.A. Go hit five home runs in L.A.”

Added Johnson: “It’s going to be cool to watch him make history but hopefully he does it against someone else. Hopefully he does it against the Dodgers this weekend.”

* Catcher Austin Nola: “He just seems to just get better and better. When I was in Seattle he had some holes, but he was still Albert Pujols. You still had to respect what he could do. He’s so mentally strong and I think that carries him so far.” But when asked about home run No. 700, Nola quipped, “Maybe next series. I don’t even want to think about it. I just want to call the game and get him out as fast as possible.”

September’s Quiet Song: The Cardinals are slugging .377 so far this month, which ranks 22nd (so far) in MLB. This would be the Cards’ poorest slugging percentage in a month this season since the .348 SLG in April. They slugged .427 in May, .428 in June, .406 in July, .503 in August and are at .377 this month.

Home Runs Or Bust: Where are all the media peoples and fans who frequently talk about how the Cardinals are good at can “manufacturing” runs and playing “small ball” and doing “the little things?” This is malarkey … and has been malarkey for a very long time. But peeps keep babbling about it, anyway.

Here are the facts:

When the 2022 Cards do not homer in a game: 20-27 record.

When the Cardinals hit one homer in a game: 20-26.

When the Cardinals hit two homers: 31-7.

When the Cardinals hit three or more homers: 16-2.

To put it another way: the Redbirds are 47-9 when they hit two-plus homers in a game, and 40-53 when they fail to swat at least two homers.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.

“Seeing Red,” my weekly podcast on the Cardinals with Will Leitch, is available on multiple platforms including Apple and Spotify. Please subscribe.

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Please email your “Ask Bernie” questions to BernScoops@gmail.com

All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.

 

 

 

 

 

Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.