Welcome To The Redbird Review.
Today’s Review is different than the others I’ve done. This one is a review of Adam Wainwright. This one is a tribute to Wainwright. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read it.
Let’s begin …
Adam Wainwright came to the rescue Wednesday night, mostly because he’s Adam Wainwright and he knows how to maneuver through these crucial tests. This tall man towers on the hill when the red sea is roiling and the Cardinals require calmness, stability and a victory. He stands on the mound above it all, surveying the scene, setting a plan, appraising and adjusting as he goes along. And his teammates feel better, and gain confidence, just seeing him there.
Wainwright did this as a rookie in 2006, a lad of just 24, hooking his curveball into October and pulling baseball’s most precious month into his grasp, taking control of late-inning dramatic scenes in the NLDS, the NLCS, and the World Series, never letting go until the 27th out was in his pocket, right there with his dreams.
October belonged to young Wainwright as soon as he ascended to the postseason stage for the first time. He brought October down without flinching or gasping. He took control of the most important month of them all and saved it for his teammates and the fan base that adores him.
It’s 15 years later, and Waino is 39 going on 40, already secure in his place as a franchise icon. But this man and his mission remain the same.
The towering presence is older now, and it has absorbed some tough shots through the years, and some days the right arm doesn’t feel as strong as he wants it to. But the tower does not waver. It will not fall.
It’s pretty simple: Just give Wainwright a challenge. Give him a predicament. Give him blood brother Yadier Molina behind the plate to add to the energy and expertise. And by gosh, just give Waino a few runs to work with.
When Wainwright has received 3+ runs of support in a regular-season start for the St. Louis Cardinals, his individual won-lost record is an astonishing 153-39. (Source: Baseball Reference.)
As they careened into Wednesday’s game with Cleveland, the Cardinals were smoldering from the burn of a six-game losing streak and a 1-8 record since May 30.
The Redbirds had dropped out of first place in the NL Central, falling into third. They had been run out of their home ballpark by the two teams from Ohio, losing four in a row to Cincinnati and then the series opener to Cleveland. Three starting pitchers were on the IL. The offense was stagnant. It was a blur of walks, hit batters, and faint responses.
The towering presence appeared on the mound at 7:15 p.m., right on time, the mound, preparing to chase away the bad moon and the losing. Everyone in the place watched as the Indians jumped Wainwright for two early runs.
Correct: not again.
Not again because No. 50 wouldn’t allow it. Wainwright recovered. He reorganized. He reset. He retired 20 of the final 21 Cleveland hitters and completed his seven innings with no additional scuffing.
“You know, in the first inning he didn’t look like he had his ‘A’ stuff but like a lot of good veterans, man they got him those runs and he came out and just put on a clinic,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said via postgame video conference. “He threw all his pitches for strikes. He was terrific. We had a really difficult time obviously.”
No hits or walks over the final six innings. The only nick was self imposed; a hit batter in the fifth. By the time Waino’s shift ended, the Cardinals had an 8-2 lead an a victory in their hands. Wainwright put it there, and his teammates took care of the rest.
“Everybody knows the struggles we’ve had of late,” second baseman Matt Carpenter said in a postgame video conference. “Adam’s been doing what he did tonight for years. When you need somebody to go out and right the ship, if you will, there’s no better guy that I’ve played that’s going to take that full head-on like Adam Wainwright is.”
Since the start of the 2019 season, Wainwright has started 53 games, pitched 311 innings, and compiled a fine but misleading 23-18 record. When he’s been given three runs of support in a start over the last three seasons, Wainwright is 21-7.
The 311 innings rank 22nd among all MLB starters over that time. The 23 wins rank 3rd. His ERA (3.94) is 17th and above average when adjusted for league and park effects.
Among starting pitchers that are/were 37 and older since the beginning of 2019, Wainwright leads by a wide margin in starts, innings and wins. No one else is close.
And even if we lower the age category to 34 and up over the last three seasons — a pool of 24 starters — Waino is 3rd to Zack Greinke and Max Scherzer for most innings, 3rd to Greinke and Charlie Morton for most starts, and is tied for 2nd with Morton for most wins.
Only Greinke, with 27, has more pitcher wins than Wainwright among 34+ starters over the last three seasons. But Greinke is also two years younger than Wainwright.
Keeping things local, consider these longevity-based gems during the post-expansion era, 1962-current:
- Wainwright is only one of 10 Cardinals pitchers to make at least 12 starts in a season at age 39 or older.
- If he makes only three more starts this season, Wainwright will have the most starts in a season by a Cards pitcher age 39 and higher.
- Wainwright needs 57 more innings to have the most innings in a season by a Cardinals pitcher age 39+.
- With five more wins, Wainwright will have the most pitcher-credited victories in a season by a Cardinal age 39 or older.
And let’s update Wainwright’s place in overall St. Louis Cardinals history in regular-season career categories:
- 2nd to Bob Gibson in strikeouts. Wainwright needs only 103 strikeouts for 2,000 in his career. Gibson had 3,117.
- 3rd in pitcher-credited wins, with 171. Only Gibson (251) and Jesse “Pop” Haines (210) have more.
- 4th in most games started (338) by a Cardinal, trailing only Gibson (482), Bob Forsch (401), and Haines (387.)
- 6th for most innings pitched (2,243). Waino is behind Gibson, Haines, Forsch, Bill Sherdel and Bill Doak. Waino would need 145 more innings to move past Doak and into 5th place.
- Among the six Cardinals that have pitched at least 2,000 innings for the franchise, Wainwright ranks 2nd to Gibson in adjusted ERA. Gibson had a 127 ERA+ and Wainwright is at 118 ERA+.
First, consider where Wainwright ranks among the best of the best in his career body of work for the Cardinals.
Next, factor in Wainwright’s extraordinary performance as an emergency rookie closer during the magical October 2006 run to the club’s first World Series championship since 1982.
Add in Waino’s four postseason wins, four postseason saves and a 2.89 postseason ERA over 109 innings.
Note his three awards: two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger.
Wainwright didn’t win a Cy Young award, but a case can be made that he deserved at least one. But between 2009 and 2014, he finished second in the Cy voting two times, and was third in the balloting two times. In MLB history, Wainwright ranks 24th all-time in Cy Young voting shares. And that’s pretty close to Gibson, who ranks 20th in career Cy Young shares.
Think about all of this, and we can come to an easy conclusion: with the passing of Bob Gibson, Adam Wainwright is the greatest living pitcher in St. Louis Cardinals’ history.
Wednesday night’s performance in the win over Cleveland was just what we would expect from him. Waino’s team was down, and he picked it up. And that was possible because Wainwright picked himself up after being down early in the first inning. There may a few bad days on the mound, because that’s baseball and he’s nearly 40 years old. But this towering presence still gleams.
Thanks for reading …
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