THE REDBIRD REVIEW:
As we prepare to celebrate the extraordinary career of Adam Wainwright, it isn’t necessary to say farewell. He won’t pitch again, but he’s a forever Cardinal. He’s the opposite of being a recluse. Waino is as warm and sociable as they come, and his presence in St. Louis will endure. He’ll be around, on the scene, giving Cardinals fans a lifetime of smiles.
Stan Musial was a Cardinal for all 22 seasons of his major-league career. Yadier Molina persevered behind the plate in his catching armor for 19 consecutive seasons. Wainwright is third in franchise history with 18 years of continuous service to the Cardinals. In the free-agency era, that’s absolutely remarkable.
To have the same starting pitcher and catcher in place, working in unison, from 2005 through 2022? Winning all of those division titles and postseason games and pennants and World Series? Just incredible. This will never happen again in major-league baseball. The scope of the Molina-Waino partnership is uniquely profound. We’ve been blessed.
On this final weekend of the 2023 season – The Waino Weekend – I’d like to riff on Wainwright. I’ve put together an accumulation of notes, opinions, and meaningful statistics.
1. A case can be made that Wainwright is one of the 10 best players in franchise history. And that includes the pitchers and position players.
Here’s the Top 10 list for most career Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for the regular season in franchise history. I’m using the FanGraphs version of WAR because it puts more of a premium on the aspects of pitching that pitchers can control: strikeouts, walks, home runs allowed.
The first five:
Stan Musial, 126.4 WAR
Rogers Hornsby, 92.6
Albert Pujols, 83.0
Bob Gibson, 82.3
Ozzie Smith, 59.5
The second five:
Yadier Molina, 55.6
Ken Boyer, 50.7
Ted Simmons, 49.2
Adam Wainwright, 47.6
Enos Slaughter, 46.9
Note; Just outside the top 10 are Jim Edmonds (42.4) and Lou Brock (41.6).
2. When you’re the second-greatest starting pitcher in franchise history, that alone should make you one of the 10 best – no matter what your position is. I’ve written this before, but let’s bring the praise again:
Wainwright retires as the second-best starting pitcher in franchise history. His 200 career victories rank third to Bob Gibson (251) and Pop Haines (210.) Waino is second to Gibson in career WAR, strikeouts (2,202), quality starts (246) and games started (411).
3. The Cardinals have 254 wins in regular-season games started by Wainwright, which is comparable to Gibson’s 285 considering that Waino (elbow surgery) missed all of 2011 and most of 2015 (torn achilles.) When Waino has started a game in his career, the Cardinals have an outstanding .618 winning percentage, which is slightly higher than Gibby’s. Wainwright is fourth among Cardinal pitchers in Win Probability Added, a total exceeded by only Gibson, Harry Brecheen and Dizzy Dean.
4. Let’s take a look at the combination or regular-season and postseason pitching. Here’s one I’d like to mention again: Only one pitcher in Cardinals history has put together this postseason combination:
– At least three postseason wins as a starting pitcher.
– At least two postseason wins as a reliever.
– At least four postseason saves as a closer.
That’s Wainwright. He has more regular-season career wins than Dizzy Dean and Harry Brecheen, more postseason saves than Bruce Sutter, and is atop the leaderboard for most postseason innings and most postseason strikeouts.
Yes, Waino pitched in an era that had more postseason rounds than the olden days … meaning that he had more opportunities to stack statistics. But among Cardinals pitchers that threw at least 50 postseason innings, the top two ERAs belong to Gibson (1.89) and Wainwright (2.83). Wainwright had a 3.62 ERA in 15 postseason starts, and allowed only one run in 16 and ⅔ postseason innings as a reliever for an 0.53 ERA.
5. Wainwright was among the best starters of his era. He moved into the St. Louis rotation in 2007. From that point through 2023 he ranks fifth in wins to Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. He’s sixth for most innings pitched, seventh in WAR, and 11th in strikeouts. Among 143 starting pitchers that have worked at least 1,000 innings since 2007, Waino’s 3.54 starter ERA is 24th.
6. During his seven-season peak as a starter, 2007-2014, Wainwright ranked fourth among MLB starters in wins (117) and only Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez outdid him in ERA. And that’s despite Wainwright missing 2011 after elbow repairs and returning in 2012 with a rusty, below-average year. Between 2009 and 2014, Wainwright finished second in the Cy Young voting two times, was third in the balloting two times, and earned MVP votes four times.
7. From what I could calculate, Waino had 375 teammates during his 18 years with the Cardinals. And I’m pretty sure they all loved him.
8. Wainwright pitched to 19 catchers during his St. Louis career. Molina caught him 372 times, and handled 81 percent of Waino’s career innings. Other than Yadi, here’s a roll call of the catchers that caught Wainwright with the number of games in parenthesis:
Gary Bennett, 29
Andrew Knizner, 22
Tony Cruz, 19
Willson Contreras, 14
Jason LaRue, 6
Eric Fryer, 3
Rob Johnson, 2
Carson Kelly, 2
Matt Pagnozzi, 2
A.J. Pierzynski, 2
Travis Tartamella, 2
Matt Wieters, 2
Ed Easley, 1
Ivan Herrera, 1
Mark Johnson, 1
Mike Mahoney, 1
Francisco Pena, 1
Austin Romine, 1
9. Wainwright pitched against 10 hitters who went on to become major-league managers: David Bell, David Ross, Craig Counsell, Aaron Boone, Dave Roberts, Skip Schumaker, Alex Cora, Brad Ausmus, Gabe Kapler and Mark Kotsay. Waino also pitched to a future general manager, Philadelphia’s Sam Fuld. And he pitched against Tony Clark, the head of the MLB players association.
10. Wainwright had several teammates and one manager who were eventually selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame: Tony LaRussa, Scott Rolen, Larry Walker and John Smoltz. Over time other Waino teammates will be voted into Cooperstown including Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
11. Wainwright competed against future Hall of Fame hitters Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez, Jim Thome, Ivan Rodriguez, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, and Scott Rolen. He pitched against future Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols. When appearing in the All-Star game, Wainwright pitched against Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and encountered future Hall of Famers in Mike Trout, and Miguel Cabrera.
12. You know it’s a lengthy career when: Waino pitched against Craig Biggio … and also Biggio’s son, Cavan Biggio. He also pitched against Fernando Tatis Sr., and Fernando Tatis Jr. That’s a long career!
13. Waino pitched against multiple sets of brothers: Willson and William Contreras; Adam and Andy LaRoche; Jose and Bengie Molina; Dmitri and Delmon Young; Jose and Javier Valentin; Corey and Kyle Seager; J.D. and Stephen Drew. And I’m sure I missed some other sets.
14. Wainwright fun fact: during his career he pitched to a 48-year-old Julio Franco and also pitched to 19-year-old Bryce Harper.
15. Wainwright faced nine dudes named Gonzalez, eight guys named Johnson, seven guys named Garcia, six named Cabrera, six named Hernadez, six named Jones, six named Davis.
16. Umpire count: Wainwright had umpire Rob Drake behind the plate for the most number of starts, 11. Next were St. Louisan Ron Kulpa (10), Larry Vanover (10), Mark Wegner (10) and Phil Cuzzi (10.) Waino was graced with the presence of Angel Hernandez working the plate in five starts.
17. The All-Waino Teammate Team. Presenting the All-Waino All-Stars: When it’s a close call, I’ll go with a Hall of Famer and special consideration is warranted for members of the 2006 and 2011 Cardinals teams that won the World Series.
Manager: Tony LaRussa
Catcher: Yadier Molina
First Base: Albert Pujols. Honorable mention: Paul Goldschmidt.
Second Base: Tommy Edman. Honorable mention: Brendan Donovan, Kolten Wong, Skip Schumaker.
Third Base: Scott Rolen. Honorable mention: Nolan Arenado, Matt Carpenter and David Freese.
Shortstop: David Eckstein. Honorable mention: Paul DeJong, Johnny Peralta.
Left Field: Matt Holliday. Honorable mention: Chris Duncan, Tommy Pham, So Taguchi, Tyler O’Neill.
Center Field: Jim Edmonds: Honorable mention: John Jay, Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader. (Note: I wrestled with this one. Jimmy is a Cardinal Hall of Famer, but he was a Waino teammate in only two seasons, 2006-2007. But they won the 2006 World Series together, and both were essential to the success. So I’ll let it ride. But if y’all want to go with Jay, that’s OK with me.)
Right Field: Carlos Beltran. Honorable mention: Ryan Ludwick, Allen Craig, Randal Grichuk.
Joining Waino In The Five-Man Rotation: Chris Carpenter, Jeff Suppan, Lance Lynn, Kyle Lohse. Honorable mention: Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas.
Bullpen Dudes: Trevor Rosenthal, Jason Isringhausen, Jason Motte, Ryan Franklin, Kevin Siegrist, Giovanny Gallegos, Edward Mujica, Ryan Helsley. We could put Carlos Martinez in this bullpen as well.
I hope Wainwright has the perfect final weekend.
Thanks for everything, Waino.
And thanks to all you for reading this…
Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can stream it live or access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via 590thefan.com or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.
All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus unless otherwise noted.
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.