Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cardinals playing it by ear with Wainwright

Photo by US-Presswire
After the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series at the end of last season, it was easy to forget they did it without one of their best pitchers in Adam Wainwright. Coming off of two consecutive seasons where he finished in the top three of Cy Young voting, the All-Star pitcher had Tommy John surgery last February, just a month before the season began.

Wainwright is back this season, in the first year since having the procedure, and has already pitched 168.2 innings. According to his manager, Mike Matheny, the team has no plans to shut him down this year and will essentially play it by ear.

“We’re going to go full steam ahead with Adam until he feels anything not normal. He has had a great stretch here, except his last start he’s been as good as anybody. As long as he is feeling good we’re going to keep going,” he said.

This presents a stark contrast to the Nationals and their plans with Stephen Strasburg. Heading into Sunday’s game, Strasburg had pitched 150.1 innings and is expected to be shut down for the season in the next two weeks. Strasburg had his surgery about six months before Wainwright, but because of several differences between the two, Matheny understands Washington’s position.

“I think you have to take the whole body of work here, what he’s done. If the medical people were telling us something different we would be a lot more on alert now, but everything is measuring out fine,” he said.

“Strasburg is at a different point in his career too, he’s a younger guy. There are a lot of different factors that go into it on both sides. I understand the stance they are taking and I know Adam is behind us where we stand with him.”

Strasburg has pitched a total of 242.1 innings since his debut in 2010 while Wainwright has logged 1043.0 since 2005. At 30 he is six years older than Strasburg and has proven his arm strength with three seasons of at least 200 innings pitched.

Matheny and the Cardinals will move forward with Wainwright and the skipper says he will need to see an extended stretch of rough outings before making a decision. Wainwright pitched in Washington on Friday and allowed six earned runs, his worst start in months. Before that, however, he had allowed two earned runs or less in eight consecutive outings.

“It will take more than one game where he starts going in the other direction. Up until that game the entire conversation was ‘how excited are you for how dominant he has been?’ You can’t just take the one start and all of a sudden flip the switch, it doesn’t make sense. And it wouldn’t necessarily be two starts.”

Wainwright has been treated like a normal pitcher this season by making his regularly scheduled starts, but that doesn’t mean he has been the exact same guy. Wainwright’s 3.90 ERA is the worst of his career and noticeably higher than his career clip of 3.12. Strasburg holds a 3.05 ERA, but hasn’t been as strong lately as he was in the beginning of the season. The two pitchers are different for sure, but this season one has been a little more like himself than the other.

Ben Standig contributed to this report


peric said...

They've also taken a very cautious approach with Alex Meyer. And apparently with Nate Karns. Both are power pitchers. And you'll have to expect it will be the same with Giolito, Purke, and Solis. Mooneyham and Ray as well. All up and down the minors Rizzo has consistently taken this approach. He believes he understands how best to develop the power pitchers needed to make perennial runs at the pennant.

So, far following medical advice based on statistical evidence accumulated on teenaged boys who suffer arm problems seems to be working. Perhaps GM's like the Cardinals should take the courses, and the MCATs and get a degree in medicine if they don't want to listen to the experts. I doubt they are smart enough. Just ask Carpenter how his arm feels after burning it out.

hiramhover said...

Wainwright's years of experience and innings pitched are the main difference, I agree, but there is one more--the Cards only control Wainwright for one more year, the Nats control Stras for 4 more.

Not to be too cynical about it, but there's not as much future value that the Cards have at stake in Wainwright.

peric said...

I agree, but there is one more--the Cards only control Wainwright for one more year, the Nats control Stras for 4 more.

And if they play their cards right? Maybe even more. I'm sure Boras won't be an impediment to that.

Wise did a fair job of presenting Boras opinion (and Rizzo's) on this:

Mike Wise on the impending Shutdown

Who do I believe? Boras who has the interest of his client at heart or the St. Louis Cardinals GM who has both Wainwright and Carpenter in his "rotation". Well maybe not after they get through with them.

Scott Margenau said...

Hell yea!!

SonnyG10 said...

Good post peric. Thanks for the Mike Wise link.

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