With the 19th pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, the Cardinals selected a young fire-baller from Texas A&M University. His name was Michael Joseph Wacha.
Oh and he was a feisty one, I'll tell you that.
He wasted no time getting his career started. He had a fire in him, and he was ready to burn his way through the system. He had 3 games with the GCL Cardinals. Then he was promoted to Palm Beach. There he pitched in 4 games. He pitched 8 innings, with 16 strikeouts. Oh how he made them look foolish. Then, he was promoted to Springfield. There he pitched 8 innings, and struck out 17. That was his final stop in 2012. Him and his 17.14 K/9 were finished. But he made a name for himself. People we're starting to take note, of Michael Wacha.
Then came 2013. Wacha was in the Memphis starting rotation to begin the season. Through his first 15 starts, Wacha amassed a 2.65 era. To go with that, he had 73 strikeouts in 85 innings pitched. But even more impressive, opponents were hitting a measly .210 off of him. Then came a special day.
On May 30th, 2013, Wacha was called up. Only a year after drafting him, the ace in the making was making his debut. As he took the mound against the Kansas City Royals, only one word could define him. Dominant. He motored through 7 innings only giving up 2 hits, and 1 earned run.
He was just....unbelievable.
Then on September 24th, 2013, Wacha almost made history.
Wacha was through 8 2/3 of no hit ball against the Nationals. Then came inches away from being the first cardinals to throw a no hitter since Bud Smith. Nationals first baseman, Ryan Zimmerman, bounced a ball up the middle, over the leaping glove of Wacha, into the hands of Kozma. Then with no time to hesitate, Kozma threw the ball a little wide of Adams covering first. But it pulled Adams off the bag, and Zimmerman reached base before Adams could spin around and apply a tag.
So, no. Wacha did not get the no-hitter. But he did do something else. He looked straight through the eyes of baseball, and said here I am. So don't stress about that no-hitter, because there will be another.
So Wacha marched on. With the regular season behind him, the postseason came rushing in. But he made the Pirates and the Dodgers look like child's play. With another near no hitter in an elimination game against the pirates, and a masterful performance against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. The Cardinals were headed to the World Series. Michael Wacha and his NLCS MVP award, were ready to win it all.
But alas, they did not. David Ortizzle made sure of that.
So with 2014 on its way. The Cardinals had one of if not the best staff in baseball. So what could go wrong? Well, Wacha suffered a Scapular Stress Injury. This forced him to change his throwing motion. He used to throw with his arm stretched up over his head. But that had to change. It was putting to much pressure on his shoulder. So the Cardinals tried to reinvent his throwing slot, hoping that he could be the same guy who led them through the 2013 postseason. But unfortunately, he wasn't.
Now, lets go to 2015. Wacha was extremely good in the early parts of 2015. In fact, he was an all-star. Though he struggled a bit down the stretch, he certainly seemed like he was recovered from his shoulder injury. Everyone, including myself, was delightfully surprised. It was a miracle.
But here's where the story gets sad. Wacha wasn't good in 2016. He hasn't been the same. Every year, since 2013 his stats have declined. His OBP against went up, Slugging went up, His OPS went up, K/9 went down, His BB/9 has gone up, and his H/9 has gone up. Maybe it wasn't the end of the world. Maybe he was having a bad year. It happens. In fact, it seems like majority of the pitching staff is having a bad year. There was still hope.
But here's the heart breaker. Wacha's shoulder problem is back. He was put on the 15-day DL yesterday, and Reyes was called up to the Big Leagues. We'll still have to see what the doctors have to say about Wachas shoulder. Which leads us to wonder if he is capable of a 200 inning season. Or even a 150 anymore? We saw how much his stats dropped after the first time...what about the second? Is he capable of being a front of the line starter? Probably not. His best bet at this point, would probably be a move to the bullpen. He needs to lighten his workload, and maximize his ability.
He isn't the same Wacha who took St. Louis by storm in 2013. That Wacha is gone. Killed by the shoulder that carried him to the big leagues. Hopefully he can recover from this. But as Mozeliak said -
"Ultimately that’s what we have to work on between now and next season. When you’re looking at the connection between when this occurs to someone you’re trying to get 200 innings out of — I don’t think we’re comfortable making that bet long term at this point."