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Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, and meditations on the 2013 World Series

It is amazing how one moment or two by a player, good or bad, can frame how we remember them. Kolten Wong won back to back gold gloves and played for the team for eight years, but I cannot forget sitting in the stands, stunned that game 4 of the 2013 ended because he got picked off with Carlos Beltran at the plate. It will always be what I remember first about him. Matt Carpenter may have collapsed spectacularly after 2018, but I will always think of his amazing at bat against Clayton Kershaw in 2013.

This weekend the Cardinals play the Boston Red Sox. Adam Wainwright starts for the Cardinals in Boston on Friday night. That gives me flashbacks. After more than 17 years of good to great performance, Wainwright's legacy is set. In fact, he set it early and then spent 15 years building on that moment. Beyond regular season excellence and a seeming rebirth late in his career, his overall post-season line is excellent: 114.1 innings across 29 games (16 of which are starts) with a 2.83 ERA, striking out more than 5 batters for every one he walked. His cumulative line produced a 20.3% championship win probability added.

And yet, we forget just how bad he was in the 2013 World Series. It is easily his worst post-season series. Wainwright made two starts, pitched 12 innings, gave up six runs. His start in game 1 was bad (5 runs in 5 innings); the start in game 5 was better (3 runs in 7 innings in a low scoring affair). But both ended in losses and those losses in games where moments are magnified means that Wainwright finished the series with a -14.8% championship win probability added, easily the worst figure from any post-season series in his career.

Matt Holliday isn't quite the opposite, but still serves as a good counterpoint. Holliday had a signature moment early on and that mistake in a critical moment seemed to forever color the view of some fans. His performance in the 2011 World Series only served to reemphasize the point. He hit .158/.385/.211 in 26 plate appearances and missed game 7 with a sprained wrist. He produced a -4.2% championship win probability added. He followed that up by hitting .224/.241/.547 in the 2012 post season. Carlos Beltran, not Matt Holliday, had figuratively stepped into the offensive centerpiece role left by Albert Pujols. In losing the 2013 World Series, it is easy to forget that that series was shaping up as Matt Holliday's signature moment for the Cardinals. He had a .250/.280/.905 line in 25 plate appearances. He hit two home runs and 6.7% championship win probability added.

In another world, where Kolten doesn't get picked off, where Randy Choate can get David Ortiz out, where Johnny Gomes doesn't come through in one critical moment, where Shelby Miller is allowed to pitch, maybe we are talking about how Matt Holliday really won the Cards the 2013 World Series, bailing out Adam Wainwright.