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Yet another Adam Wainwright appreciation post

I promise one day I will stop writing these (oh look, had my fingers crossed).

Detroit Tigers v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Scott Rovak/MLB Photos via Getty Images

I didn’t know what to write about for today. I have a post idea I alluded to a few weeks ago, but it is a kind of a project. It involves actual scientific method (kind of). I have tests to run (kind of). I need assistance (definitely). It is going to be absurd. So until then, what do you all want to talk about?

I mean, I can always talk about Adam Wainwright.

As any good Waino discussion starts, let us begin with Skip Schumaker. The former Cardinal and current Manager of the Miami Marlins won Manager of the Year Tuesday evening. Former Brewers manager and current manager of the Chicago Cubs Craig Counsell was the runner up. It is apparently the fourth time he has been runner up for manager of the year (at least that is what I was told and I am not verifying it). I imagine if the Cubs make the playoffs next season he might finally take home the award. It seems like someone that has come in second that many times has to eventually win, right?

Brining it all back to Adam Wainwright — most of you can probably see where I am going with this now. It is one of my favorite and least favorite Adam Wainwright facts that he has the highest share of Cy Young votes among pitchers that have never won the award at 1.98 shares. He has more shares of votes than some pitchers that have won. Bob Gibson won the Cy Young twice and he has 2.04 vote shares.

Waino finished in the top three in Cy Young voting four times in his 18-season career. The first time was in 2009. I remember the talk around that voting. It was down to Waino, his teammate Chris Carpenter, and San Fransisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum. What everyone around me was saying was that the Cardinals teammates were going to split the vote and Lincecum would win. That isn’t exactly what happened. Tim Lincecum did win, but he also had a fantastic season that year. He lead the league in strikeouts and pitched over 225 innings with a 2.48 ERA. He had the best numbers of the three finalists. Splitting the vote likely had little to do with the result.

Wainwright led the league in innings pitched in 2009 with over 233 innings. It was the highest innings total of his career to that point. He followed that up with another 230 innings in 2010. He finished second in Cy Young voting that season. He lost to Roy Halloday who took home his second Cy Young award in 14 seasons. Waino had a great season with 6.2 bWAR, 213 strikeouts, and his first 20-win season of his career. Halloday had a better one though. He amassed 8.5 bWAR, had a 2.44 ERA, and led the league in innings pitched with just under 251. Another tough break.

He fell short again with another second-place finish in 2013 to Clayton Kershaw. Waino had a full season post-Tommy John surgery under his belt and after struggling a little in 2012, looked to return to form in 2013. He amassed 6.3 bWAR in a league-leading 241 innings-pitched. He posted a league-leading 5 complete games and won 19 games with 219 strikeouts to just 35 walks (37 counting intentional walks). That’s a strikeout per walk rate of 19.2%. That ranks in the top 15 in that stat in 2023 (with some pitchers with astronomical strikeout rates). Back in 2013 it puts him in the top 10 at number 9.

Of course, number 8 in strikeouts per walk rate is the Cy Young winner for that season, Clayton Kershaw. In 235 innings pitched, Kershaw posted a sub-2 ERA at 1.83 and had a league-leading 232 strikeouts. He was dominant that season, going 16-1 and amassing 8.1 bWAR.

(It makes how the Cardinals handled him in that postseason all the more incredible. Here is an extremely gratuitous video of it:)

Kershaw won his third Cy Young in 2014 and it was another dominating season. He had just under 200 innings pitched with 7.7 bWAR and a 1.77 ERA. Waino won 20 games again that season and ended up third in the voting. He finished the season with a 2.38 ERA — the lowest of his career for a full season — and 6.1 bWAR in 227 innings.

The future context is what makes 2014’s finish a heartbreaker: in 2015 Wainwright was off to a great start when he tore his Achilles’ on his way out of the batter’s box in Milwaukee. He didn’t pitch over 200 innings in a season again until 2021 (side note: he earned some Cy Young Votes that season and finished in seventh place). The Cy Young finalists in 2015 were really good. 2015 might not have been the year for Waino, either (though Wainwright in those few games looked like he could compete with that group), but beside that, the year off with that injury really seemed to sap a lot of... well something from Wainwright. It would have been nice to see how that 2015 season had played out. And if the rest of his career might have shook out a little differently too. (But then, maybe he doesn’t resign with the Cardinals in 2019 and we don’t get to see 200 games or he and Yadi break the battery record. I have a feeling Wainwright cherishes those more than a Cy Young, but I could be wrong.)

Writing this post has reminded me of something I think I might have been sort of underplaying to myself these past few seasons: Adam Wainwright sure has been one heckuva pitcher. It might not all have ended like he wanted — he said in his The Players’ Tribune article:

Wanna hear my “dad joke” about this season? Alright, here it is:

The one thing I never wanted to be as a pitcher is mediocre.

[Posts 7.40 ERA.]

So I skipped right past mediocre :)

But man, what a career. I wish he could have gotten his Cy Young Award, but maybe... maybe there is something more fitting about him not getting it. Maybe there is something more Waino-y about that, the pitcher that put up 200+ innings of high caliber pitching year after year for the same team, closing out a World Series for that team, getting to 200 wins for that team, being a Gold Glover and a Silver Slugger and an All Star, getting injured, but coming back and still putting up innings, setting the battery record with his long-time catcher... maybe that guy... that guy doesn’t need something like the Cy Young. Maybe that guy’s legacy is even stronger than that.

And it isn’t his fault his career overlapped so much with Clayton Kershaw.