We continue our preseason projections reviews today with a look at Adam Wainwright. It was a strange year for the Cardinals' ace. Up until a missed start and treatment for elbow tendinitis in early June, Waino looked ever so much like a Cy Young candidate. From that point on, he managed to pitch effectively, but had to fight through many starts without his best stuff, and it certainly showed up in his peripherals if not his ERA. Let's take a look at the projections before we dig in.
As was the case with Lance Lynn's pre-season projections, VEB's overall optimism gave it the edge. It's particularly impressive to me in retrospect that we did not expect Wainwright to repeat his extraordinary 1.30 BB/9 from 2013. As with Lynn, the only real miss was that Viva El Birdos did not see Adam's drop in K rate coming, but nobody else did either.
His slide in that category certainly appears to be injury-related, and we can trace that statistic throughout the season to take a look at his health issues.
From his first start of the season on March 31 through his start on June 10, after which Wainwright skipped a turn in the rotation for his elbow tendinitis, Waino averaged 8.16 K/9, which was almost perfectly in line with VEB's projection, as was his 1.88 BB/9.
However, from that point on, Wainwright struck out just 6.25 batters per 9 innings and walked 2.06, and he needed a strong finish just to get there. From June 21-September 2, his K rate was under 6, and he walked 2.40 per 9. Fortunately, even in this rough stretch the veteran managed to keep his ERA to 3.27 and racked up more wins than losses.
Spend some time digging around the various season graphs available at the essential fangraphs.com here.
Here's just one of the graphs to help visualize how steeply off his game he was.
While it's encouraging that Adam didn't see is ERA balloon too far during even his worst stretch, the fact that his BABIP allowed in 2014 (.267) was far lower than the .305 he allowed in his stellar 2013 campaign is a reminder that there is likely some good fortune in that ERA, and he's very unlikely to put up anything near a 2.34 next season if his peripherals don't change. On the bright side, despite pitching through an injury, Wainwright's FIP was still excellent at 2.88, and there's quite a bit of room on the bad side of 2.34 for Adam to fall toward and still be extremely good.
I think it's reasonable to expect another strong year from Adam next season. The minor surgery he recently had should help him avoid a repeat of the problems he faced this season, and he's shown the ability to pitch well even if they return. Of course, he will turn 34 next year, and the line between "injury" and a body's inevitable physical decline gets fuzzier with every year under the belt.
Here are a few articles from earlier in the season to revisit:
-I looked at Wainwright's struggles back in August, thought it looked suspiciously like Adam's elbow tendinitis was still bothering him, and hoped to no avail that Mike Matheny would find the man some rest. Link.
-Craig Edwards took a look at Wainwright's September resurgence. Link.
-Ben Humphrey explored some of Waino's quotes about his injury during the playoffs. Link.
-And the news about his surgery. Link.
Here's to a smoother 2015. We'll find out how optimistic we are about that in a few months.