In baseball, the only three-word combination worse than “Dr. James Andrews” is “Tommy John Surgery.” The UCL reconstruction operation has claimed yet another victim, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.
This is huge news for every other National League contender, as the road to October just got a bit easier. Wainwright is an amazing talent – a now-perennial Cy Young candidate coming off of an absolutely gaudy season.
Since 2009, Wainwright is 39-19 with a 2.53 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, 3.48 K/BB ratio, and two top-3 Cy Young finishes. His ERAs each year were top-4, his innings pitched were top-3, his wins were top-2.
Wainwright went blow-for-blow with Roy Halladay every step of the way for the 2010 NL Cy Young, and probably had the award won in mid-August, when he was 17-6 with a 1.99 ERA.
The Risk of Top-Heaviness
That the Cardinals will miss Wainwright’s extraordinary production in 2011 is a major blow to the league’s top-heaviest team. St. Louis, as currently assembled without Wainwright, is down to two great players (Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday), two very good players (Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia), a young, perpetually dog-housed stud (Colby Rasmus), Phillie-killer Yadier Molina, and 19 mediocre major leaguers.
For several years, the Cardinals have struggled to go deep in the playoffs due to the amount of outs given away by replacement-level bats. Aside from the splendor of Pujols, the constant was always a formidable 1-2 rotational punch. With Wainwright out and Chris Carpenter aging, the Cardinals find themselves in a precarious position.
This is the risk taken when 53% of a team’s payroll is locked up in its four best players.
(If you’re wondering what percent of the payroll goes to the Phillies’ four best players, it’s 41% – if you believe the top four to be Halladay, Lee, Utley, Howard.)
Impact – Both Real and Cosmetic
However distasteful the statement may be, the Cardinals’ (and the sport’s) loss is the Phillies’ gain. In 8 career appearances vs. the Phils, Wainwright has pitched to a 2.30 ERA and allowed five fewer hits than innings pitched. He has never allowed a home run at Citizens Bank Park.
On a more superficial level, the loss of Wainwright takes the Cardinals out of the “Second Best NL Pitching Staff” contest. After the Phillies, the list probably goes Giants, Brewers, Braves, with the Marlins now sneaking into the top five.
One Last Unfortunate Cardinals Stat
Adam Wainwright’s 2010 WAR: 6.1
The combined WAR of the six players St. Louis acquired this offseason: -0.6
That’s Lance Berkman, Ryan Theriot, Brian Tallet, Gerald Laird, Ian Snell, and Miguel Batista, in case you needed another idea for a first round pick in your upcoming fantasy draft.