Showing the Love for Adam

Did all of you know that my favorite Cardinal is Adam Wainwright? Did you think it was Brendan Ryan, Joe Mather, Blake Hawksworth or some other guy I’ve mentioned over and over again? It’s definitely Adam. Shame on me for taking this long to tell all of you about this. Shame on all of us here at the CDD for not shedding light on what one of the best pitchers in the National League has been up to so far this season!

Adam Wainwright is a good ol’ Southern boy, born and raised in Brunswick, Georgia. He had planned to go to Georgia Tech, but when his favorite team – the Atlanta Braves – drafted him 29th overall in the 2000 draft, he jumped at the chance to sign. Things honestly did not go very well with the Braves. I’ve read in several interviews that Waino just never felt like he was really going anywhere there, so when the Cards picked him up as an accessory in a 5 player deal with the Braves in December of 2003, Adam was ready to move somewhere new.

The trade in itself fascinates me. The Cardinals gave up J.D. Drew, the oft-injured and never quite living up to expectations outfielder, and Eli Marrero, a decent utility player. The Braves handed over Wainwright, Ray King, a big ol’ lefty that reminds me of current big ol’ lefty Denny Reyes, and Jason Marquis, who actually had a couple of nice years here, no matter what the Negative Nancys choose to remember. At the time, people kind of shrugged their shoulders about it. Both teams were unloading a couple of guys they couldn’t seem to do much with.

For whatever reason, the only player I was interested in from that trade was Wainwright. He wasn’t talked about very much, but I caught on and he because the first player I was really watching in the minors. When he made his debut in September of 2005 I was excited, and when he made the Opening Day roster as a bullpen guy in 2006 I smiled to myself and hoped that he would become more than the artist formerly known as Brad Thompson.

When Jason Isringhausen was finally shut down late in 2006 for season-ending hip surgery, people questioned if Tony LaRussa was really going to let the rookie with the big curveball close out games in the middle of a pennant race. He did, and Adam did not buckle under the pressure, saving two crucial games on September 27 and 30 to hold off the Astros and seal the division. As for the postseason, I’ll let Wikipedia tell you the story: 

  • On October 19, 2006, in the final game of the National League Championship Series, Wainwright, with the bases loaded, struck out Carlos Beltran looking on 3 pitches, ending the New York Mets‘ season and sending the Cardinals to the World Series.

It’s doubtful Beltran’s knees have unbuckled from that one. (Also worth noting – game 5 of the WS was my 20th birthday. Doubtful there will be a better one!)

Since then Adam was moved to the rotation, where, were it not for Chris Carpenter, would be the unquestioned ace of the staff. Last year, while having the most first place votes for the Cy Young award, he somehow wound up third, but he was voted Most Outstanding Pitcher in the Players Choice Awards. The players know he’s the real deal.

This year Wainwright has been overshadowed in a major way. Between…
  • Ubaldo Jimenez being really impressive (but NOT impressive enough to have this many comparisons to Gibson’s 1968, so stop it)
  • Stephen Strasburg merely walking onto the mound in DC (no offense to the kid, but someone call me when he beats someone without a Pirates uniform on… or he raises the dead or something)
  • Roy Halladay finally making it out of the AL East and into the NL, which is a more pitcher-friendly league
  • Jaime Garcia being in Rookie of the Year contention
  • not to mention Chris Carpenter doing what Chris Carpenter does……. 
No wonder hardly anyone is talking about Adam Wainwright! There are two guys on his own team on this list!

Well I’m talking about Adam. Look at where he’s standing so far this year compared to the rest of the National League (stats from baseball-reference):
  • Wins: 8 – tied for 2nd (0 of which have been classified as ‘cheap’ by B-R, while 2 of his losses have been classified as ‘tough’ thanks to lack of run support)
  • Complete games: 3 – 2nd
  • Quality starts: 11 – 2nd
  • ERA: 2.05 – 4th
  • Innings pitched: 88 – 2nd
  • Strikeouts: 88 – 2nd
  • ERA+ (ballpark adjusted ERA): 198 – 4th
  • WHIP: 0.943 – 2nd
  • K/BB: 3.86 – 4th
Umm… wow. No other pitcher was in the top five in all of those categories. If that doesn’t tell you how good Adam’s been this year, nothing else will.

Need more? You mean, besides the fact that he hit a home run in his very first major league at bat, his #chickcomment worthiness, or his curveball that makes hitters weak in the knees? How about I leave you with this story on how he joined up with Catch-a-Dream to spend a day with a young man who is fighting cancer.

Adam Wainwright is pitching tonight for the Cardinals. Watch him. Respect him.

PS-Check back tomorrow. We’re covering the draft in our own Diamond Diaries way…

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