On Thursday the Cardinals officially announced Adam Wainwright will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2011 season. Is the loss of Wainwright the death knell for St Louis’ 2011 season before the first spring training game is played?
Not necessarily, although the road to the playoffs just went unpaved and became much more mountainous. Wainwright was #4 in pitcher value according to Baseball Reference, #7 per Fangraphs, in 2010. The Cardinals will not be able to replace him with one man, because men possessing similar skills are seldom available via trade in spring training. So the remaining starters will have to pick some of the slack, and the Cardinals will probably both utilize several players in the #5 starter slot and skip that spot when the schedule allows it.
Many a Cardinal fan has descended into a foggy place of low expectations – the ‘Wainwright Daze’, let’s call it – since news of his elbow trouble broke. One Adam Wainwright, however, does not a team make. So use these tidbits to help ease your pain and clear your mind.
- Lance Berkman will hit fifth. Lance had a down year in 2010 after having knee surgery, but even so his season OPS+ of 114 (combined with Houston and the Yankees) beat every Cardinal RF not named Ryan Ludwick. Berkman is a year further from surgery and from all indications he is hungry in 2011. He will help the offense.
- David Freese is back. Freese is healthy to start the season, and we all saw what he is capable of in 2010 when healthy. Freese will play more than 70 games at 3B, even if the Cardinals have to place him in stasis and cover his capsule in bubble-wrap between games to do it. He will help both the offense and defense.
- Molina and Schumaker are due. Offensively they will leave 2010 behind and return to their career norms.
- Bullpen remains a strength. Even if Kyle McClellan shifts into the rotation, stalwarts Ryan Franklin, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte return to anchor the back of the bullpen. Trever Miller is once again the LOOGY, and he has been competent there for 2 years. Mix in Fernando Salas and P.J. Walters, and this group could rival the 2004 ‘pen in terms of efficiency.
- Jamie Garcia and Colby Rasmus are still under 25. Garcia finished 3rd in the ROY voting and will be better now that he has a full major league season under his belt. Rasmus slugged .859 despite only hitting 7 HR after July 1; look for him to finish stronger in 2011. And, they both will be on the club (barring trade) until after the 2014 season.
Still don’t feel better? Then simply remember this one thing:
- Albert Pujols still wears Birds on the Bat. No team with the Game’s Best Player is out of contention from the get-go. In AP’s 10 seasons with the Cardinals, the team has made the playoffs six times, and been in the thick of the pennant chase in two other seasons (2003, 2010). No way losing Wainwright makes this a sub-.500 team, something that has only happened in 2007 with AP on the roster.
I can see clearly now the Daze is gone…