After coming off Tommy John surgery in 2011 spring training, Wainwright missed the entire 2011 season. He had solid numbers in 2012, but there’s reason to believe Wainwright will be much better going forward.
Wainwight’s line: 198.2 innings pitched, 14-13, 3.94 ERA, 184 K, 1.25 WHIP
It takes more than a year to recover from Tommy John and I will explain using Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann as an example.
Zimmermann had Tommy John surgery in August 2009 and he didn’t make it back to the major leagues until August 26th, 2010. If you look at Zimmermann’s numbers, you can tell that each year after the surgery he was building strength to get back to the pitcher he was when the Nats called him up as their top prospect.
2010: 31 IP, 1-2, 4.94 ERA, 27 K, 1.32 WHIP
2011: 161.1 IP, 8-11, 3.18 ERA, 124 K, 1.15 WHIP
2012: 195.2 IP, 12-8, 2.94 ERA, 153 K, 1.17 WHIP
Zimmermann interview here after his own Tommy John surgery.
In an interview with Anna McDonald of ESPN, Wainwright discussed the long road of coming back from Tommy John surgery. "This game puts a lot of pressure on your joints and ligaments. That’s why it is so important that we keep our shoulders and our [scapulas] strong and our leg muscles strong and our hips flexible and all these things so that we can stay away from injury as much as possible. But to say that you could stop someone from getting hurt with a perfect throwing motion is absolutely ridiculous."
Wainwright continued, "The St. Louis Cardinals are paying me a lot of money to throw the ball like I throw the ball. What do you think they would say if I came in with completely different mechanics the next year? They would be so scared out of their brains that they would be wasting money on me."
"If you look at how strong guys' muscles are getting, the way they are exploding all the time, they didn’t used to throw like that way back in the day," Wainwright said. "There was the occasional flamethrower but for the most part guys weren’t throwing 95 every pitch.... Guys are getting freakishly strong, freakishly fast and it puts more wear and tear and stress on your ligaments and elbows and shoulders."
After pitching a complete game shutout against San Diego on May 22nd, Wainwright told reporters that he found his grip on the ball. This something he had been searching for since the start of the season and his progression in the second half shows he could have a very good season in 2013.
First half: 7-8, 4.56 ERA, 98 K, 1.354 WHIP
Second half: 7-5, 3.25 ERA, 86 K, 1.135 WHIP
Wainwright has established himself as one of the better pitchers in the major leagues and his career totals as a starter speak for themselves.
2007: 14-12, 202 IP, 3.70 ERA, 136 K, 1.40 WHIP
2008: 11-3, 132 IP, 3.20 ERA, 91 K, 1.18 WHIP
2009: 19-8, 233 IP, 2.63 ERA, 212 K, 1.21 WHIP
2010: 20-11, 230.1 IP, 2.42 ERA, 213 K, 1.05 WHIP
Wainwright was ranked 163rd overall in Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues, 32nd in terms of pitchers in CBS leagues and the 36th overall starting pitcher in ESPN’s Player Rater.
Wainwright is a player that will really benefit from all the time off during the off-season and the Cardinals know how to handle their pitchers. I am optimistic he will continue to improve in 2012 and going forward.
Mac can be found on the forums as dmvincent and you can also follow him on Twitter @MacVincent1.