If you will it, Dude, it is no dream
It was around this time last year that Adam Wainwright got turned around. It’s hard to remember now, but in mid-May of 2007, I was receiving emails from fans suggesting that Wainwright was a failure as a starter, that the “experiment” should end and that he should be returned to the bullpen.
The chorus grew loudest after a brutal start in Los Angeles, when Wainwright got knocked around. After the game — May 15, 2007, to be exact — Wainwright gave one of his more interesting postgame interviews. He said he felt fine physically — but that in some PREVIOUS starts, he’d had some arm soreness. That it was the first time all season he’d really felt right.
After that game, he took off. For the remainder of the year, Wainwright was the pitcher that his believers expected him to be, and frankly maybe even better. He repeatedly pointed to that game — and, in fact, still does point to that game — as the moment when the season turned around for him. It was the kick in the behind he needed.
Fast-forward to tonight, when he was as good as I’ve seen him. For the complete package, his entire repertoire, I can’t think of a night when it’s ALL been this good. Fastball down in the zone and for strikes. Slider in the strike zone and as a chase pitch. Curveball getting ugly swings as well as freezing hitters. Changeup effective and in the mix. It was beautiful.
And so I got to thinking — just how good has this guy been? And thanks to the amazing day-by-day database at BaseballMusings.com, I found the following:
Since that Dodger Stadium start, Wainwright has made 35 starts. He’s pitched 236 1/3 innings, more than 6 2/3 per start. He has a 2.93 ERA, 164 strikeouts, 65 walks, and 18 home runs allowed. That’s more than a full season of full-on ace-caliber pitching.
Then I decided to look at it another way. Let’s make it exactly a season. And so I took a look at where Wainwright stands over the last 12 months — since May 28, 2007.
During that span, basically the past full season of baseball, Wainwright has the second-best ERA of any starting pitcher in all the Major Leagues (minimum 150 innings). His ERA in that time is 2.93, behind only Brandon Webb (2.77 — dude is pretty good) and ranking just ahead of Scott Kazmir, Jake Peavy and Carlos Zambrano. Perhaps just as striking, over his past full season, Wainwright has thrown 224 1/3 innings.
The hope was that Wainwright would become a front-of-the-rotation type. The scouting reports, for the most part, suggested No. 2 starter type. Over the past year, though, he’s as ace as ace gets. Pretty remarkable stuff.