One could almost word that title a bit differently. It could read, “Adam Wainwright Deserves to make it in the Hall of Fame,” but I didn’t want to let my Cardinals bias show in the title of the article.
As a lifelong Cardinals fan, I have followed Adam Wainwright throughout his illustrious career with thousands of others. I’m sure every fan thinks that most very good players on their favorite team deserve a shot at the Hall of Fame, but it’s a bit different in this case.
Since Ozzie Smith donned the Birds on the Bat, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright have been my favorite players. So, I did go into this wanting to put Waino amongst the greats, but I discovered that he belongs amongst the greats whether I want him there or not.
I am a loyal Cardinals fan and a diehard Adam Wainwright fan; this is my case for Waino to make it into the MLB Hall of Fame.
Adam Wainwright: Numbers and Accomplishments
Before we dive in too deep, let’s take a look at Waino’s career numbers.
The tremendous standout seasons all came between 2008 and 2014, but overall, an excellent career across the board. It also makes you think that if he stayed healthy for all of 2011 and 2015, there likely wouldn’t even be a reason for this article. He may very well have been a no-doubter.
In 2009 and 2014, Waino finished 3rd in Cy Young voting. In 2010 and 2013, he finished 2nd in Cy Young voting. He also finished top 20 in MVP voting in all 4 of those seasons, with his highest finish at 8th in 2014. He made the All-Star game in 2010, 2013, and 2014 and has 2 Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2013.
Wainwright also won the Silver Slugger in 2017, which is one of his favorite accomplishments. He hit .264 with two home runs, 11 RBIs, and had an OPS of .731 that season. Not too shabby for only 50 plate appearances.
He’s always prided himself on being able to help out offensively and is one of the best sacrifice bunters in the game today. I’m sure there is a stat that could quantify that, but I’ll just take the eye test on this one. The guy can advance runners.
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Waino has led the National League in innings pitched twice in his career, in 2009 and 2013. In 2013, he led all the Majors with 241.2 innings pitched. He’s led MLB in complete games three times and once in shutouts. He’s led the National League twice in shutouts.
He’s led the National League in wins twice and MLB once. In 2014, he led the National League in HR9, only giving up 0.4. He leads MLB in complete games this season at the age of 40, and is MLB’s active leader in complete games with 27.
Adam Wainwright in 2021
His lifetime ERA is 3.35 and has dropped nearly a tenth of a point over the last two seasons. Wainwright was between 38 and 40 years old in this stretch. While age and longevity can sometimes hurt one’s case for the HOF, they can also help under certain circumstances.
In 2021, Adam Wainwright is having his best season since 2014, which isn’t necessarily saying much until you look at his numbers. As I am writing this article, his ERA is 2.91 over 176 innings pitched this season. He has three complete games, including a shutout.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 2, 2021
He may surpass his 2014 strikeout total of 179 as he currently sits at 159 with at least 4-5 starts to go this season. Seeing Wainwright reach stats that he put up in one of his best seasons ever, at 40 years old, has been a delightful surprise.
His 2021 ERA of 2.91 ranks 10th in MLB. His 14 wins have him tied in 2nd with Gerrit Cole. His 1.034 WHIP ranks 10th. Only Zack Wheeler and Walker Buehler have more innings pitched than Waino in 2021. He has 176 IPs this season and could make it another 200 inning season if he pitches well in his remaining starts.
What Does Waino’s WAR Say?
Adam Wainwright has accrued 44.3 bWAR in his 16-year career. He has the 19th highest bWAR and 10th highest bWAR for Pitchers amongst active players. He ranks 177th all-time in bWAR for Pitchers with 40 even. He’s had three 6+ WAR seasons in his career.
For those that scoff at Wainwright’s WAR, there are 15+ pitchers in the Hall of Fame with a lower WAR than Waino. Fernando Valenzuela produced only 37.2 WAR in his career. Corey Kluber and Madison Bumgarner will likely be Hall of Fame candidates when they retire and have only produced 33 each so far.
Wainwright’s 1.97 Cy Young shares rank 24th all-time, the highest ever not to win the award outright. A few pitchers with lower career Cy Young shares; Nolan Ryan, John Smoltz, Curt Schilling, Orel Hershiser, Bruce Sutter, and Dennis Eckersley. That’s a list of pitchers that you want to be named alongside in pretty much any category other than the number of times you’ve knocked out Robin Ventura.
Adam Wainwright When it Counts; the Postseason
Waino’s postseason career has been nothing short of fantastic. Even I didn’t realize just how solid and consistent he has been throughout the years. He was responsible for quite possibly my favorite Cardinals postseason memory when he struck out Carlos Beltran to advance to the World Series in 2006.
His role for the 2006 Cardinals was a bit different. Due to a Jason Isringhausen hip injury, Waino took over the role of closer with just a few games left in the regular season. He appeared nine times in the 2006 Postseason, three times in the NLDS, three in the NLCS, and three in the World Series.
In 9.2 innings pitched, he didn’t give up a run. He finished the 2006 Postseason with four saves, one win, 15 strikeouts, and only two walks.
After the 2006 season, Wainwright officially became a starter and made 18 appearances in the postseason between 2009 and 2020. A total of 27 games in October and 109 postseason innings pitched.
His ERA is 2.89 with 118 strikeouts to only 20 walks. In the 2013 Postseason, he had 4 quality starts, including a complete-game shutout in Game 5 of the NLDS. There are a number of Hall of Fame pitchers with worse playoff resumes than Waino.
Picking Cherries for Waino
I could deep dive into the stats for hours and cherry-pick the ones that fit my narrative, and then someone else could come along and do the same thing to argue against it. When it comes to the Hall of Fame, it’s all very subjective. Everything is in the eye of the beholder.
In this case, I am the beholder, and my eyes tell me that Adam Wainwright deserves serious Hall of Fame consideration. Of course, if it were up to me, he would be a shoo-in, but I will leave it to those more objective than I am.
If Adam Wainwright chooses to return in 2022, which seems very likely now that Yadi is set to return for one more year and Waino is having a remarkable season, his bWAR may approach the 50 mark. Barring a miraculous season, he won’t quite reach 50, but the closer he gets, the better his shot at the Hall of Fame gets.
I, for one, hope Uncle Charlie comes back for one last rodeo with Yadi, and they ride off into the sunset together. And then, five years later, my dream is to watch Yadi, Waino, and Albert Pujols grace the Cooperstown stage wearing the red STL caps together.
A man can dream, but what a reality that would be for Cardinals Nations.