Over the last month at Scout.com, we have been consumed with awards across the St. Louis Cardinals system with a new one each day and several more to go. They are the standard “best of” honors which you would expect for the best hitters and pitchers and the like. Others recognize top defenders as well.
There is one other award, currently overlooked, that deserves some special attention – the best-hitting Cardinals pitcher of the year – something I am calling the Allen Watson Award.
After all, Cardinals pitchers have taken their hitting seriously for some time, practicing together and enjoying friendly competition throughout the season. I have decided they deserve their very own award for hitting prowess.
Why name it after a seemingly-obscure pitcher who spent less than three years with the mid-1990’s Cardinals, you ask?
In the modern history of the Cardinals franchise, no pitcher with at least 30 plate appearances in a single season has posted a higher OPS than Watson’s .975 mark in 1995. That season was so extraordinary; the next closest by any other pitcher in the last 110 years was just .880.
This year’s winner of the Watson Award is Adam Wainwright. His .515 OPS was tops among the five qualifiers, those pitchers with at least 30 place appearances. All pitchers with plate appearances this season are listed for reference. Data courtesy of the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.
At the plate, Wainwright came on strongly in 2009 to claim this award. Two of his three two-hit games this season came in his last two regular-season starts. He doubled twice on September 26 at Colorado and collected his first career triple at Busch Stadium on October 2. Those two performances added over 100 points to his final OPS.
The 28-year-old homered twice, both solo shots. The first was off former teammate Jeff Suppan in Milwaukee on May 26 with the other at Busch Stadium against San Diego rookie Mat Latos on August 14. Wainwright was called upon to pinch hit six times this season and collected four RBI in total.
Yet a .515 OPS is not particularly impressive. 2009 is Wainwright’s worst season at the plate in his three-plus seasons as a major leaguer. In fact, his OPS has declined each year since his amazingly small sample six-PA 2006 debut.
Here’s hoping Adam is spending time in the cage this winter and the trend is reversed in 2010.