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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Wainwright among MLB’s elite, but is it good enough?

Based on success of others before him, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright’s pace though 113 games may have him on a track to win the Cy Young Award.

Adam Wainwright (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)Is there any doubt that St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright is a workhorse – and is an extraordinary one at that?

Heading into Friday’s action, the Cardinals had played in 113 games this season. In his 25 starts to date, Wainwright accumulated 17 wins and a 1.99 ERA. Researcher Tom Orf helped me put Wainwright’s pace into a most impressive historical context.

The table below lists all MLB starters over the last half century with 20 or more starts and an ERA under two through their respective teams’ first 113 games.

Since 2000, Wainwright is among only five pitchers to have accomplished this. In addition to Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Chris Young, Florida’s Josh Johnson, who the Cardinals faced last Friday in Miami, is the other. *

(* It should be noted that since this data was pulled, Johnson’s ERA “ballooned” to 2.24 as he yielded six runs in 2 2/3 innings at Cincinnati Friday night. As such, if this list was reflected results through 114 games, Johnson’s name would vanish.)

Others who met these criteria in past decades are also listed.

One has to go all the way back to Dwight Gooden in 1985 to find a pitcher with more wins (18) than Waino and a sub-2.00 ERA at this point of the season. Roger Clemens also had 17 wins in 1997.

The common thread? Both Doc and the Rocket took home the Cy Young Award following those seasons.

This week, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch penned an in-depth article that is definitely worth a read. It looks at Wainwright’s 2010 candidacy from a number of angles. Since the voters have proven to be all over the map in their actual votes, I personally tend to not spend a lot of time trying to guess what they should do, let alone what they might do.

Instead, as a quick-and-dirty measure, I often refer to the ESPN Cy Young Predictor. That tool uses a Rob Neyer/Bill James formula to forecast the top contenders and leaders based on stats of past winners. Wainwright currently has a comfortable lead in the race for the 2010 NL award using this view.

However, before getting too excited, it is appropriate to note that Wainwright also had the highest score in ESPN’s formula last year. We all learned how a few voters who see the world differently than others can dramatically affect a tight competition and toss all the predictions out the window.

Wainwright and his supporters have to hope that he can further distance himself from the pack this time around and make it a one-horse race.

MLB pitchers through 113 games, season, minimum 20 starts and an ERA under 2.00, ordered by ERA within decades, 1960-2010

2000-2010 Cy? Year W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO
Roger Clemens No 2005 11 4 1.38 23 0 0 156 106 24 6 44 139
Pedro Martinez Yes 2000 13 4 1.46 20 6 3 154 90 25 12 27 204
Chris Young No 2007 9 3 1.82 20 0 0 118 78 24 4 39 114
Josh Johnson * TBD 2010 10 4 1.97 23 1 0 155 121 34 5 36 156
Adam Wainwright TBD 2010 17 6 1.99 25 5 2 176 129 39 11 42 158
1990-1999 Year W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO
Greg Maddux No 1998 14 5 1.61 24 8 4 184 139 33 6 24 145
Greg Maddux Yes 1994 15 6 1.63 24 9 2 193 147 35 4 31 152
Roger Clemens Yes 1997 17 4 1.69 24 7 2 186 135 35 8 49 202
Pedro Martinez Yes 1997 13 5 1.76 21 10 4 164 102 32 11 44 199
Greg Maddux Yes 1995 14 2 1.86 22 8 2 169 120 35 8 19 148
Kevin Brown No 1996 10 9 1.94 22 4 3 158 129 34 5 21 102
Bob Tewksbury No 1992 10 5 1.97 23 4 0 169 158 37 11 14 66
1980-1989 Year W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO
Nolan Ryan No 1981 11 5 1.69 21 5 3 149 99 28 2 68 140
Dwight Gooden Yes 1985 18 3 1.82 26 12 5 202 147 41 13 51 192
Dave Dravecky No 1985 10 6 1.94 22 6 2 158 127 34 11 44 86
1970-79 Year W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO
Vida Blue Yes 1971 20 4 1.56 28 19 8 230 146 40 9 67 231
Steve Kline No 1972 14 5 1.63 23 9 4 177 136 32 7 29 39
Randy Jones No 1975 14 6 1.84 24 12 6 190 149 39 11 28 61
Tom Seaver Yes 1973 14 6 1.86 25 13 2 203 149 42 16 44 175
Ron Guidry Yes 1978 16 2 1.88 24 10 5 191 141 40 10 50 182
Wilbur Wood No 1971 13 8 1.96 26 11 4 201 174 44 13 37 115
Gaylord Perry Yes 1972 18 12 1.97 30 21 4 260 192 57 12 56 169
Jim Palmer No 1972 15 6 1.98 26 13 1 195 153 43 16 53 131
1960-1969 Year W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H ER HR BB SO
Bob Gibson Yes 1968 15 5 1.08 23 18 8 207 133 25 7 40 163
Luis Tiant No 1968 17 6 1.41 24 16 8 197 111 31 11 51 194
Sandy Koufax Yes 1966 19 6 1.62 29 19 3 232 178 42 16 51 240
Sam McDowell No 1968 12 9 1.62 25 8 2 188 125 34 9 74 216
Dean Chance Yes 1964 10 5 1.64 22 8 6 153 109 28 4 46 109
Sandy Koufax Yes 1963 18 4 1.77 27 16 10 213 136 42 9 45 210
Juan Marichal No 1965 17 9 1.81 27 20 8 223 163 45 15 32 179
Bill Singer No 1969 14 7 1.82 27 11 2 217 151 44 15 49 177
Dave McNally No 1968 15 8 1.83 24 11 4 187 109 38 18 37 140
Don Drysdale No 1968 12 10 1.86 27 11 7 212 174 44 9 49 137
Sandy Koufax No 1964 17 5 1.87 26 13 6 202 141 42 12 51 198
Vern Law No 1965 11 9 1.87 22 9 4 168 134 35 12 28 85
Steve Carlton No 1969 13 6 1.89 21 11 2 167 128 35 6 65 147
Denny McLain Yes 1968 23 3 1.90 29 20 5 237 163 50 19 44 188
Bob Veale No 1968 9 10 1.94 23 9 2 172 136 37 6 67 124
Tommy John No 1968 8 5 1.94 22 4 1 157 115 34 9 44 106
Jim Nash No 1968 9 7 1.95 23 7 4 157 118 34 13 32 113
Jerry Koosman No 1968 14 7 1.96 23 12 6 179 146 39 7 47 128
Tom Seaver No 1968 10 7 1.99 23 9 4 185 154 41 9 31 127

As an interesting sidelight, note that 11 pitchers met these criteria in 1968, The Year of the Pitcher. Seeing a name like Jim Nash alongside greats like Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and Denny McLain helps explain why the mound was lowered as a result. It should also be noted that prior to 1967, there was only one annual Cy Young Award encompassing both leagues.

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