St. Louis Cardinals ace right-hander Adam Wainwright is generally recognized as one of the best pitchers of his generation. He owns two World Series rings but the top individual award for a pitcher has continued to elude him.
Despite logging his second career 20-win season and a personal-best 2.38 ERA for the National League Central Division-winning Cardinals, it was not enough for the 32-year-old to bring home his first NL Cy Young Award.
Since 2009, Wainwright has become a professional pitching bridegroom, having now accumulated two second-place and two third-place finishes in the annual voting.
Coming into the All-Star break, it was a different story. It looked like 2014 might finally become “his year.”
Wainwright had accumulated 12 wins against just four losses and carried a sparkling 1.83 ERA. At the time, Kershaw, six years younger, was neck-and-neck with his 11-2, 1.78 line.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny gave his ace a boost by naming him the NL’s starter in the Midsummer Classic. On that evening, the spotlight failed Wainwright, however. He allowed three runs in the first inning, including a two-run home run by two-time reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, sending the NL toward a 5-3 defeat.
Unfortunately, Wainwright’s elbow began to bother him in the second half. Specifics are sketchy, but what is clear is that his results did not continue at the first half rate.
His strikeouts were down and his walks were up. While he earned a decision in every second-half start, five of the 13 were losses. His post-break ERA was 3.24.
Wainwright’s major downfall was in August, when he went 2-4, 5.17. A seven-run clunker against Milwaukee on August 1 represented his low point. While he righted his ship in September, with five straight wins and a 1.38 ERA, it was too late.
The consistent Kershaw had pulled away and Cueto, who won 20 games with a 2.28 ERA for a 10 games-below-.500 Cincinnati club, also slipped ahead.
Cy Young balloting does not include the post-season. Though Wainwright did not dominate in October, he clearly out-performed Kershaw, while Cueto had to watch the playoffs on television.
In his three post-season starts, Wainwright went 0-1 with a 5.63 ERA. In late October, he underwent an arthroscopic procedure to trim a small piece of cartilage from his pitching elbow. The right-hander was scheduled to be allowed to resume throwing about now, with expectations of a normal 2015 spring training and beyond.
Once again in 2014, Wainwright just missed both his primary team and individual goals. Signed through 2018, he will continue to earn more chances, but the miles are continuing to rack up.
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