After 2010, Adam Wainwright was on track for a Cy Young Award. In 2009, he was 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA and finished third in the voting. In 2010, he was 20-11, 2.42, and finished second.
But in early 2011, Wainwright walked off the mound in spring training with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Shortly after this, he underwent Tommy John surgery, missing the entire season.
Now he's back (well, soon). Here's what you can bank on with Wainwright in 2012.
Wainwright's comeback is ahead of schedule and he should be ready for opening day. Obviously, how he does during spring training and the first month of the season will be telltale of if he is the same dominating pitcher of old.
With the loss of Albert Pujols, the Cardinals need to allow fewer runs than last year. This should happen if Wainwright is anywhere near prior form.
Another element in the mix is Dave Duncan stepping down as pitching coach. Duncan stepped down on Thursday to be with his wife as she continues treatment and rehabilitation following brain surgery to remove a tumor. The Cardinals pitching coach for 2012 will be Derek Lilliquist, the club's bullpen coach.
Duncan's influence cannot be overstated and this is a huge loss. How Lilliquist does in this role, plus Wainwrights recovery, are major question marks.
I'm just going to predict that Wainwright has the most innings pitched for the Cardinals by the end of the season. Even though this goes against recovery wisdom, 36-year-old Chris Carpenter tossed over 270 innings last year including his horse-like work in the postseason.
I'm not overly worried about Wainwright's ability to return to form. For one, he's a great pitcher. He's an established veteran and a smart player. Two, Tommy John Surgery, while not necessarily routine, has an established track record of success. Let's just hope Matheny doesn't pull a Dusty Baker and make the kid throw 300 innings or something crazy.
I do think Wainwright will be able to notch at least 15 wins. I'll predict 16-9, 3.50 ERA. Fewer strikeouts than before, but still somewhere around seven per nine innings.
Yeah, that's right. You know what this implies! Plus, Wainwright loves the postseason. He belongs in the postseason. We want him on that wall, and need him on the wall! He'll notch a postseason win in the NLDS against the Marlins.
People are going to shy away from him, but not you. He's being ranked in Max Scherzer territory, but you know better. You know about that beautiful rainbow curve. You know he's better than Tommy Hanson and Rickey Romero. You're going to let him slip a few rounds and then grab him in Round 8.
He'll reward you with 16 wins, 170 strikeouts and a nice ERA and WHIP. You'll look like the smartest owner in your league.
In 1934, the Cardinals pitching staff was anchored by two brothers: Dizzy and Daffy Dean. In 1934, Dizzy predicted they would together win 45 games. They won 49.
In 2012, you have the trio of Carpenter, Wainwright and Jamie Garcia (along with Jake Westbrook and Kyle Loshe). These three are going to win you 45 games, if not 49.
Hey, sports are less fun if you don't have a few beers and make some wild prognostications.