How will Wacha fair in first full Major League season?


by Brian Feldman / BaseballStL | @BFeldman

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 12:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 5 at 10:12 AM

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(BaseballStL) -- Michael Wacha knows the expectations this year are going to be big.  Scratch that.  He knows they'll be huge.  And by huge I mean borderline unrealistic.  Ya see...when someone bursts onto the big league scene and does what he did in the postseason last year - 2.64 ERA in 30.2 IP - expectations are certain to get out of whack.

It'd be foolish to think this 22-year old kid is going to be able to maintain this level of dominance for a full six, even seven, months.

So what's a realistic stat line or hope for the Texas A&M alum?  Well, I suppose a big part of that is going to come down to how his curveball develops. 

During the World Series last year, I spoke with former pitcher John Smoltz.  And the now MLB Network analyst said when you come up to the big leagues initially it's a little bit easier to have success because no one knows you.  They haven't seen your stuff and don't know how it plays.

Hence, you can get away with two pitches (Wacha's bread and butter is his fastball/change up combination).

But Smoltz told me in order to be good for a long period of time - as a starting pitcher - you need to have a third pitch.  It's mandatory.  He says Wacha won't be able to get away with relying on his fastball and change up for long.

In fact, in Game 6 of the World Series - the one bad game Wacha pitched last October - you started to see the Red Sox offense take advantage of their knowledge of the young kid's arsenal.  There wasn't much of a surprise anymore.  David Ortiz and company knew exactly what he had.

And the result was an abbreviated 3.2 inning, five hit, six run performance which contributed to the end of the Cards season.

Watch Wacha talk about the upcoming season during a Cardinal Caravan stop in Jefferson City.

The world has seen Michael Wacha.  Every team in baseball knows his secret.  He has a big arm with a live fastball coming in on a downward plane.  He has a wicked change up that he's comfortable throwing on absolutely any count. 

His curveball is his weakness.

The development of that third pitch to Wacha's arsenal will go a long way in determining how he'll fair in his first big league season.  Will he finish with a mid-two ERA?  Unlikely. 

But if that other pitch turns into a weapon?  It's not out of the question.