(BaseballStL) — Michael Wacha is no longer a secret weapon. The young sensation exploded onto the scene last season and continued to make eyes pop even when every pair of them was on him in the postseason.
Baseball is a game of adaptation. You find a way to succeed, your opponents adapt to you, and you must in turn readjust to stay ahead. Adam Wainwright has done that well, and 2014 brought a retooled pitch arsenal that has given hitters fits.
Michael Wacha, once considered a two-trick pony, has followed the St. Louis Ace’s example and begun to expand his offerings.
“He’s increased his versatility as a pitcher. You talk to guys last year even through October and they’d say he has a downhill plane fastball with good life and a really good change up,” manager Mike Matheny said. “That’s really only part of what they’re going to see now.”
Even casual fans knew the potent one-two punch Wacha used to flummox batters hinged on his ability to change speeds without changing arm slots.
In 2013, 64 percent of his pitches (966) were fastballs and 26 percent (402) were change ups. His curveball and cutter were neglected to the point of obsolescence, accounting for only 136 pitches on the season.
That’s not the case in 2014.
This season, the 22-year-old has already thrown 146 curves and 138 cutters; accounting for 11 and 10 percent of all pitches, respectively.
If variety truly is a spice, then Wacha begun seasoning his repertoire like a master chef. With the recent struggle’s of perennial Cy Young contender Justin Verlander, the Cardinal rookie’s ability to recognize adaptation and counter it are signs he grasps the chess match much earlier in his career than some.
“When you aren’t throwing 100 like most of these guys in the league you have to do stuff like that. I’m the old crafty righty now,” Adam Wainwright said after his 100th win. Wacha seems to have gotten there in his second season while still hitting mid 90s.
It could be a long decade for opposing hitters.