Feldman: Michael Wacha a huge variable for Cards in October - KMOV.com

Feldman: Michael Wacha a huge variable for Cards in October

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MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 04, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) By Mike McGinnis MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 04, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) By Mike McGinnis
MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 04, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) By Mike McGinnis MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 04: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 04, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) By Mike McGinnis
By John Bailey By John Bailey
KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 5:  Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 5, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) By Ed Zurga KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 5: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 5, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) By Ed Zurga
ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 31: Starter Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning at Busch Stadium on May 31, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) By Dilip Vishwanat ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 31: Starter Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning at Busch Stadium on May 31, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) By Dilip Vishwanat

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballStL) -- Just a little more than three weeks remain before the regular season concludes in Major League Baseball and there is still a whole lot of intrigue surrounding the Cardinals.  From Adam Wainwright’s sudden fatigue to Oscar Taveras’ sudden inability to hit the storylines are endless.  

 

But Michael Wacha’s return and subsequent addition to the potential playoff rotation brings newness to the intrigue.

 

How will a guy who has pitched all of three Major League innings since June 17th be able to A) build up his stamina enough to be ready for playoff games and B) find his groove again (i.e. command) in time for October?

 

Wacha’s a pro.  We all know this.  He has as good of stuff as anyone in the game.  How soon he can find that form again is question number one, two, three and four thru eight at this point.  The 23-year old threw 50 pitches in his return from a shoulder injury on Thursday night and will take the ball again in all likelihood next Tuesday in Cincinnati against a reeling Reds club.

 

It would foolish to think the former number one pick will reach 100 pitches that evening and be as sharp as well all have grown accustomed to expect.  I would think 75 pitches and slightly better control is something to shoot for in start number two.

 

After that, though, this is where you start putting more expectations on the big man.  He’ll probably start again on Sunday September 14th at home against Colorado.  He’d then have – presumably – two more starts after that before the regular season expires.

 

So, all in all, Michael Wacha has four more starts before the playoffs would begin.  He needs at least two starts of reaching 100 pitches before the Cardinals would feel comfortable throwing him in a postseason game.  That’s why getting to 75 or 80 pitches in Cincinnati is so important.

 

That would allow three starts of having a full workload.  Three (nearly four) starts to work out whatever kinks he has and feel like he’s in midseason form again.

 

If things fall into place, this could be a surprisingly positive thing for the Cardinals.  Normally, a lot of pitches get tired as the season wears on because they’re not used to throwing 200-plus innings.  Heck, look at Shelby Miller a season ago and you can see how much pitchers wear down.  Lance Lynn is another example in 2012 and 2013.  

 

This unexpected built-in break for Wacha could be a huge boost.  His arm should feel outstanding.  We saw him hitting 97 mph on several occasions against the Brewers Thursday night.  Calendar wise, Wacha’s arm is in June…not September.  

 

So while other teams are throwing pitchers that have been out there grinding for six months, the Cardinals could have someone who’s much more rested.  This could work to their advantage.

 

And we all know the difference between a dominant Michael Wacha and a less-than-dominant version of him could means the difference between winning and losing a postseason game.  That could mean the difference between winning and losing a postseason series.  

 

A lot’s riding on Adam Wainwright, the offense, the bullpen and other moving parts.  But a lot is riding on the reigning NLCS MVP as well over the next few weeks.

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