(BaseballStL) -- The weight of the world was on Michael Wacha’s shoulders following his historic 2013. Seriously, winning NLCS MVP just over a year after finishing up at Texas A&M isn’t really conducive to flying under the radar in Major League Baseball.
Nor would it be in any sport.
But despite all that pressure the Cardinals super sophomore was having a terrific second season through 15 starts. He was 5-5 with a 2.79 ERA and a .222 opponents’ batting average through games on June 17th.
A problem happened shortly after though. Wacha injured his shoulder and missed the next two-and-a-half months. The Cards probably could’ve brought him back earlier if they needed to but with someone as valuable as this guy, why risk it? His future is too important to try and squeeze an extra couple starts from as a 23-year old.
Wacha came back on September 4th and wasn’t the same after that. In four starts that month he gave up 20 hits in 16.2 innings, had a 5.40 ERA and had a .294 opponents’ batting average. This before he was largely ignored in the postseason until inexplicably being put into a situation against the Giants in the Game 5 of the NLCS with the season on the line.
That didn’t go so well, either, if you recall.
This all leads us to 2015. Wacha, and the Cardinals, insist he’s 100% healthy. Everyone is yelling as loud as they possibly can that his shoulder injury is behind him. The Cards had him change up his workout regimen by not lifting heavy weights over his head as to not further hurt himself again.
If the former NLCS MVP is indeed himself, if he really and truly is back to the way he was, then that’s probably as important to this team this year than anything else. It’s just as critical as Jason Heyward rediscovering his power, just as important as Matt Adams hitting lefties, just as important as Kolten Wong establishing some sort of consistency as second base.
Mike Matheny knows what he has in Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. Sure, Wainwright’s coming off clean up surgery on his right elbow but, c’mon, this guy comes through time and time and time again. I’ll believe Wainwright won’t come through for the Cardinals when I see it.
Similarly, you have a pretty good idea of what John Lackey’s going to give you. He’s a nice innings eater who is fairly dependable. Carlos Martinez? He’ll pitch well, but won’t be counted on to throw 200 innings. Neither of these guys can be counted on a top of the rotation starters.
With Wacha pitching like an ace, the Cardinals have three legitimate guys that can shut you down. Without him, it’s two aces with three guys who simply are giving you a chance to win on a daily basis instead of flat out winning a game for you.
It might not seem like a big deal right now in the middle of February. But come the regular season it will. Michael Wacha’s health and subsequent performance is a huge variable for the Cardinals in 2015.