To be clear, most pitchers would be more than happy with a 17-7 record each season. In fact, only eight other pitchers in the entire game finished with more wins than St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha in 2015.
But for Wacha, who was pitching in his first full big league season, it was more of a learning experience of how to achieve even more success.
“It’s a long season for sure,” agreed Wacha while speaking at the Winter Warm-Up. “You learn a lot in your first full season, for sure about the ups and downs. Obviously, you’re going to go through streaks of where you’re pitching well and where you’re not pitching well.”
The 181.1 innings pitched was a career high for the 25-year old, who fought his way through the grind of 30 starts–also a personal best. Through August of last season, Wacha only walked three batters in a game three times.
In September, he walked at least three batters in each of his five starts–totaling 18 of his 58 free passes for the entire season.
“It’s about how you can get through that and how you can compete through that,” continued Wacha. “It was a fun season and I’m looking forward to this next season.”
Another indicator of the tank pointing towards empty was Wacha only reaching the sixth inning in one of those final five starts. He previously had gone 6+ innings twenty times on the season.
But that was last year. And after his usual couple of weeks off, Wacha felt rested and ready to get into his off-season workouts and then began throwing in early January.
“I’m feeling great–the off-season does wonders for people,” he said. “I felt like I took enough time off and I was itching to get back ready to go.”
And while the question persists about his mechanics and the scapular stress fracture he suffered in 2014, Wacha continues to move forward with less and less concern about a recurrence.
“The feeling that I felt in 2014, I didn’t feel it at all last year,” he shared. “That injury–I think it was just some kind of freak accident. Some people had never seen that before besides one other occurrence. I was real happy with the way my arm felt all last year. I was real happy with the way it felt and I’m going to try and do the same stuff this off-season, just keep adding on to it, and getting stronger.”
And the Cardinals are hoping that stronger means more innings and more victories in 2016.
SCHUMAKER SIGNS WITH PADRES
–Former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder and second baseman Skip Schumaker has agreed to a minor league deal with the San Diego Padres. The one-year deal includes an invite to Spring Training with the club.
Schumaker hit .242 for Cincinnati last season and led all of MLB with 19 pinch hits, which was the most by any player since 2010.
photo credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports