By Mack Hoyt, from Cardsblog.com
Adam Wainwright, who was not the Cardinals opening day starter for the first time since 2012, had arguably his worst season of his career in 2016.
Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta had his worst season in a Cubs uniform, but he did win the World Series, and is now on a contract year. So how will these two stars start their 2017 campaigns?
After missing almost all of 2015, Wainwright proved that even an Ace’s production begins the disappear. From 2007 to 2014, Wainwright average WAR was above 4.7, with a low of 2.6 in 2008. But even that 2.6 was a fluke, considering Wainwright missed 2.5 months that year due to a strained finger.
So in 2016 when Wainwright recorded his worst WAR to date in a full season as a Starter (2.9), the baseball world began to wonder if it’s the beginning of the end for Waino.
Spring training didn’t put those worries to ease, as Wainwright struggled his way to a 7.78 ERA over 6 starts. Historically, Waino typically dominates Spring Training, so seeing a WHIP of 1.73 and only 12 K’s in 19.2 innings definitely turned more heads. So where does this leave our former Ace?
Let's rewind one year back to Opening Day 2016. Expectations were equally as lofty, if not loftier than they are this season. The Cardinals squared off with the Pirates in the very first MLB regular season game of the season. All eyes were on Pittsburgh as Adam Wainwright and Francisco Liriano went head-to-head to kick things off.
Is it possible that he turns back the clock just 3 years to the tune of a 20-win, 2.38 ERA, All-Star season? Or will he continue to deteriorate as a soon-to-be 36 year-old? A dazzling performance tonight against a World-Series winning Cubs roster is exactly what Waino needs to show St. Louis that he’s back to his former glory.
As for Arrieta, a remarkable 2017 season would put the 31-year-old in contention for a $200 million contract following this year. Arrieta was a late bloomer who never reached his potential until 2014. From 2010-2013, Arrieta recorded a career WAR of just 2.6.
But 2014, his first full year in Chicago, saw a 9.59 K/9, 2.53 ERA, 5.0 WAR season. 2015 was even better, when Arrieta reached 22 wins, 1.77 ERA, 7.3 WAR, and a Cy Young award. But 2016 proved that Arrieta is a mortal. His ERA returned to above 3.00, and K/BB nearly cut in half.
Tonight’s game will be a clash of a former and current Ace. With both pitchers needing an impressive 2017, we can expect that both will do their best to get off on the right tonight in St. Louis.
The Cardinals lineup did a nice job on Sunday night of getting on base. Now, they need to focus on getting runners home. Often times, the Cardinals would even leave a couple of hitters on base. If the Cardinals want to have a chance against Arrieta, they will need to cash in on most run-scoring opportunities.
For the Cubs, they need to have a bit more production from their stud player, Kris Bryant. Carlos Martinez shut down Bryant on Sunday night, so he'll need to pick it up for the Cubs to have a chance in game two.
Opening day, along with a small rodent in Pennsylvania, is one of our favorite spring predictive methods. These first few days of the young, already brazen, MLB season remind us of the joyously grueling 162 game journey we have just set out on. The familiar sights, smells, and naïve expectations of baseball are wafting across the country.