Adam Wainwright's Reign of Dominance Appears to Be Over

The former Cardinals ace has really struggled in 2017. Is there any hope that he can be a productive hurler again?

Fandom can be a really tough concept to deal with, especially when your favorite team(s) or player(s) start to struggle.

The St. Louis Cardinals haven't played well so far this year, but it's hard for anyone to complain about a lack of success, especially when the organization has won two World Series titles since 2006, has 11 championships overall and went to the postseason six consecutive seasons from 2009-15.

Adam Wainwright has been a fixture of this team since 2006, when he replaced struggling closer Jason Isringhausen on an improbable run to a championship.

But the three-time All-Star and four-time NL Cy Young Award finalist has certainly seen better days. Quite frankly, it's a testament to Wainwright's unbelievable professionalism that he's even still pitching in 2017.

Wainwright has suffered two major physical setbacks in his career: a torn achilles, which caused him to miss most of 2015, and the infamous Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss all of 2011. Outside of those years, though, Wainwright has consistently been a stud. Peep this five-year run, which includes his return from Tommy John.

2009 233.0 19 2.63 3.47 21.9%
2010 230.1 20 2.42 3.11 23.4%
2012 198.2 14 3.94 3.41 22.1%
2013 241.2 19 2.94 2.94 22.9%
2014 227.0 20 2.38 3.52 19.9%

Wainwright was about as good as it gets during this stretch, from both a real life and fantasy perspective. However, he's seemingly been on a steady decline since returning from that achilles injury, and 2017 is on track to easily be the worst season of his career.

Through 72 innings of work, he's posted a 5.75 ERA with a 4.65 SIERA and just an 18.9% strikeout rate -- all of which would be career worsts. And if we look at his peripherals to try and find some positives, we just find more causes for concern.

His first-pitch strike rate has fallen to 55.2%, while his swinging-strike rate is down to 7.7%, which justifies the drop in strikeout rate. Also, he's allowing contact 82.9% of the time, along with a walk rate that's inflated to 8.8%. Again, those would all be the worst marks of his very successful MLB career.

For most of the 1,840.1 innings Wainwright has toed the slab, he's been a fantasy stud, but 2017 does seem to be signaling a fairly precipitous decline. It'll also be something St. Louis may have to handle since their former ace is still on the payroll for next season and is due to earn $19.5 million.