Adam Wainwright pitched a grand total of one inning at the former Busch Memorial Stadium, which was the home field of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1966 through 2005. It was his MLB debut, on September 11, 2005, and despite the thrill of a debut, the results are probably ones he would prefer to forget–a three-run home run off the bat of Víctor Díaz of the New York Mets saddled Wainwright, however temporarily, with a 27.00 career ERA. He would get revenge on the Mets a little over a year later.

With the retirements of Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, both of whom spent at least a full season (or in the case of Pujols, five full seasons) at what was among the more aesthetically pleasing of the multi-sport stadia of the 1950s and 1960s, Adam Wainwright is now the only player signed to a Major League Baseball contract who played at the old stadium. Barring an unretirement, the only semi-realistic candidate to join Wainwright in the big leagues would be Robinson Canó, but given how mighty his offensive struggles in 2022 were (his OPS+ was, not a typo, 8), it seems unlikely that the 40 year-old will play Major League Baseball in 2023. But while Adam Wainwright is the last remaining player from Busch Memorial Stadium, it was the third St. Louis ballpark titled Busch Stadium where Adam Wainwright came into his own. And particularly with his long-time teammates now sitting on the sidelines, it is within the realm of very realistic possibility that Adam Wainwright will become the greatest player in the history of Busch Stadium III.

This is, of course, a subjective title, but there is at least one highly respected objective metric by which Wainwright could end up holding the title. And given that Wainwright is likely to be at least somewhat obscured in history by his more acclaimed teammates–the future undisputed Hall of Famer Pujols and the more contentious but still likely to be enshrined Molina–giving Adam Wainwright this title is my distinct honor. Because at this moment, by FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement, Adam Wainwright is within striking distance of matching Yadier Molina’s Cardinals fWAR total during the Busch Stadium III (2006-present) era. And if he matches his preseason projections by ZiPS, he will…pull into an exact tie with Yadier Molina.

In giving a title, I do have a preference for FanGraphs WAR, less because of any preference I have for how fWAR evaluates pitchers (though many with a statistical inclination do prefer fWAR’s more FIP-based measurement) but for preference of how it measures catchers–Baseball Reference, the 1 to FanGraphs’s 1A among WAR measurements, does not account for pitch framing, a significant piece of catcher value. It is the statistic that turned Yadier Molina into a statistically realistic Hall of Famer–Wainwright has already left Molina in his dust in terms of Baseball Reference WAR (though Albert Pujols, one of the sport’s great outliers by non-catcher position player WAR discrepancy, leads both).

The trio which was so celebrated last season, when Wainwright endured a year of having his retirement suggestive-sold to him, are by far the top three in Busch Stadium III history (I should be careful and clarify that this is total fWAR during these seasons, not fWAR accumulated specifically at the Cardinals’ home stadium, and only accounts for fWAR as a Cardinal, thus excluding, notably, the decade Albert Pujols played in Los Angeles). For reference, here is the top 20 (active Cardinals are denoted with an asterisk). There are a few ties, which I will lazily ignore for numbering purposes, but feel free to take note.

  1. Yadier Molina–54.0
  2. Adam Wainwright*–53.0
  3. Albert Pujols–45.3
  4. Matt Carpenter–30.6
  5. Matt Holliday–26.4
  6. Chris Carpenter–17.9
  7. Paul Goldschmidt*–17.9
  8. Carlos Martínez–16.0
  9. Kolten Wong–14.4
  10. Tommy Edman*–13.2
  11. Lance Lynn–13.2
  12. Jaime Garcia–13.0
  13. Harrison Bader–12.0
  14. Ryan Ludwick–11.7
  15. Nolan Arenado*–11.4
  16. Miles Mikolas*–10.0
  17. Michael Wacha–9.9
  18. Jon Jay–9.5
  19. Paul DeJong*–9.2
  20. Tommy Pham–9.2

Wainwright’s 1.0 fWAR projection may seem overly conservative given that he reached 2.8 last season, but Adam Wainwright is also a 41 year-old with over 2,500 innings on his right arm. If he stays healthy, 1.0 should be easy for Wainwright, but staying healthy is not typically the easiest thing for an MLB pitcher.

In addition to Wainwright, there are other Cardinals looking to improve their position on the Cardinals fWAR charts. Paul Goldschmidt, presently tied with Chris Carpenter, should pass him with ease, and if he matches his fWAR projections for the remainder of his contract, he should be right on the verge of Matt Holliday–if Goldschmidt remains for 2025 (he would, if nothing else, be a no-brainer decision to give the qualifying offer if he is coming off his projected 3.0 fWAR in 2024), he would pass Holliday. Even now, of the six players ahead of Goldschmidt, two are already Cardinals Hall of Famers, and three are as automatic to receive the honor as one can be without having actually been fitted for the red jacket (Matt Carpenter isn’t in that echelon of shoo-in, but I would assume he will be a Cardinals Hall of Famer not too long after the three-year post-retirement waiting period).

Tommy Edman, inevitably compared to Kolten Wong throughout his Cardinals career as he was the man who replaced Wong, will likely pass him in fWAR this season–with 4.4 projected fWAR, Edman is expected to pass Carlos Martínez as well. Edman is only on his first season of salary arbitration, so the Cardinals have control over him through 2025–if he reaches his projected fWAR of 11.8 over the next three seasons, he would sail past Chris Carpenter and into Matt Holliday range. Admittedly, this is the first time I ever really thought about Tommy Edman as a Cardinals Hall of Famer, but…I would say it’s more likely to happen than not to happen at this point. Less certain than Goldschmidt, who won an MVP, or Matt Carpenter, whose case is already made, but firmly in the realm of realism.

Nolan Arenado, the projected best player on the 2023 Cardinals, has potentially enormous gains over the next several seasons, as he is now under contract through 2027 with no looming opt-outs. He is already projected to jump ahead of Carlos Martínez this season, and by the end of his contract, he projects to pass Matt Holliday and potentially Matt Carpenter, impressive considering he debuted with the Cardinals after he had already reached the age of 30.

Here is a speed-round of Guy Remembering, in which I list which players certain active Cardinals are expected to pass in 2023:

  • Paul DeJong–passes Jon Jay, Michael Wacha, Miles Mikolas (including Mikolas’s projected 2023), and Ryan Ludwick
  • Jack Flaherty–passes Tommy Pham, Jon Jay, and Michael Wacha
  • Tyler O’Neill–passes Kyle Lohse, Jack Flaherty, Tommy Pham, Jon Jay, and Michael Wacha
  • Giovanny Gallegos–passes Carlos Beltrán and Allen Craig
  • Dylan Carlson–passes Braden Looper, Joel Pineiro, Brendan Ryan, Jason Heyward, Giovanny Gallegos, Carlos Beltrán, Allen Craig, Jhonny Peralta, Randal Grichuk, Trevor Rosenthal, Colby Rasmus, and ties David Freese
  • Lars Nootbaar–passes Luke Weaver, Shelby Miller, Skip Schumaker, Stephen Piscotty, José Martínez, John Lackey, Jake Westbrook, Mike Leake, Troy Glaus, Marcell Ozuna, Lance Berkman, Braden Looper, Joel Pineiro, Brendan Ryan, and Jason Heyward
  • Brendan Donovan–passes Aledmys Diaz, Chris Duncan, Rick Ankiel, Matt Adams, Luke Weaver, Shelby Miller, Skip Schumaker, Stephen Piscotty, José Martínez, John Lackey, Jake Westbrook, Mike Leake, Troy Glaus, Marcell Ozuna, and Lance Berkman

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