Tommy John Surgery isn't the same dreaded procedure it was just a decade ago. When the words Dr. James Andrews had to be whispered rather than spoken.
Now It may not be foolproof just yet but it's pretty damn close at this point to being a sure thing. It's generally understand that there's a 12-18 month recovery period and then it takes some time after that for a pitcher to get full control of his stuff back.
Adam Wainwright had his Tommy John surgery performed on February 28th of 2011. We're currently in the 17th month since he had the repairs finished up. As we stated earlier it generally takes 12-18 months with the 12 being on the very low side. But generally it takes longer before the pitcher regains all of his old stuff and begins to pitch as he has in the past.
Wainwright actually come out really strong in his first taste of baseball post surgery, with a 1.45 ERA for the entirety of spring training (the best among NL starters).
But after the phenomenal spring training, which in turn caused him to become a preseason sleeper of many, Wainwright has pitched just as you'd expect from a guy recovering from the dreaded TJ, inconsistently.
Unfortunately the success didn't carry over and he has had a brutal start to the season, a 4.97 ERA and 1.36 WHIP to be exact.
In an interview with Sporting News, Wainwright actually explained himself why he might be struggling so mightily to start this season (aside from the fact he's recovering from TJ of course).
"My first two or three starts in spring training, I was throwing easy fastballs 92 to 93 miles per hour. Sinking it more than I've ever sank it, curving it," he said.
"I have an inclination that that has something to do with it," he said. "I have been throwing as hard as I can since January 12, a whole month ahead of schedule. That's a lot more throwing than normal. A month from now, maybe I will be able to make better quality pitches down in the zone.
"We've seen flashes of brilliance such as the 9.0 inning, 9 K effort on 5/22 against the Padres (opponent taken with a grain of salt). But also absolute stinkers such as the 4/13 3.0 inning, 8 earned run effort against the Cubs. Or more recently a 6.1 inning, seven earned run, yet 6 K effort against the Mets on 6/1.
Up until that start against the Mets, Wainwright had given up just three earned runs over his previous 20.2 innings combined. The stuff is coming back and I expect him to be a great value in the second half of the season. Post all star break he will be over 18 months removed from the surgery and have had a half season of pitching to fine tune his command again.
It's to be expected that it's going to take some time for Wainwright to start pitching as consistently as he did the past couple of years.
A perfect example for what Wainwright is going through right now is Tim Hudson. Hudson had Tommy John back in 08/09 and was able to come back at the end of the 2009 season. In just seven starts in '09 Hudson had a 1.46 WHIP and a 3.61 ERA. Not great but also not the worst, although in comparison Hudson had a 1.15 WHIP and a 2.83 ERA in 2010. It took him seven starts and spring training to fine tune his mechanics.
I use Hudson for this example rather than other starters with a TJ history because both Hudson and Wainwright are control pitchers not pure stuff type guys. Hitting your location on a curveball is going to take more time than it is to get back your 97 MPH heater.
Now if you're not already convinced by the history of Tommy John and the specific case of Tim Hudson there's plenty of advanced statistical evidence to bring you over to the pro Wainwright side.
His career BAPIP is .290 and back in 2010 it was at .275, this year it currently stands at an inflated .322. But the statistic that really stands out is his HR/FB rate this year, at 15.7% it's just about double his 8.1% career rate. To also suggest that good things are to come he's also right in line with his K/9, which stands at 8.28 this year, in between his '10 and '09 rates of 8.32 and 8.19.
Even more enticing is the in season change of statistics. Through his first eight starts of the season he was giving out free passes at 3.30 per 9 innings but over his last three starts he's giving up just 1.69 per 9.
But enough of the sabermetrics, this is a guy who had a 2.63 and 2.42 ERA in his last two full seasons with just under a K per inning in both. He's simply not a 4.97 ERA type pitcher and that will make itself known by seasons end.
This guy is a top 25 starter from here forward so go out there and get Wainwright, right now. Whether you have to lie, cheat or steal yourself into possession of his services.
Fearless Forecast (ROS): 3.10 ERA, 11 Wins, 120 K