ST. LOUIS -- As Adam Wainwright faced the rehab road ahead in 2011, he spoke confidently about how he would eventually return to pre-surgery form. Two years out from that recovery, Wainwright can point to his 2013 numbers as proof that he is, indeed, all the way back.
Named a finalist for the National League Cy Young Award, Wainwright is assured a top-three finish for an award that he fell just short of winning in 2009 and '10. And now, as was the case then, Wainwright has the credentials for serious consideration.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Wainwright started more games, pitched more innings, finished with more wins than anyone in the NL, including other Cy Young finalists Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez. Wainwright's Cy Young candidacy is steeped in his workhorse ability, as he was one of baseball's best at routinely pitching deep into games.
In addition to leading the NL in starts (34), innings (241 2/3) and wins (19), Wainwright topped the league in complete games (five) and shutouts (two). His 2.91 ERA was seventh best among NL starters, marking the third time in Wainwright's career that he has posted a sub-3.00 ERA. In the previous two instances, he was also a top-three Cy Young finisher.
Wainwright ranked third with 219 strikeouts (a career high) and walked just 35, the third fewest among Major League starters with at least 200 innings pitched. Only Cliff Lee (32) and Bronson Arroyo (34) had fewer. With his strikeout total, Wainwright also moved into second place on the franchise's all-time list. He passed Chris Carpenter in August and Dizzy Dean in September.
Wainwright, the first NL pitcher to 10 wins, finished second in walks per nine innings (1.30), sixth in home runs per nine innings (0.56) and seventh in WHIP (1.07). He did not walk a batter in his first 34 2/3 innings of the season.
With 26 quality starts, Wainwright fell just one short of Kershaw, the NL leader in that category. The more than one run discrepancy between Kershaw's league-low ERA and Wainwright's mark tightens considerably, too, when defense is taken out of the equation. With a fielding independent pitching of 2.58, Wainwright was just slightly higher than Kershaw's 2.41.
If Wainwright were to capture his first Cy Young Award, he would become the third pitcher in Cardinals history to earn the Baseball Writers' Association of America honor. Bob Gibson (1968, 1970) was a two-time winner. Chris Carpenter won the award in 2005.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.