Wacha's uncle, Dusty Rogers, played in the Cincinnati Reds organization.
In 2009, Michael graduated from Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana, Texas. He was a star in both baseball (pitcher) and basketball (forward). And he was a success in the classroom and was a member of the National Honor Society.
- Michael says that some day he'd like to own a sporting goods store. (2011)
Wacha was not drafted out of high school. He accepted a baseball scholarship to pitch for Texas A&M.
In 2012, the Cardinals drafted Wacha (see Transactions below).
In 2013, Baseball America rated Wacha as the 6th-best prospect in the Cardinals' organization; while MLB.com had him at #2.
Wacha reminds people of a young Adam Wainwright because of his body, his delivery, the way he walks . . . everything.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny even mistook Wacha for Wainwright in 2013.
“I thought it was Waino,” Matheny explained during spring training. “His poise has been one of his greatest assets. He carries himself a lot older than he is, a lot more experienced than he is. He’s gone about things the right way. He’s using this as a learning experience.”
Nicknames: "Waka Flocka," "Wachamole (guacamole)," and just plain "Wach"
Favorite TV Shows: "The Office," "Breaking Bad," "Friday Night Lights," "Eastbound & Down," and "Family Guy"
Favorite Actor: Denzel Washington
Favorite Food: Steak or pizza
Favorite Restaurant: Chili's
Music On My iPod: Country, Rap/Hip-Hop
Most Embarrassing Song on My iPod: Anything by Justin Bieber
Favorite Cartoon as a Kid: "Rocket Power"
Last Book I Read: The Hunger Games trilogy
If I Could Be Anyone Else In The World For One Day, It Would Be: John Gast
Favorite Website: theChive.com
Most Memorable Baseball Moments: Getting drafted by the Cardinals in the first round; going to the College World Series (2011 with Texas A&M)
My First Car Was: Ford F-150
I Currently Drive A: GMC Yukon Denali
I'm Afraid Of: Snakes
Hidden Talents: Make a three-leaf clover with my tongue
Favorite Original Nintendo Game (NES): NFL Blitz
Favorite Current Athlete In Another Sport: Aaron Rodgers
Biggest Influence On My Pitching Style: Rob Childress (Texas A&M head coach)
My First Job: Minton's Sportsplex in the daycare section
On An Off Day, I: Sleep or play golf
My Dream Date: Jennifer Lawrence
Superstitions And Pregame Rituals: Can't tell you that
Organizations I Was Involved With As A Kid: Boys & Girls Club
Wacha is from the same hometown as former Major Leaguer Will Middlebrooks. They played against each other in high school. And in 2013, they played against each other in the World Series (Cards-Red Sox).
Michael returned to the mound, the latest step in the spring of 2015 that will be full of them for the righthander. It was notable enough an occasion, though, to draw a crowd.
Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak were among those who paused their morning activities to gather and watch Wacha showcase his health. While others may continue to question the durability of Wacha's shoulder, there have emerged no such concerns from the Cardinals since Wacha resumed throwing in the offseason.
"I don't have any of that feeling in the shoulder area," Wacha said. "I'm real happy with everything, the way everything is coming out, the way the arm feels throughout the whole 'pen. Hopefully I'll just keep building off of each bullpen, getting a little more command of each pitch each time out."
There have been no setbacks, nor any reoccurrence of the shoulder discomfort that limited Wacha to 19 starts in 2014.
While the Cardinals have spent several months learning more about the injury—it is officially termed a shoulder stress reaction—that shut Wacha down in June 2014, there has been no call for the righthander to adjust his mechanics to prevent future issues. Instead, the only tweaks made to Wacha's schedule have come in his off-the-field work, where he's added some new exercises designed to build strength around his right shoulder.
"It's a pretty rare injury, and a lot of people don't know how it happened or how to fix it rehab wise," Wacha said. "I'm continuing to get stronger, and hopefully I'm building the muscles around the injury to where it doesn't happen again." (Langosch - mlb.com - 2/17/15)
Asked what his TV choices were while growing up, Wacha listed: Rocket Power, Doug, Hey Arnold!, Boy Meets World, ESPN, and Baseball Tonight. And Sunday morning cartoons.
"I didn't have a TV in my room growing up. That was one of my Dad's no-nos," Michael said.
"Everything Thursday night, we tried to have a family night, when we'd watch a movie or play a game and just be together. We didn't go over to or friends that night because it was our time as a family. We always ate dinner together at the table as a family."
Michael talked about his mom, Karen Wacha, before 2016 Mother's Day.
"My mom, she played a huge part in where I am today. Countless hours she spent with me actually going to the baseball field and driving me to all these tournaments across the country. Just the devotion of her time that she put toward not only myself but my brothers and sister. I could never repay her.
"She definitely always had my back. School was very important to her. She had me in all of my classes. I can't ever remember skipping school to play in a tournament. She was just so fiery and feisty in the stands. I remember her getting kicked out of a game. The umpire actually kicked her out of the stands! There was a bad call at first base where the ball went into the dugout. I was probably 10 years old, but as soon as the crowd got quiet, my Mom just yelled at the umpire, "You know you're wrong!" The umpire just took offense to it and threw her out of the game. I've never seen another mother get kicked out of the game.
"She'd play catch with me, she'd play hoops with me, she'd throw me pass routes. She was always outside playing with us."
Wacha and future Dodger Ross Stripling were college teammates and roommates at Texas A&M.
Michael was sitting at his locker when Carlos Martinez entered the clubhouse. They made eye contact, and Wacha swiftly tossed a baseball, hoping to catch his fellow pitcher off-guard. Martinez was quick with the catch; the same way he was when he invented Wacha's nickname.
"I got called Wachamole by Carlos when I first met him five years ago," Wacha said. "It just kind of stuck."
An important distinction is that it's not pronounced similarly to the hammer-to-the-rodent arcade game.
"I was thinking guacamole. Like, real guacamole," Martinez said. "I looked at him and said 'Wacha.' And you know, everybody is looking for a nickname for everybody. So I was thinking something Wacha, something Wacha. Wacha. Wachamole!"
Martinez loved it from the start. He would call him every shortened version of the nickname, too. Including "Mole," still with the guacamole rhyme. "Carlos will just be like, 'Hey Mole,'" Wacha said. "And people will look and be really confused as to why he's calling me Mole, so you just have to explain that it comes from Wachamole." (Collins - mlb.com - 8/23/18)
June 2012: The Cardinals chose Wacha in the first round (19th overall), out of Texas A&M. He signed for $1.9 million.
Jan 12, 2018: Wacha and the Cards avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal for $5.3 million.
Jan 11, 2019: Wacha and the Cards avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal.
Oct 31, 2019: Wacha chose free agency.
Dec. 11, 2019: Wacha and the Mets agreed to a one-year deal worth $3 million plus $7 million in incentives.
- Oct 28, 2020: Wacha chose free agency.
- Dec 18, 2020: The Rays signed free agent Wacha.
|Birth City:||Iowa City, IA|
|Draft:||Cardinals #1 - 2012 - Out of Texas A&M Univ.|
Wacha has a 93-97 mph FASTBALL that is a 70 on the 20-80 scale
His changeup is an outstanding pitch. Both righthanded and lefthanded hitters swing-and-miss that offering. He keeps it low in the zone. But he still doesn't have much of a breaking ball. However, that doesn’t matter as much if you have excellent downhill plane on a plus-plus fastball (a 70 on the scale) to go with a 70 changeup and above-average command.
Michael's cutter improved his percentage of groundballs in 2015, and ground-outs are usually more pitch-efficient than strikeouts
Michael's cutter improved his percentage of groundballs in 2015, and ground-outs are usually more pitch-efficient than strikeouts. The cutter is essentially a fastball thrown with a different grip, and it is considered easier on the arm than breaking pitches.
In 2013, at age 21, Wacha was the NLCS MVP, going 2-0 against the Dodgers and helping the Cardinals get to the World Series.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 52.8% of the time; Change 21.6%; Curve 8.7%; and Cutter 16.8% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 52% of the time; Change 18.2%; Curve 11.4%; and Cutter 17.6% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 41.7% of the time, his Sinker 1.3%; Change 22.2%; Curve 15%; and Cutter 19.8% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.3 mph, Sinker 94.1, Change 86.7, Curve 76.5, and Cutter 90.1 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 49.5% of the time, his Sinker 1.2%; Change 23.8%; Curve 10.3%; and Cutter 15.1% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 93.4 mph, Sinker 93.1, Change 85.8, Curve 75.6, and Cutter 89.7 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 42.5% of the time, his Change 29.3%; Curve 1.2%; and Cutter 27.1% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94 mph, Change 87.2, Curve 75.6, and Cutter 89.1 mph.
In 2015, Wacha was throwing his four-seam fastball about 50 percent of the time, and he eliminated his two-seam sinker. He began using his cutter as his top secondary pitch.
He is able to place his pitches on either side of the plate. He relies on is change more than his cutter vs. lefty batters. But against righthanders the cutter is commonly used.
Michael is a very tall, thin righthander who comes at hitters with an over-the-top arm slot from a steep downhill plane. He stays tall in his backside, delivering the ball on a tough angle to the plate.
That downhill plane is an important part of Wacha’s success. Remember the bias against short righthanders? At 6-foot-6, Wacha is a living example of scouts’ love of tall pitchers. Because of his height, his fastball drops through the strike zone like a downhill skier on a high-speed run.
“When he gets the fastball downhill and the changeup downhill and then elevates the fastball, hitters have no chance,” a pro scout with a National League club said. “He’s really good at elevating.”
His command (a 60 on the scout's scale) and competitiveness are two more assets. He is always around the plate and his pitches have a lot of movement. His ability to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate has gone a long way toward neutralizing righthanders, even if his breaking ball is a distant third option at this point.
Also add composure and maturity beyond his years. He just carries himself the right way.
Big League callup on May 30, 2013: The quick climb is not unprecedented, though it's still far from common for a player to make his debut less than a year removed from pitching in college. Wacha is the quickest Cardinals pitcher to make his debut following the draft since Chris Carpenter in 1987.
MLB debut (May 30, 2013): After throwing only 73 innings in the minors, Wacha's first 7 innings for St. Louis were nearly perfect. He opened his big-league career by retiring the first 13 batters he faced and closed his outing by setting down 7 in a row.
According to Wacha’s 2013 Pitch f/x breakdowns at Fangraphs.com, he threw fastballs 65 percent of the time, changeups 27 percent of the time, and his two breaking balls (a cutter/slider and a curveball) 8 percent of the time. Diamondbacks righthander Randall Delgado was the only other starting pitcher in the Majors with 50 or more innings to throw his changeup more than 20 percent of the time while throwing a breaking ball less than 10 percent of the time.
Wacha introduced a still-developing cutter in Spring Training 2016. He had toyed with it over the previous winter and had been modifying it during bullpen sessions in the following spring.
"It's still definitely a work in progress," Wacha said of the cutter. "It's coming out of the hand nice. It doesn't have the command that I want on it yet, but the action is there that I want. It's coming along exactly how I want it to be, and I think it will be an effective pitch for me."
The added pitch, if Wacha can master it, would help him get hitters away from sitting on his fastball and changeup, the two pitches Wacha relies upon most heavily. The Cardinals believe the pitch is one Wacha could use to get early contact, which could lead to shorter innings and longer starts. (Langosch - MLB.com - 3/8/16)
May 15, 2019: Wacha has yet to record an out in the seventh inning this season and has finished six frames just twice in eight starts. A pitch count of 90 ended his night after five innings. His fastball command came and went, as did his biggest mistake of the night, an up-and-over-the-plate fastball to prospect Austin Riley, who crushed it for a homer in his Major League debut.
“Very few times did I hit the spot when I was going to that certain spot,” said Wacha, who also walked four and allowed an unearned run on an errant throw. “I just have to keep working at that and get it to where I need it to be.”
So what’s the culprit? Location for one, as was reinforced when Riley obliterated a fastball for his first MLB hit. To maximize his secondary pitches, particularly his can-be-devastating changeup, Wacha must establish command of his fastball. That’s been a recurring trouble spot since he returned from a knee injury that briefly sidelined him in April, 2019.
“It kind of seems like it comes and goes every now and then,” Wacha said. “It gets me behind in counts, and then I have to fight to get back in it. That creates long at-bats, long innings and gets that pitch count up pretty quick.”
And then there’s the radar readings. All four of Wacha’s pitches have dropped in velocity this season, including the four-seam fastball, which, as it has all year, averaged 92.5 mph. That’s down from 93.6 mph in 2018 and 95.1 mph in 2017. Of the 37 four-seam fastballs Wacha threw, not one hit 95 mph on the radar gun.
The home run Riley hit came on a fastball clocked at 89.9 mph.
“It might be the fact that it doesn’t look like he’s completely synched up with his mechanics,” Shildt said when asked about the velocity dip. “A lot of times, if you’re synched up with your swing and mechanics, then everything is working together and you maximize your body and everything comes out a little cleaner. So he may be fighting himself a little bit.
The average velocities of Wacha’s cutter (88.7 mph) and changeup (85 mph) are also lower than they’ve been in any of his previous six seasons.
“I mean, I don’t really know,” Wacha answered, when asked if he might know why. “I’m just trying to give it my all and trying to make pitches. It’s down a little bit right now. We’ve had some cold games, cold weather stuff. Hopefully, it starts getting back up there a little bit.”
What it’s not, he confirmed, is a physical issue. Wacha insisted that his arm and body feel fine.
“We know that when it clicks, how dominant it can be,” Shildt added. “We’ve seen that for years. His side sessions have been good. Reports have been positive. When it clicks, we’ll be really happy.” (J Langosch - MLB.com - May 15, 2019)
2020 Improvements: For Michael and his offseason transformation, it all started with videos, mechanics and his dad. Wacha, 28, signed as a free agent with the Mets in December on a one-year, $3 million deal. But, well before that, his dad, Tom, pulled up videos of Wacha’s starts from his 2019 season with the Cardinals. Together, they looked at his release point, spin rate, arm slot and other mechanics as Wacha welcomed the use of analytics into his groundwork for the upcoming season.
"I’ve always just been like, I’m going to out-compete this guy,” Wacha said
"I’ve always just been like, I’m going to out-compete this guy,” Wacha said. “I usually take it on myself and not really understand — OK, that’s a bad pitch because of this, and maybe this will work better because of the spin rate or the ride on this pitch.”
The former NLCS MVP is not one for “analytics stuff,” as Wacha described it. His dad had always been “way more interested” in technology-based training, but that changed this past winter. Michael's dad helped his son fix his throwing motion.
After his seventh season in the big leagues, when Wacha went 6-7 on a 4.76 ERA and 1.56 WHIP over 24 starts, he admitted his mechanics had been getting “a little bit out of whack” over the years. A career-low -0.2 fWAR after bouncing back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen was, in Wacha’s mind, reversible. So he set out to learn more about himself from that final year in St. Louis.
“My dad definitely pulled up quite a bit of the videos,” Wacha said. “He’s got some websites — I don’t even know where he looks it up. He’s got my release points at certain times during the year when I’m not pitching good. He was definitely getting into it this offseason and passing along some information to me. I think it was very helpful for sure.”
Wacha didn’t know it yet, but he was creating an advantage for himself before even signing with the Mets. By the time Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Accardo approached Wacha about his mechanics in spring training, the righthander already had a head-start. Hefner and Accardo looked at video of Wacha’s outings and prepared instructions for him to implement as soon as they got word that he was joining the club. It wasn’t until Wacha told his pitching coaches about his offseason schooling with his dad that he realized how beneficial technology can be in his routine.
“They said my mechanical changes that I made over the offseason were exactly what they were going to be telling me,” Wacha said of his early conversation with Hefner and Accardo. “Exactly the same type of information or helpful tips that they were trying to get me into, I already made them on my own.”
Despite the head start, this spring featured Wacha’s first time throwing in front of cameras. The Mets recently employed advanced technology — like Edgertronic, TrackMan and Rapsodo — in hopes of it leading to better results from their pitching staff. Wacha, across a few Grapefruit League starts, quickly noticed a difference. For the first time in his career, Wacha went into the video room after bullpen and live batting practice sessions during spring camp. If he threw a bad curveball during a bullpen, he’d make a note of it so he could go back into the video room and inspect why it slipped out. He found it easy to adapt to a new process of correcting his mechanics.
“Those changes have definitely been a success so far,” Wacha said. “I feel like the ball's coming out really nice. Arm and body have been feeling great.”
Wacha arrived at Mets camp in competition with Steven Matz and Rick Porcello for a spot in the rotation. That changed when the club announced Noah Syndergaard would miss the 2020 season with a torn UCL that forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery. Wacha cemented his role in the team’s five-man rotation, but he had already impressed the Mets in backfield simulation games and exhibition outings.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching [Wacha] pitch,” manager Luis Rojas said. “I liked the plane on his fastball and touch on his changeup. It looked like he was creating some contrast with his changeup, so when you get velo, you get swings and misses with your changeup like he did and I think he was pretty firm and had a good angle at the plate.” (Deesha Thosar - Mar. 28, 2020) (Editor's note: All that off-season work did not really pay off. See his 2020 stats below.)
2020 Season Stats: 8 Games, 7 Starts, 34 IP, 1-4 Won-Loss Record, 6.62 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 37:7 K:BB Ratio, -0.2 WAR
With the Mets needing starting pitching after Zack Wheeler went to Philadelphia, GM Brodie Van Wagenen acted quickly to add Wacha to the starting rotation The Mets saw an encouraging first start from Wacha, who defeated the Red Sox at Fenway, but that would turn out to be the only win he would register on the year
With the Mets needing starting pitching after Zack Wheeler went to Philadelphia, GM Brodie Van Wagenen acted quickly to add Wacha to the starting rotation. Fresh off a 2019 campaign where Wacha showed signs of the potential displayed earlier in his career with the Cardinals, the Mets handed Wacha a creative deal with $3 million in guarantees along with varying incentives based on innings pitched and multi-inning stints that could have raised the total value of the contract to $10 million. Wacha was competing for a spot in the rotation during spring training before the pandemic shut down baseball but an injury to Noah Syndergaard ensured he wouldn’t have to do that in summer camp.
The Mets saw an encouraging first start from Wacha, who defeated the Red Sox at Fenway, but that would turn out to be the only win he would register on the year. Wacha struggled to get deep into games before landing on the injured list, missing three weeks in August before being reinserted into the rotation ahead of rookie David Peterson in a controversial decision. The Mets saw Wacha pitch himself out of the rotation again but gave him one more opportunity after a solid relief outing in September. The results still weren’t great as Wacha never delivered a quality start for the Mets, ending the season as a major disappointment. (Mike Phillips | Dec 14, 2020)
June 18-Sept. 1, 2014: Wacha was on the 60-day D.L. with a stress reaction in his right shoulder—his right scapula, or shoulder blade.
Aug 9-Sept 14, 2016: Wacha was on the DL with right shoulder inflammation.
June 21-Nov 1, 2018: Wacha was on the DL as he underwent an MRI to confirm the severity of an oblique strain. His missed the remainder of the season.
April 19-29, 2019: Wacha was on the IL with left knee patellar tendinitis.
Sept 25, 2019: Wacha exited in the second inning of an eventual 9-7 loss with tightness in his right shoulder and appeared to have a mild strain in the shoulder, manager Mike Shildt said. Wacha felt the tightness when warming up and thought it might loosen up during the game, but the tightness only worsened. He doesn't know what might have caused it.
Aug 9-27, 2020: Wacha was on the IL with right shoulder inflammation.
- May 4-23, 2021: Wacha was on the IL with right hammy tightness. Wacha’s hamstring “kind of grabbed him” while he was running at Angel Stadium before the game. During the game, Cash said that Wacha’s hamstring tightened up enough that he sought treatment for it. When Wacha played catch the next day, his leg still didn’t feel right.