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45-year-old Tim Wakefield wants to pitch another season

Nov 16, 2011, 7:00 PM EDT

Tim Wakefield Reuters

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield finally got his 200th win on his ninth try on Sept. 13. Now he’s hoping to add a few more to the total. According to agent Barry Meister, Wakefield wants to come back and pitch another season in 2012.

Meister said it would be a “shame” if Wakefield didn’t finish his career with the Red Sox, but that he’s currently focusing on several National League clubs in talks.

Wakefield has spent 17 of his 19 seasons with the Red Sox, and he’s third on the team’s all-time wins list with 186, leaving him just six behind both Roger Clemens and Cy Young. However, while the Red Sox might be open to re-signing him as a utility pitcher, it’s doubtful that they would guarantee him a rotation spot after he finished the last two seasons with ERAs of 5.34 and 5.12. There are surely better opportunities available for him in the other league.

Wakefield, who has about eight months on Omar Vizquel, was the oldest player in either league at age 44 last season. He would take a backseat in 2012, though, if soon-to-be 49-year-old Jamie Moyer can pull off a comeback.

  1. JBerardi - Nov 16, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    “Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield finally got his 200th win on his ninth try on Sept. 13.”

    God, Terry Francona is a great manager. Why did the Red Sox ever let him go?

    • Glenn - Nov 16, 2011 at 8:36 PM

      Because of injuries there was no one better to trot out there every fifth day. Wake was the 3rd or 4th starter down the stretch out of necessity.

    • dan1111 - Nov 17, 2011 at 5:53 AM

      During his 8 failed attempts to get the win, he had a 4.78 ERA. Two of those games were quality starts that the Red Sox ended up winning. Another quality start resulted in a loss. Another start was an 8 inning complete game in which he allowed 4 earned runs. One of the eight appearances was 4 scoreless innings in relief.

      Other than that, you have a point. (Although, in fairness to you, Matthew also uses this as an example of Wakefield pitching badly).

      • JBerardi - Nov 17, 2011 at 7:41 AM

        Wakefield’s ERA makes him look better than he actually is. He consistently gives up a ton of unearned runs due to the uncatchability of the knuckleball.

      • JBerardi - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:03 AM

        Amazingly no one seems to have simple RA on their statistical leaderboards. What I can tell you is that Tim Wakefield pitched 154.2 innings and gave up 110 runs. You know which other AL pitchers gave up 110 or more runs in that many innings pitched? Nobody. There’s seven guys who gave up more runs. John Lackey was closest at 160 IP, everyone else in the AL who eclipsed Wakefield in runs allowed needed at least 180 innings to do so.

      • dan1111 - Nov 17, 2011 at 9:11 AM

        @JBerardi – Unearned runs are unearned for a reason. While Wakefield’s knuckleball may be responsible for some of them, it is unfair to assign them all to him (also, other pitchers are sometimes responsible for their unearned runs as well). Over his career, he has given up somewhat more unearned runs than average, but not “a ton”. When compared to his career as a whole, the number last year looks like a fluke.

        Am I saying that Wakefield was great last year? No, he clearly didn’t pitch very well. But the number of tries it took to achieve his 200th win doesn’t say anything about his performance. It was a stretch of bad luck, rather than particularly bad pitching.

      • JBerardi - Nov 17, 2011 at 9:36 AM

        “Unearned runs are unearned for a reason.”

        Not for a GOOD reason. Research has shown many times that simple Run Average is a far better stat than ERA. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s more predictive of future ERA than ERA itself is.

        And have you seen Wakefield pitch? It’s not unfair to point out that he’s the worst pitcher imaginable, and I don’t mean that on a statistical level. Think about it like this: he’s the Anti-Buehrle. Buehrle isn’t amazing on a stuff level, but he’s basically the perfect pitcher. He commands well. He controls well. He can always throw a strike when he has too. He works fast. He fields his position extremely well. He controls the running game well. Wakefield is the exact opposite kind of pitcher. His knuckleball is still a good pitch, but he can’t do any of the little things that let a pitcher leverage good stuff into actual production on the field. He can’t throw a strike when he needs one. He can’t control the running game. He works excruciatingly slowly. He’s a stiff and immobile fielder. His higher-than-normal number of unearned runs is just one way this lack of ability manifests itself.

        And by the way, don’t look at his career numbers to evaluate this. He wasn’t always this way. But age has a way of catching up with all of us, even the knuckleballers.

  2. proudlycanadian - Nov 16, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    If Wakefield wants to finish his career with Boston, then he should retire right now. I really doubt that the Red Sox want him back. He did not pitch well at the end of last season.

    • Kyle - Nov 16, 2011 at 8:58 PM

      I tend to agree. I also guess some desperate team might take a flier on him or give him a long-relief role, but even that is hard to imagine.

    • pjmarn6 - Nov 16, 2011 at 11:47 PM

      He needs a few million to pad his retirement fund?

  3. scapistron - Nov 16, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    Re: 9th Try

    Pretty sure he would not have got those shots had there been other options. The sox kept trotting out Wake, Miller, and to a lesser extent Weiland.

    • JBerardi - Nov 16, 2011 at 8:15 PM

      I could be wrong, but wasn’t the rotation Lester-Beckett-Lackey-Bedard-Miller-Wakefield for a while? I distinctly remember being mad about Wakefield not being taken out of the rotation during his hunt for 200, but maybe I’m crazy…

  4. oldpaddy - Nov 16, 2011 at 9:09 PM

    He’ll stay with the Sox. You never know when you’ll need Wake, but you know you always will at some point.

    • paperlions - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:00 AM

      You never need a pitcher with a 5+ ERA, ever. If you need to call someone up for an emergency start, in AAA there is a full rotation of guys that can suck just as bad for a couple of starts but not take up a valuable roster spot during the interim.

  5. hushbrother - Nov 16, 2011 at 9:59 PM

    According to WAR, Wakefield was exactly as lousy as Lackey in 2011. Both finished minus-1.2

    • uyf1950 - Nov 17, 2011 at 4:17 AM

      There is one big difference though. The contract Lackey signed was for $82M plus.

      • JBerardi - Nov 17, 2011 at 9:38 AM

        Another way to look at it is that Lackey managed to be as “good” as Wakefield with his UCL hanging by a thread.

  6. philliesblow - Nov 17, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    Wakefield at 45, Jamie Moyer at 49. I wish them the best, but who do these guys think they are, Gordie Howe?

  7. bikezilla11 - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:09 AM

    Isn’t it enough that Wakefield is one of the reasons that the Red Sox fell apart. Kept in the line-up when he was obviously stinking it up, just trying to get personal achievements. (9 tries at 200 wins). Please do everyone a favor and RETIRE. Of course agents want him to pitch so they gey more money but seriously if any Red Sox fans want him back they should have their heads examined.

    • JBerardi - Nov 17, 2011 at 9:20 AM

      I touched on this earlier in the thread, but I’m realizing now that I got it all wrong (repressed memories, I guess). Yes, the Red Sox needed those starts from Wakefield. The REAL problem was that Francona insisted on never pulling Wakefield before he was in line for the win, despite the extremely clear statistical evidence that Wakefield turns into a pumpkin after about 80 pitches. Hell, you don’t need the statistical evidence; how many times do you need to see the guy get rocked in the fifth or the sixth before you realize you need a quick hook on him? Francona consistently left him in the game too long, trying to either get him to five innings for the win or hoping that the Sox would take the lead for him in the next half inning, and he got burned on it about nine times. If he’d had the good sense to only get burned on it seven or eight times, the Sox make the playoffs.

  8. cintiphil - Nov 17, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    He should stay home and take care of the grand kids.

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