Tim Wakefield celebrated his 41st birthday yesterday with his 150th win in a Red Sox uniform. He’s in his 15th year in the big leagues. It’s hard to call a starting pitcher for the Red Sox underappreciated — when he first arrived in 1995, his signature knuckleball was the subject of numerous newspaper articles. ("It’s actually thrown with the fingertips.") He’s consistently referred to as the consummate teammate, praised for his willingness to work in any role for which the team needs him; his charity work is less well known, but it’s known nonetheless.
Still, there’s a collective groan, it seems, when Wakefield’s turn in the rotation comes around, and for good reason. The unpredictability of the pitch he throws means he could be working on a no-hitter or getting shellacked all over the ballpark — sometimes in the same game. Yet there he is today, tied for the team lead in wins, likely to win 15 games for the fourth time in his career.
Make no mistake: It’s the characters, the trick pitches, the unique flavors of baseball that make this game great. Wakefield is the only successful practitioner of the knuckleball in our generation. So let’s take a moment, as we bask in the afterglow of another win, to fully appreciate the wild ride he’s given us since 1992.
- With his win yesterday, Wakefield is just the 12th pitcher to win 150 games since 1995, when he debuted with the Sox — and the only pitcher to do it with one team (or with an ERA above 4.30). He’s the 14th to strike out at least 1,650.
- Of course, he’s also just the third pitcher in that span to lose as many as 130 games, and is third in walks allowed.
- No pitcher since the consistent recording of pitch counts has thrown as many in a game as Wakefield — 172 on April 27, 1993, when he pitched all 10 innings of a 6-2 win for the Pirates.
- Second on that list? Wakefield again, with 169 pitches on June 5, 1997, pitching 8.2 innings in a 2-1 win.
- Only three pitchers since 1990 have walked 10 batters and won the game — Wake did it in that 172-pitch affair.
- On Sox lists, of course, Wakefield is prominently represented — third all-time in wins and strikeouts. And the all-time leader in losses and walks.
- He and Ray Culp are the only two Sox pitchers to have struck out 10 and walked more than six in the same game.
- The only Sox pitcher since 1970 to walk seven batters in a game more times than Wakefield’s four? Roger Clemens, with five.
- Wakefield is the only Sox pitcher in the Retrosheet era to have won 10 straight starts.
- Likewise, no Sox pitcher has lost more than Wakefield’s seven straight starts between 1995 and 1996.
- Wakefield is one of only five Sox pitchers in 50 years to throw at least 90 pitches in at least 19 straight games (interestingly, Jon Lester is going for 18 in his next start).
(Source: Baseball-Reference Play Index)