Tim Wakefield: Knucklin' His Way into the History Books
Tim Wakefield has been a fixture with the Red Sox for so long, his presence with the pitching staff has been a given year-in and year-out. After two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992 and '93, Wakefield left for greener pastures.
Ironically, after guys like Wakefield, but especially Barry Bonds, left Pittsburgh, the team has had a losing record every year, and this year the Pirates are still in search of that elusive winning season.
In 1995, Wakefield's inaugural season in Red Sox Red, he pitched brilliantly, baffling hitters with his deceptive, dancing knuckleball. Wake finished third in Cy Young voting, going 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA on the season.
Wakefield continued pitching consistently well as one of the last of a dying breed. As the knuckleball has lost its popularity among pitchers, Wakefield has consistently crafted masterful starts for the Red Sox, serving up plenty of knuckle sandwiches along the way.
He has never overpowered opposing hitters, and with the exception of a few standout seasons, his stats have never been jaw-dropping. Wakefield is simply a guy who has gone out, mastered his trade, and done his job to the best of his ability, and it's starting to pay dividends.
Despite his long-standing role as a starter for Boston, he has never shied away from doing whatever the Red Sox needed him to do. Not only has he made 382 starts for the team, but he has also made 137 relief appearances, even notching 15 saves in 1999.
Having pitched with the Red Sox for 15 seasons and counting, the knuckleballing 42-year old now finds himself among some of the greatest pitchers of all time in the Red Sox record books.
Sporting 174 wins, 382 starts, and with 2,676 innings under his belt, Wakefield is near the top of the list among Red Sox career leaders in all those stats.
With his last start at the Atlanta Braves, Wakefield has tied Roger "The Rocket" Clemens for the most starts in Red Sox history, 382. His next start, slated to be against the Seattle Mariners, will be his 383rd and will make him the outright record holder for the most starts.
With 519 total appearances in his Boston career, Wakefield ranks second all-time on the Red Sox leaders list, behind Bob Stanley, who has been trotted out to the mound 637 times for the Red Sox.
In the two other mentioned categories, wins and innings, Wakefield very easily can break those records, both held by Roger Clemens. Clemens and Cy Young are tied for the most wins with 192, and The Rocket holds the innings pitched record alone, with 2,776.
Wakefield is in third for both stats, but not too far behind. With 2,676 innings of work, it will take just 100 innings for the rest of the season for Wake to tie Clemens for the most innings of work in Red Sox history.
However, since he needs 18 more wins to force a three-way tie for the most victories in Sox history, it is very unlikely that he will attain the record this year.
He currently has a 10-3 record on the season, so say he ends up winning 18 games this year, which would be a new career high. That would mean Wakefield, who has averaged 13 wins per season in his career, would only need to win eight games in 2010 to tie the record.
In the later stages of his career, at 42 years of age, Wakefield still has enough left in the tank to pitch at least until he's 45. But, due to the very little amount of stress exerted on his arm, some have said he could try his hand at pitching until he's 50.
No matter what he does, it should only take until sometime next season for Wakefield to break these records, solidifying his spot among the all-time Red Sox greats.
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