Tim Wakefield: Is It Time To Go?

Tim Wakefield warming upphoto © 2006 Scott Miller | more info (via: Wylio)

Tim Wakefield is a man of perseverance and charity. He is the longest-tenured Red Sox by far (since 1995) and has always been a soldier for the olde towne team. He’s been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award eight times and won it once. He’s won two World Series with the Red Sox and has been on the wrong side of history at the hands of Aaron Boone.

Although he has been a Red Sox since Coolio’s ‘Gangsta Paradise’ ruled the charts, there is now fluttering whispers that he may not make the team in 2011. Terry Francona refused to commit through the media last week on Wakefield — but given Wake’s stature in the organization and ownership’s plainly obvious desire to treat outgoing heroes (David Ortiz) with kid gloves, Wakefield is probably going to be on this team when camp breaks.

Whether anyone agrees or not.

The question is; how much longer should/can this continue? The team sees value in Wakefield’s flexibility, but many fans have grown tired of the knuckleballer (some years ago) and expect a change.

Wake is #3 all-time in Red Sox history for wins. He trails only Cy Young and Roger Clemens (192 wins) for the top spot. He trails them both by 13 wins and that has many people clamoring that he is just sticking around until he can muster together the win totals to claim the all-time lead. Do you buy that sentiment? I’m not sure I do. Although somewhat of a complainer, he doesn’t strike me as a selfish, need-to-get-the-stats kind of guy.

Wakefield also holds the team all-time record for losses with 160. Cy Young is #2 with 112. He’s always been a guy who finds his way into decisions because he tends to throw deep into games and that makes him just above .500 for his career.

There have been times that he has been viewed as a disgruntled employee. He wants desperately to be a starter – on the Red Sox – and does not see why there should be any qualms about that. (Even at the expense of Clay Buchholz or Daisuke Matsuzaka) You have to give him credit for the fiery passion and competitive mindset, but Wakefield hasn’t had a positive RAR since 2005.

He’s also had a sub-2.0 command nearly every year since ’05. He’s simply an innings eater. For every time fans wonder why he’s even on the roster, you have to go back to the organizational leaders and their perspective.

Last week, bench coach Demarlo Hale said the following about Wake;

“That’s always been in that bag,” said bench coach DeMarlo Hale of Wakefield’s versatility, “knowing that you can go to him if one of the starters happens to go down for a DL stint. He’s pitched long enough as far as the preparation he goes through. He knows what it takes.

“When you go into the season, knowing that you have that versatility, there’s a little comfort that comes with that. Hopefully, we don’t have injuries. But at this level and in this business, you have to be aware of things happening and have other options. We know what he’s capable of. He knows what it takes to win and he will do what it takes to help the team win. It’s good to have him back there if something happens, trust me.”

In 2010, Wakefield threw 140 innings serving as the defacto 6th starter and posted a 1.3 WAR valued at $5.1 million according to Fangraphs. Wakefield made just $3.5 million in 2010 and will make even less ($1.5MM) in 2011. He’s definitely a value for the organization and the rumors of him being traded almost seem laughable at that point.

Wakefield has stated previously that he “probably” not pitch beyond the final year of his contract in 2011. If that is the case, then he will ride out of town with the likes of Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, and JD Drew. It’s doubtful that the ownership group will sully the exits of Big Papi or Wakefield so you can almost expect another year of opportunity for both of them in Boston.

Not everything is all that bad with Wakefield. Last year, he rattled off a stretch of good outings against Philadelphia, Baltimore, LA Dodgers and Cleveland between Memorial Day and the 4th of July. Also mixed in there were poor starts against Kansas City and Oakland.

He can be very serviceable in stretches, but you pay for the whole package. That package includes a temperamental knuckeball and a sub-par fastball and curveball.

I’ve heard some Red Sox fans call his inclusion to the roster insulting to their intelligence (extreme and irrational) while other fans champion Wakefield as a high-character man who deserves to claim the #1 wins spot from Clemens (emotional and ridiculous).

But in what is last season of a two-year deal, one has to expect that #49 will continue to trot out to the mound for 20 starts and mix good and bad outings together. I’m not sure that it’s the best thing for the psyche of a headstrong fanbase, but it’s the reality.

If Wakefield can post one more 1.5 WAR season he will have been a steal at his marginal salary. He just might have to do it in front of annoyed Red Sox fans.

Categories: 2004 ALCS 2004 ALDS 2007 World Series DeMarlo Hale Tim Wakefield

8 Responses to “Tim Wakefield: Is It Time To Go?” Subscribe

  1. Tom Proulx March 21, 2011 at 5:07 AM #

    Good article. However, I think you missed one point. My only objection to having Wakefield on the roster is that he needs someone to catch the pitch. Varitek has demonstrated that he isn't very good catching the knuckleball. Saltilamaccia has to demonstrate he can, but does anyone remember Gedman at the all-star game? Look at his stats before and after. While there were certainly injury issues, he was never the same after that performance. You need to give the kid a chance to demonstrate that he is a major league catcher without the challenge of the knuckler. The fact is that you can almost say that a knockleball pitcher occupies 1.5 roster spots.

    • Darryl Johnston March 21, 2011 at 6:36 AM #

      ahhh…good point, Tom. I wish I had put that into consideration. Thanks for the feedback.

  2. chugg March 21, 2011 at 5:30 AM #

    This is a tough one, but I hope he sticks around for one final year (this year). I've always like Wake even though he makes you crazy sometimes. But that's the beauty of baseball and the knuckle ball. It's unpredictable. That's why I love the guy. It has made the Sox a more unique team for all these years to still have a knuckler throwing for them. Keep him for one more!

    • Darryl Johnston March 21, 2011 at 6:38 AM #

      And who knows? If that knuckle works like magic and you get 5-6 dominant starts from him we will all be thrilled. Charlie Hough pitched until he was 46 and only retired because he couldn't cover first. Wake is a machine.

  3. kaiwan March 21, 2011 at 2:45 PM #

    Keep Wake around. The likelihood of Dice-K imploding (again) is equal to the likelihood of the knuckleball being flat.

  4. Rick March 21, 2011 at 6:28 PM #

    Wake makes the Sox one of the best teams. He provides a change up from the boring fast ball curve ball that every one throws. He is a dying breed and the owners and coaches need to realize that baseball needs a change up top keep the fans interested. He is another knuckle baller who will be in the hall of fame. I know he will get his 200th win and go down as one of Bostons and the leagues greatest pitchers.

    • Chip Buck March 22, 2011 at 3:42 AM #

      I love Wake just as much as everyone, but I'm not sure being a "change up" to the rest of the staff is enough to keep the guy around. It comes down to one thing: performance. It sounds cold and calculated, but it's true. If he can still do it, then by all means he should be on the team. If he struggles, then it's time to cut him loose.

      As for 200 career wins? He has a shot, but it'll have to come this year. I don't think he gets another shot. Hall of Fame? He might make the Red Sox HoF, but he won't make the baseball HoF. As durable as he's been, he just hasn't been good enough.

  5. Andrew August 21, 2011 at 11:57 AM #

    I have to disagree with you chip. Hes been a driving force behind the knuckle ball arguably one of the best knuckleballers of all time. I tend to recall back in the days of 04 etc and before that The yankess used to hate it when wakefield got up there. His knuckleball is one of the most unreadable pitches in baseball even to this day. I mean The yankees disliked him so much they tried to steal mirabelli away from the soxs so the catchers would have a harder time catching him. For a major league team to do that. That says something I trully think he will not only make the Red Sox HoF but the Major league as well.