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June 9, 2010

One-Hoppers

Wakefield's The Man In Boston

by Marc Normandin

Up 3-1 last night in the seventh inning, Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield faced off against the Indians' first baseman, Russell Branyan. He would induce a lazy popup which would be caught by Marco Scutaro at shortstop—it was a routine play, but the ball made its way back to the Red Sox dugout to be held onto for when Wakefield returned from the mound.

That Branyan out marked Tim Wakefield's passing of Roger Clemens to become the all-time franchise leader in innings pitched, something he wasn't aware of when it happened on the field. Clemens is now one inning behind the knuckler, who has 2,777 innings pitched in a Boston uniform. Wakefield was already the franchise leader in games started with 397, though he's appeared in 538 games for the Sox thanks to stints as a reliever.

Wakefield joined the Red Sox in 1995, going 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA for the American League East division champs. His career has had his ups and downs, but the bigger picture is a bright one: he has a 4.37 ERA with the Red Sox over 15 seasons, 177 wins, 1904 strikeouts and an ERA+ of 109 despite the sometimes unpredictable nature of his most oft-used pitch.

This is not the only category Wakefield may find himself the franchise leader for by the time he hangs it up, as he's 15 wins behind Roger Clemens and Cy Young—yes, wins are a useless statistic, but you have to admit it's pretty cool that a knuckleballer has a shot at passing two Hall of Famers, one of them the all-time wins leader and the other arguably the best post-World War II pitcher. For an organization that has also had the likes of Lefty Grove and Pedro Martinez in its ranks, it's a nice bit of trivia, if nothing else.

He's not about to catch Roger Clemens' franchise record for strikeouts (2590) but he is flanked by good company in second place, in front of the aforementioned Martinez and Young, as well as Luis Tiant and Bruce Hurst, and barring injury should get to 2,000 before he retires (though he's already recorded his 2,000th career strikeout, thanks to a few seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates to start his career).

Via career WARP, Wakefield ranked #256 all-time amongst pitchers heading into the 2010 season. He's #9 amongst Red Sox pitchers all-time (though if you want to get picky about the fact Babe Ruth gets a lot of credit for his hitting, you can bump him to #8) and #26 amongst all Red Sox players:

Player WARP
Roger Clemens 81.8
Cy Young 59.4
Babe Ruth 45.0
Pedro Martinez 44.1
Bob Stanley 38.0
Lefty Grove 36.4
Luis Tiant 35.0
Joe Wood 31.6
Tim Wakefield 31.3
Mel Parnell 28.7

He hasn't had a Hall of Fame career by any means, but he's up there with some impressive names that are remembered within Red Sox Nation and on a more national level. The knuckleball made him a curiosity, but it's also given him a fine career, one long enough to hold a few franchise records for one of the oldest clubs in the game's history.

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