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Tim Wakefield’s unlucky run towards 200 wins

08.20.11 at 1:45 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield has been stalled at 199 victories by an unusual run of bad luck. (AP)

With a slightly different series of events, Tim Wakefield’s chase of his 200th career victory would now long since be done. Instead, he might have been in position by now to be eying Roger Clemens and Cy Young for the top spot in the Red Sox’ victory chart.

Instead, at a time when he is nearing a point that should permit him to take a bow in his career, he is dealing with an uncomfortable delay. In his own words (following his fourth straight unfulfilled attempt at career win No. 200), “the Wake Watch” has commenced, in which the milestone is being obscured, in part, by the protracted journey to reach it.

Yet that isn’t a reflection of the pitcher’s performance. In four starts since claiming career victory No. 199 against the Mariners on July 24 (on a day when he allowed seven runs in 6 1/3 innings but received 12 runs of offensive support), Wakefield has enjoyed his most consistent stretch as a starter this year.

In four straight starts, he has pitched at least 6 2/3 innings while allowing four or fewer earned runs. He has a 4.08 ERA in that span.

Yet on a team that is second in the majors in both runs scored and runs per game, Wakefield has gone 0-2 with two no-decisions in those four games. To put that run in context, no Red Sox starter since Brad Penny in 2009 has been winless in four straight games in which he allowed four or fewer earned runs and pitched at least six innings in each outing. In order to find a streak of longer than four straight starts by a Sox pitcher that didn’t net a victory, you have to go back to a five-start stretch by Tomo Ohka in 2000.

It is part of a pattern that has existed throughout Wakefield’s Red Sox career. He now has 112 starts in which he has either been pinned with a loss (55 of those) or taken a no-decision (57) while pitching at least six innings and allowing four or fewer earned runs.

That’s the second most such outings in Red Sox history, behind only Roger Clemens’ 114 contests of that ilk. Wakefield had a 3.31 ERA in those no-decisions; Clemens had a 3.12 mark.

Wakefield now has a total of 97 no-decisions in starts during his Red Sox career, easily the most of any Sox starter in team history, well ahead of the 79 by Clemens. With a  slightly different set of events, he would have long since secured the franchise record for wins.

None of that is to suggest that Wakefield has been a better pitcher than was Clemens as a member of the Sox. Nor is it meant to suggest that Clemens did not face his own stretches of poor luck.

It is simply a reminder that as Wakefield pursues a career landmark that will define him among a certain class of winning pitchers, his record has not always reflected the quality of his pitching (for better or worse, of course). Certainly, that has been the case as the Wake Watch has dripped through these past few weeks, even at a time when the knuckleballer has thrown well.

Wakefield is not merely a pitcher who is holding on for a milestone. He has been more than that for the Sox this year, and more than that while standing at the door of his milestone. But a pitcher who has amassed his volume of victories must deal with more than just fortuitous successes. To surpass 200 wins, one needs to endure adversities and frustrations, a notion that has been reinforced of late.

Read More: cy young, Roger Clemens, Tim Wakefield,
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