God I love shocking discussion to life.
Wait, Wait, Wait…before you scroll to the comments section and blast me. Hear me out.
I am not saying that today, May 26, 2009 that Tim Wakefield is a lock for the hall. I am not even saying that Tim-ah as the locals call him is worthy.
My thoughts began to wander last Tuesday as Wakefield worked his way through eight innings of five hit, one run baseball. My first thought was, how does a guy 42 years old pulls this off?
Then my next thought was, who had done it better?
Well the truth is Phil Niekro holds the record for most wins after the age of 40 with 121.
Phil is a hall of famer on the strength of a 318-274 and 3342 strikeouts over the course of his 24 season career. I am not here to debate the Hall of Fame standing of Phil Niekro after all.
There are 72 pitchers in the Hall of Fame, from Don Drysdale and Nolan Ryan, to Cy young and Hilton Smith. Nobody has more wins than Cy Young, or losses for that matter, nobody has the more Strikeouts than Nolan Ryan, and Nobody has a lower ERA than Ed Walsh, and I am not suggesting that Tim Wakefield will pass any of them.
So as I sat in my seat at Fenway behind home plate. Section 21, Row 07, Seat 15, entered through Gate A in case anyone wanted to know, I couldn’t help that Wakefield looked better than ever. Then I looked at what Wakefield has done in 2009 when I got home and here was what I learned.
In eight starts, Timmy is 6-2 and has fashioned an ERA of 3.59. Now as is the mystery that is the knuckler he has given up 21 earned runs in eight starts, 12 of them coming in just two outings that accounted for 9.2 of 52.2 innings this year.
Why do I bring this up?
Well because I think you can compare Phil Niekro and Tim Wakefield.
Sure the era’s were different, but are they all that different when they are dealing?
Through the 1978 season Knucksie had won 197 and lost 171.
Wake on the other hand had fashioned record of 151 – 134.
So Niekro going into was would seem to be the twilight of any career was 26 games over .500. From age 40 through 48 he was an additional 18 games over .500
Now I mention this before Wakefield since hitting the big four zero has gone 32 – 25.
Now the first thing people will notice that Phil is plus 46 in the win column and he is also plus 37 in the loss column. Under the age of 40 Phil Niekro made 86 additional appearances, and 83 of those were starts.
He had an additional 83 decisions, which is not surprising when you see that as a product of his era that Niekro had 245 career complete games to Wakefield’s 62.
I would submit to you that part of the strength of Phil Niekro’s case is that he is one of only 16 players with 3000 plus strike outs. But when you look at Phil vs. Wakefield in a head to head comparison, Wake strikes out 6.1/nine for his career, Niekro only 5.6/nine innings of work.
For the record Wakefield who is not known for the K would be 16th among hall of famer’s in strikeouts per nine. That stat places him in front of Don Sutton, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, Phil Niekro, Walter Johnson and Gaylord Perry.
Remember that stat of 72 pitchers in the hall? Well if Wakefield is able to duplicate Niekro’s 121 win after the age of 40, he will have more wins than 36 of them. Since turning 40, Wakefield has won .561 percent of his decisions, which is actually 26 points higher than his career average.
Over the 17 years so far Wakefield has mustered an average of 13 wins per year and a percentage of .535. To put that in perspective, Niekro’s winning percentage of .537 and 14 wins preseason.
Wakefield has never led the league in wins which Niekro did on two occasions in 1974 and 1979 (age 40). On the other hand Timmy has only led the league in losses once, compared to Knucksie’s four time, each season from 1977 through 1980 in fact.
What about walks? Great question, 1809 for PK, and 1095 for WK, so both turn in an average of 78 free passes per season.
Now that only puts him ahead of Rich “Goose”Gossage and Hal Newhouser in the walks per nine category, but again throwing the knuckleball does exactly up your stats that indicate control.
We’ve seen the signs around the ball park, Wake for President, Wakefield for Mayor.
Considering we are in the era of the reliever, and closer, an era of less starts and less decisions.
121 wins after the age of 40 may seem more difficult to catch than the knuckleball itself. Considering his strikeout per nine ratio it’s not unreasonable that Wakefield could get to 2600 to 2800 strikeouts, or between 25th and 17th, I’d ask is it that unreasonable.
I can hear it now, he’s a compiler.
Only in baseball is longevity a curse.
He started, he relieved, he closed, he was on the mound to give up the Aaron Boone home run, you know when it mattered most. He also has two world series trophy’s in his pocket.
As he was putting the finishing touches on an eight innings gem at age 42 and Fenway was starting to sway to Sweet Caroline, I couldn’t help but wonder, Wakefield for Hall of Fame?