Friday, October 19, 2007

The No Spin Zone

I have always enjoyed watching Tim Wakefield pitch. The knuckle ball fascinates me because even though I once struck out four times in a whiffle ball game I feel fairly certain that I could go 3-4 against Wakefield while professional baseball players often look silly batting against him. Wakefield has no doubt been a successful MLB pitcher. He has a career record of 168-146 with a lifetime era of 4.33. It always seems to me though, that it is pretty much a crap shoot any time he takes the mound. He basically just calmly chucks a 65 mph knuckler towards the plate and hopes that God makes it do funny things.

Looking closely at Wakefield's numbers, it appears that he is the most average pitcher in the history of MLB. Here is why. Wakefield has started over 29 games 6 times in his career. 5 of those 6 years his winning percentage closely mirrors his team's overall winning percentage. Here are the respective winning percentages

Wakefield Team
1996 .519 .525
1997 .444 .481
1998 .680 .568
2003 .611 .586
2004 .545 .605
2007 .586 .593

What these numbers mean to me is that mastering the knuckle ball makes you like a glass of water in the pH scale of major league pitchers. Basically, you are at the mercy of the skill of the rest of your team. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if your team is as successful as the Red Sox have been over the past decade.


Alias Sports Bureau said...

Crackerjack research kiddo!

Tremont said...

Is the Alias Sports Bureau run by Jennifer Garner? I believe you meant "Elias"

Minor criticism of the post: Wakefield's winning percentage relative to the rest of the team is mainly dependent upon the other pitchers on the team. He has spent much of his career in rotations with Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and generally above average pitching staffs. Had he been on the Rangers all of these years, his winning percentage would surely be higher than his team's as a whole.

To say he has been an average Red Sox pitcher is not to say he has been an average pitcher.

Greg Ostertag Body Spray said...

Good point. I think that is probably true although I do not think Wakefield's record would be as good if he played on the Rangers. He has a lifetime 4.33 ERA which seems fairly average to me (although I could be wrong, I just don't feel like taking the 45 seconds to find out what the average starting pitcher ERA was during that time period). My point of the post was that if you take a pitcher with an average ERA he is pretty much at the mercy of the team around him to post a decent record. So while a 4.33 ERA might give you a nice record for Boston, it probably does not go so far in Texas.

*Note: All of this could be easily resolved with minimal research, but it is making my testes hurt just thinking about actually doing it.*