Yet again, for the fourth start in a row, Tim Wakefield failed to pick up win number 200 in his career. He has picked up six wins on the season, but, considering the offensive support that the Red Sox are capable of, it's disappointing he hasn't picked up more decisions, especially on the W side of things.
Wakefield has long been known for being dependable and average, but that just hasn't been the case since 2010 started. In his last 253-1/3 innings with Boston (dating back to the start of last season), Wakefield has a 5.15 ERA -- 18 percent worse than the league average according to ERA+ -- has given up 9.5 hits per nine despite the Red Sox having a well above-average offense during that stretch, and has allowed 1.3 homers per nine thanks to 37 long balls.
In his starts since this season, Wakefield has a 5.75 Run Average, 25 percent worse than the league average. He is giving up 9.1 hits per nine despite a .265 batting average on balls in play; while the Red Sox are converting nearly 72 percent of balls in play into outs, they haven't been able to catch the 18 balls that have gone over the fence.
Wakefield has given up a home run in every start he has made since July 18, when he gave up two to the Orioles (and then two to the Mariners, including a grand slam to Brendan Ryan, in his next start). He has given up at least one home run in all but four of his 17 starts. Out of his six wins, just one has come with fewer than six runs of support, and he has a 5.51 ERA in those contests.
Wakefield's problem has been the middle innings, as he has a 6.08 ERA in the fourth through sixth frames -- 14 of his 18 homers have occurred from the fourth onward, and opponents are hitting .304/.360/.554 against him the third time they see him (127 batters out of 428 seen in starts). From pitch 76 through 100, Wakefield is allowing a .343/.408/.687 line to opponents. You may think, "Well sure, most pitchers struggle as they tire later in games." While true, Wakefield has struggled 91 percent more than your average pitcher, according to split OPS+. (Someone please post this on the wall in Terry Francona's office.)
It's not surprising that this would be the case: he's in his age-44 season and already had his 45th birthday. He has nearly 3,200 innings on his arm in his career, and he just isn't able to go deep into games very often anymore. Yes, he threw a complete game last night against the Mariners, but let's remember that's one game, and the ridiculous line for pitches 76-100 for the season includes his work last night, when he tossed 94 pitches in a very efficient start.
Wakefield has never been the star that others he has played with have been, but he's always been someone special in Boston for what he has accomplished in his long career here. That's one reason it's been painful to watch him go for career win #200 and struggle so much in the process, but we're just going to have to accept that Wakefield, while occasionally capable of quality starts like that of last night's, just doesn't have it as consistently as he used to, especially the deeper into a game he has to go. His fifth attempt at #200 will come this weekend against the Royals, in Kansas City. While Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox need the win, it's safe to say that we all need it, too, if only to remember the Wakefield that pitched well enough to get to that point, rather than the one we have been watching the last two years.