It seems like forever ago that Tim Wakefield picked up career win 199 against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway. Historically speaking, it was forever ago, as Wakefield will now, after not wining against the Royals on Saturday night, have the second-longest stretch in between win 199 and 200 in baseball history.
There are 110 pitchers who have won at least 200 games, according to Baseball Reference. Wakefield would be number 111 next time he steps away victorious, and the second-oldest to hit the mark; Jack Quinn is the oldest, as he won #200 back in 1930, less than a month away from 47 years old. Wakefield's had to wait awhile for #200, but thankfully, he's seen just one birthday in the win-less stretch.
Of those 110, just two have ever needed more than five starts following victory 199 to notch 200. Fellow knuckler Charlie Hough needed six starts to get that victory (the same Hough who, coincidentally, is currently the second-oldest to win 200 games), and Hall of Famer Steve Carlton needed seven starts to get the elusive win in 1978.
Carlton had a fine season, finishing with a 2.84 ERA and 126 ERA+, but he went just 16-13 despite 12 complete games and a league-average Phillies' offense. His win-less stretch in the middle of the season may have had something to do with it: Carlton went 0-3 with three no decisions in between win 199 and win 200, posting a 6.03 ERA in that stretch -- and we're talking 6.03 in a year where the average ERA was 3.57 -- while allowing opponents to hit .294/.328/.556 (league average: .254/.320/.372).
Before you start to think that Wakefield has been the unluckiest of the bunch, take a look at Hough, who, in the year Wakefield first entered the league, won game 199 on June 28, and didn't pick up #200 until August 5. In between, Hough threw 39-2/3 innings, posting an ERA of 3.18 and holding opponents to .205/.297/.329 line and a .206 BABIP, but still went 0-3 with two no decisions over five starts.
Wakefield has thrown 34 innings since his last W, and while he hasn't been a Steve Carlton-esque disaster (how often in history has anyone been able to accurately use that as a comparison?), he hasn't pitched as well as Hough, either. Opponents have hit .258/.291/.432 in those frames, while Wakefield has posted an ERA of 4.18 -- better than his season line, but still worse than average. That is the reason he's come nearly each time out, but, due to either Wakefield, the offense, the bullpen, or Francona not having a quick enough hook, it hasn't been enough yet.
Let's all hope this isn't a ploy of Wakefield's to be the oldest pitcher to ever win 200 games, because expecting Red Sox fans to cope with the emotional stress for two more seasons is asking too much.