Tim Wakefield renegotiated his perpetual team option deal and instead will have a guaranteed two-year 5 million dollar contact, which he signed on Monday. Wakefield will turn 44 in the middle of next year and has 189 wins. The deal gives him a solid shot at 200 wins for his career. Additionally, 175 of those wins have come with the Sox, so he also has a chance at becoming the franchise leader in wins. Right now, Roger Clemens and Cy Young are tied with 192 wins.
I think it is a treat for all baseball fans that we can continue to watch Wakefield pitch, and pitchf/x analysts seem to love looking at the knuckle ball. Wakefield throws his knuckler about 85% of the time, and mixes in a fastball 10% of the time and a curve 5% of the time.
As you can see. his curve and fastball move in a similar manner to most. The fastball “rises” about ten inches and moves in to RHBs, while the curve drops ten inches and tails away from RHBs. His fastball averages 72 mph. making it far and away the slowest fastball in the game. I showed in a previous article that he uses it sort of like an anti-changeup. It is about 8 mph faster than his knuckleball, and its success is tied to its speed difference from the preceding knuckleball.
His curveball averages 59 mph, making it the game’s slowest pitch.
But the important thing here is the knuckleball, which has no consistent movement. It does not have a neatly defined area in spin deflection space like his curve or his fastball or almost all other pitches do. That is the key to its success; the batter doesn’t know how the pitch is going to move (neither does the catcher for that matter). John Walsh showed that the success of each pitch is tied to how much it moves. Those with little spin deflection (little movement) are hit often and hit hard. While those at the edge with more movement are whiffed at more and, when hit, for poorer contact.
Josh Kalk followed that up by showing that Wakefield’s knuckleballs have a greater “spread” in their movement than those of other pitchers who have recently tried the knuckbleball, like Josh Banks, Charlie Zink and Charlie Haeger, which is why Wakefield is the most successful.
I am a huge fan of the knuckleball, generally, and Wakefield, specifically. I hope that he can pick up those eighteen wins, so he will have over 200 and Red Sox franchise record.
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