Monday, February 11, 2008

Examining Wakefield

With Spring Training three days away, I've already taken a look at the Red Sox top two young stars. Now I'll be taking a look at the veteran of the rotation, Tim Wakefield. Wakefield will take the ball for the Red Sox in his fourteenth straight year. In fact, Wakefield's been around so long that he's seen the Red Sox win the division twice.

Over his career with the Red Sox, Wakefield's been the definition of consistency. But at age 41, there may be some questions about his ability to perform. The largest questions surround his health. Even though he pitched 189 innings in 2007, he has had some injury troubles the past two years.

Wakefield's injury troubles have largely been related to his back. In 2006, it was discovered that he had a stress fracture in his rib cage, after he complained of pain in his back. In 2007, Wakefield had a sore back in August but he made all his starts. Later in October, he suffered from some inflammation in his upper back and had to be left off the postseason roster.

Wakefield's success in 2008 will be largely congruent with his health. When he's been healthy, his performance has been fine, even in his old age. No doubt, it's easier to be an aging pitcher when all you have to do is throw a 60-mph knuckleball.

Last year, Tim Wakefield posted an ERA+ of 100. Over the last four year's he's averaged an ERA+ of 103 but he's shown very little variance from year to year. Wakefield may not be the sexiest starter out there, but he's a solid bottom of the rotation guy.

If nothing else, Wakefield will eat up innings and protect the bullpen. He's averaged over six innings a start in each of the last three years. In 2005, the last time he was healthy, he averaged almost seven innings a start. This could be important with the loss of Schilling, who routinely pitched deep into games.

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