Who takes the baton from Wakefield?

Tim Wakefield announced his retirement last week, joining Chuck Finley and George Uhle as pitchers who finished with exactly 200 wins, and Dennis Martinez & Milt Pappas as those who got there without ever winning more than 17 in a season. Wakefield also wound up 6 wins shy of the Red Sox franchise record, shared by a couple of no-names, Cy Young and Roger Clemens.

At the end of 2011, Wakefield was MLB’s active leader in nine pitching categories:

The first 5 of those crowns were already slated for recovery by comeback kid Jamie Moyer, as soon as the 49-year-old appears in a real game for Colorado. Moyer’s totals: 267 Wins, 204 Losses, 4,020.1 IP, 1,892 ER, 511 HRs (the all-time record) and 17,102 Batters Faced. He’ll also be the leader with 628 Games Started, 4,156 Hits and 5,600 Baserunners.

Until Moyer officially regains the status, the active leaders are:

Some leadership posts were already held by others; the starred ones are not threatened by Moyer:

If Moyer doesn’t make it to Opening Day, Halladay’s 188 wins will be the lowest active leading total since 1949, when Bob Feller began the year with 177 wins. No other season in modern history has begun with the active leader having fewer than 190 wins.

38 thoughts on “Who takes the baton from Wakefield?

  1. 1

    And if Miguel Batista doesn’t make the Major League roster of the Mets, there will be no active Major League players this year who can say they played for a Pirates team that had a winning record….

    • 2
      vivaeljason says:

      Does this include players who were traded mid-season whilst the Pirates had a winning record? I mean, it’s probably still just Batista, but I’d be curious if there were some deals done right before the ship sank in other years (i.e. someone who was traded before August 1st of 2011).

  2. 3
    Dr. Doom says:

    Javier Vazquez is one of the most interesting players to talk about, especially comparing fWAR to rWAR. Baseball-Reference has him at 39.4. Fangraphs has him at 55.2 WAR. For example, in 1998 alone, B-R has him at -2.3 WAR; Fangraphs has him at .5 WAR. Now, it’s not like .5 WAR in over 30 starts is anything to write home about, but it sure beats saying that you’re not only sub-replacement level, but well below replacement level. He’s just one of those guys for whom one’s impression of him depends largely on one’s acceptance of DIPS. Interesting stuff.

    • 4
      John Autin says:

      I’ve long been fascinated with Vazquez from the standpoint of SO/9 (career average 8.04) and SO/BB (3.32):

      There are 331 modern starting pitchers with at least 2,000 IP.
      — Only 25 of them have at least 7 SO/9.
      — Only 15 have at least 3 SO/BB.
      — Only 7 have both 7 SO/9 and 3 SO/BB: Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Roy Oswalt, Mike Mussina, and Javier Vazquez.
      — The other 6 have ERA+ ranging from 154 to 123. Vazquez’s is 105.

      • 17
        Dr. Doom says:

        I was actually pretty shocked when I saw how low Vasquez’s ERA+ was. I always have thought of him as a well-above-average pitcher. I can’t help but think that his defenses must have been really bad around him. I mean, like you said, he struck out a bunch of guys and he didn’t walk many. His career BABIP against is only .299, which seems average. You’d think that if you’re BABIP is average but you’re striking out a lot and not walking many, you’d be a great pitcher. Of course, his HR/9 is a little on the high side for the Group of Seven you mentioned:

        Johnson: .9
        Martinez: .8
        Schilling: 1.0
        Mussina: .9
        Smoltz: .7
        Oswalt: .8
        Vazquez: 1.2

        His number is actually higher than league average (which, during his career, has been around 1.1). Is that the difference between Javier Vazquez being a legit Hall of Fame candidate and just being a forgotten guy who happened to strike out over 2500 batters in his career?

  3. 5
    Doug says:

    With Wakefield’s retirement and if Moyer does not return, 2012 will be the sixth straight season with a different active leader (Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, Moyer, Wakefield, Halladay) in career wins.

    In 1965-69, there were different active leaders (Spahn, Roberts, Ford, Drysdale, Bunning) in 5 straight seasons.

    • 6
      vivaeljason says:

      One would think that Halladay would stabilize the leader and hold it down for several years, but I’m curious as to how many more wins Doc has left in the tank.

      He’ll be 35 in May. His contract is up in 2013, and while I don’t see him getting a super-long deal due to his age, one would think that given his track record he could probably get three years somewhere. If that’s the case (and he tails off), then he’s got about five seasons left. Will he get to 250, or is that slightly out of reach? Or am I underestimating his ability to pitch well into his forties?

      Similar idea: Is there anyone active with a reasonable shot at 300? CC Sabathia? Mark Buehrle? Felix Hernandez?

      • 8
        Doug says:

        I give Sabathia the best shot. 8 seasons averaging 15 wins would get him to 296 after his age 38 season.

        For Felix, 13 seasons averaging 16 wins gets him to 293 after his age 38 season (assuming his age is accurate). But, he’ll need to start pitching for better teams to do that.

        Clayton Kershaw, with 15 seasons averaging 17 wins, gets to 302 wins after his age 38 season.

        • 10
          John Autin says:

          Favorite Toy gives Kershaw an 11.3% chance at 300 wins.

        • 14
          Ed says:

          I agree that Sabathia has the best shot. Though obviously weight is an ongoing concern it hasn’t affected him so far. And pitching for the Yankees will give him plenty of opportunities to win games.

          What I find fascinating it that whenever we have a 300 game winner, the media immediately starts proclaiming “enjoy it now, cause this is the last time”. And then 5 years later, we have another one and they go through the same charade again, completely forgetting what they said last time. They’ve been doing this for at least 20-30 years.

          • 24
            Lawrence Azrin says:

            Ed – make it nearly 50 years, they were saying the same thing when Early Wynn won 300 in July 1963.

            Interesting that Clemens and Maddux and Glavine AND Johnson all won 300+ entirely in the five-man rotation era, when that was supposed to make 300-game winners extinct…

          • 25
            Ed says:

            Wynn predates me so I didn’t realize that.

            It is interesting how the 300 game winnners tend to come in bunches. There was along gap after Lefty Grove followed by Spahn and Wynn reaching it within 2 years of each other. Another long gap and then we get Perry, Carlton, Seaver, Niekro, Sutton, and Ryan all close together. Another long gap and then we get Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, Johnson. We’re definitely due for another long gap though I’m not sure we’ll get multiple 300 game winners next time around.

          • 28
            Richard Chester says:

            Wynn does not pre-date me, I remember what a struggle it was for him to get number 300. He was released by the White Sox at the end of the 1962 season with 299 wins. That last win came on 9/8/62. He finally caught on with the Indians on 5/31/63. He managed to get win #300 on 7/13/63 with a 5-inning stint as a starting pitcher. It was the longest gap between a pitcher’s 299th and 300th wins.

          • 30
            Doug says:

            Interesting the number of guys who finished a season at 300 Wins on the nose.

            Plank (1916) if you don’t include his FL wins
            Alexander (1924)
            Grove (1941)
            Wynn (1963)
            Calton (1983)
            Niekro (1985)

            That’s more than a third of the 300 game winners since 1901.

      • 9
        John Autin says:

        Viva — Using the “Favorite Toy” method of Bill James to assess the chance at 300 wins for the players you mentioned:

        — Sabathia, 35.6%
        — King Felix, 6.7%
        — Halladay, 1.8%
        — Buehrle, 0% (winning 13 games every year won’t do it)

        I haven’t seen projections of others, but I suspect Sabathia has the best chance of any active pitcher. Verlander works out to 22.4%.

        Favorite Toy formula is given here:

        • 18
          Dr. Doom says:

          Plus, Sabathia has the luxury of pitching for the Yankees. Being on a team that’s competitive year-in, year-out definitely makes a difference when you’re trying to win 300 games. Even if CC’s average, his record will be better than average, just because his offense will (presumbaly) be able to score a lot of runs for him. That’s a huge plus. I won’t be surprised at all if he does it.

  4. 7
    Doug says:

    Among pitchers who retired after their age 44 season, Wakefield ranks 5th in wins after age 40.

    Young (75), Spahn (75), Clemens (61), Wells (54), Wakefield (49)

  5. 11
    Jimbo says:

    I pick Halladay to get to 300 wins, and no other active player to do it. I predict Sabathia’s weight problems will catch up to him. Halladay seems to have the discipline and mindset and doesn’t seem to get injured anymore. He’s also head and shoulders above the rest in terms of year to year consistency.

    • 27
      Dr. Doom says:

      The pic Andy just posted shows CC lookin’ pretty trim. I’m not saying he’s got the weight problem beat, but perhaps better under control. And, even with the weight issues last year, CC had the top fWAR in the AL – ahead of even Verlander!

      ps – Andy, I’m writing this here so I’m not the first commenter on the latest post.

    • 37
      topper009 says:

      When Randy Johnson was Roy Halladay’s age (after age 34 season) he only had 143 career wins. Of Course the unit did win 4 straight CYs the next 4 seasons and skyrocketed up to 224 wins by the time he was 38.

      Maybe Halladay’s 188 ism’t such a long shot.

  6. 12
    kds says:

    If you look at active leaders at the end of a season, Wakefield’s 200 Wins is the lowest since Tommy Bond had 195 in 1879! His innings pitched total is the lowest since Bobby Matthews finished the season with 3056, also in 1879!

    • 21
      John Autin says:

      kds, what’s your method for determining who’s active?

      I have 1949 as the record low for “active wins leader at end of season.” Through the end of the ’49 season, no one who pitched in 1949 had more than 192 wins (Feller).

      Both Bobo Newsom (205 wins through ’48) and Bucky Walters (198) did not appear in 1949. Walters came back in ’50 (but added no wins), while Newsom did not resurface until ’52, adding 6 wins to is career total over 1952-53.

      • 26
        Doug says:

        The B-R progressive leader board isn’t quite so picky about the meaning of “active”. It shows Newsom as still the active leader for 1949 even though he didn’t play that year (presumably, I guess, since he hadn’t retired).

        On the other hand, Don Drysdale, who was tied in career wins with Bunning at the end of 1969, does not show as sharing the active lead for that season, presumably because he retired before the end of the season.

        The B-R progressive leader board does show exactly what kds is saying in his post – 1879 was the last time there was an active W or IP leader as low as Wafefield.

        • 29
          Richard Chester says:

          It has been my experience that the leaderboard does show players who retired before the end of the season as active leaders. Mel Ott is shown as the active home run leader for the 1947 season even though his career ended during the season. Perhaps Drysdale’s name did not appear because the leaderboard is not able to show two or more names in case of a tie.

        • 31
          John Autin says:

          Thanks for clearing that up.

          I can see points on both sides for different situations. But in this context, I prefer the stricter definition of “active” meaning they played in the year in question.

          It seems silly to call Bobo Newsom the active leader in wins in 1951, despite being 43 years old and 2 full years out of the majors.

          If Minnie Minoso had been the active leader in something at the end of 1964, would you regard him as continuing to be the active leader through 1980, the last of his token appearances? I would not.

          • 32
            vivaeljason says:

            To be fair, John, there’s a difference between a token appearance — or taking years off and coming back — and, for instance, Jamie Moyer who has not retired and only missed 2011 due to injury.

            Another example: Mike Pelfrey is the active leader on the Mets for wins, but before 2011, it was Johan Santana. Santana missed all of 2011 but it’s widely assumed he’ll be back this year. He didn’t retire, nor did he choose to take a year to rest. In my opinion, he’s still active.

          • 34
            Doug says:

            I tend to agree with you, John. Just saying how B-R is apparently interpreting it.

            So, if we agree to disqualify Walters and Newsom for not playing during the year, then the end-of-season active leader for 1949 is Bob Feller, at 192 wins. Guess we can also say he was the active leader at the start of 1950, since Bucky Walters didn’t join the Braves as a free agent until July of that year.

            Active leader was also below 200 wins at the start of 1968 – Jim Bunning at 192.

          • 35
            John Autin says:

            Vivaeljason @32 — I do get the point about Moyer and Santana.

            But it’s a slippery slope, and it comes down to how many ad hoc decisions you want to make. Since I do a lot of searches, I don’t want to make any ad hoc decisions if I can avoid them with a simple rule.

            There are many players who did announce their retirement, some even becoming coaches or managers, but still came back and played a few more games. This was common before WWII, when teams didn’t always carry a full 25-man roster.

            In the case of someone like Newsom, I suppose he hadn’t announced his retirement, since he continued pitching in the minors. I suppose he had every intention of getting back to the bigs. But he had just 25 IP in the majors in 1948, at age 40, then didn’t appear at all for 3 years. The odds of his ever pitching in the majors again were very slim. If you were making decisions about “active leaders” in 1949-50-51, at what point would you have considered Newsom inactive?

            Jose Rijo was out of organized baseball for 5 years, 1996-2000, before coming back for parts of 2 seasons. Surely you would consider him “inactive” for 1996-2000, since there was no prospect of his return. Should we now, looking back with full knowledge of his career, consider him “active” for those 5 years, simply because he returned out of the blue?

          • 36
            vivaeljason says:

            I do not. I think the dividing line for me is one season off. The exception to this is those that missed multiple seasons due to being away for war.

          • 38
            JoshG says:

            I would consider an active player to either:
            a) currently be on a major league roster or
            b) have appeared in a major league game in within the previous two seasons and has not formally announced his retirement since playing in his last game

            This way, you keep anyone who has missed a year for injury, but get rid of anyone who hasn’t retired but consistently can’t get a job.

  7. 13
    Jimbo says:

    I am also very sad to see Wakefield retire. It should be a rule taht MLB always has at least one mid-forties knuckler.

    • 15
      nightfly says:

      Does he have to be any good? Because I can throw a knuckleball. I even actually use my knuckles, not my fingertips. Of course, I’m also only 39.

      I always like Charlie Hough’s attitude about it. When once asked why he became a knuckler, and he replied, “I could throw more fastballs, but I enjoy being in the major leagues.”

      Has anyone else noticed that pro knuckleballers tend to the image of being avuncular, self-deprecating, humble sorts of players? I’ve no idea if the reputation is deserved, but they all seem very down-to-earth. There’s something about the pitch itself that makes them seem approachable.

      • 16
        Tristram12 says:

        Nightfly – good observation. My guess is that you have to have that kind of humble personality to admit to yourself you are not good enough, but you might be if you try this oddball pitch.

      • 20
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        Generally, pitchers don’t turn to the knuckleball until after they have failed to succeed at the MLB level using more conventional pitches. I don’t recall any young pitcher having immediate success in the bigs using mostly a knuckleball (if I’m wrong, please correct me).

        In other words, they were desperate and turned to the knuckleball as a last resort to stay in MLB. Going through some “ups and downs” in their baseball career would make knucklebalers much more likely to have the kind of personality nightfly refers to (nice analysis…).

        I now see that #16/Tristam also made reference to this.

        As a Red Sox fan, I’m really going to miss Wake, seeing him go out on the pitching mound throwing a pitch that had millions of fans thinking to themselves “Hey, I could do that, for a whole lot less money…”. Of course, we fans _could not_ do that, or at least not with the same results.

        • 22
          Ed says:

          Wakefield was actually quite successful as a 25 year old in the bigs. Thirteen starts, 8-1 record, 2.15 ERA, 161 ERA+, 2 complete game victories in the playoffs. He then “lost it” the following year and it took him a while to reestablish himself.

          Interestingly, Wakefield was not a failed pitcher. He was a failed first baseman who took up the knuckleball in the minors as a last gasp attempt to prolong his career. I guess you could say it worked. 🙂

          Charlie Hough also had his first success in the majors as a knuckleballer at age 25.

    • 33
      Smithyy says:

      Someone should sign me then. Ha-ha

  8. 23
    Ed says:

    BTW, here’s some random trivia for the day…former knuckleballer Tom Candiotti is a member of the Hall of Fame. The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame. I kid you not.

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