Thursday, June 11, 2009

Let's calm down with Wakefield All-Star talk

A reporter asked Tim Wakefield after Wednesday night's win over the Yankees what he thought about the possibility of making the All-Star team.

"It would be huge," Wakefield said. "It’s one thing that you want in a career is to make an All-Star team. We’ve won two World Series. Just add it to the list of things that you say you’ve accomplished in your career. Obviously, it would be nice to make a team, and, hopefully, I can continue to pitch the way I’ve been pitching and finally make one after 14, 15 years."

He's right. It would be nice. He's had a terrific career, and the fact that he's never made an All-Star team is a little hard to believe. If he hadn't spent April of 1995 buried in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and May of 1995 at Triple-A Pawtucket, he would have made the All-Star team that year. By the end of that season, he had a 2.95 ERA in 27 starts, including six complete games, and he finished third in the Cy Young Award voting.

But he's spent most of his career as a decent end-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. He's never had the outstanding numbers -- his ERA usually winds up between 4.50 and 5.00 -- to warrant inclusion in the All-Star Game.

This year, apparently, some are wondering if Wakefield has done enough to earn a spot. He all but carried the Red Sox rotation through the month of April, and his eight wins are good for a tie for second in the American League. Since wins are what it's all about, send him off to St. Louis, right?

It's not that simple. Wins, as should be obvious by now, are the byproduct of all kinds of things -- and by any other measurement, Wakefield has been a pretty average pitcher this season. Check out the American League pitching leaderboard:

1. Zack Grienke: 1.55
29. Kevin Slowey: 4.21
30. Andy Pettitte: 4.22
31. Bartolo Colon: 4.23
League average: 4.49
32. Tim Wakefield: 4.50
33. Carl Pavano: 4.62
34. Brian Bannister: 4.69

1. Zack Grienke: 284
26. Scott Richmond: 110
27. Gil Meche: 108
28. Brian Tallet: 107
29. Andy Pettitte: 106
30. Tim Wakefield: 106
League average: 100

Walks/hits per inning pitched
1. Zack Grienke: 0.966
26. Jeff Niemann: 1.374
27. Joba Chamberlain: 1.399
28. Tim Wakefield: 1.400
29. Trevor Cahill: 1.402
30. Cliff Lee: 1.409
League average: 1.410

When you're picking All-Stars, you're picking guys like Grienke, Jered Weaver (2.31 ERA), Erik Bedard (2.47 ERA) and Roy Halladay (2.52 ERA). Even someone like Josh Beckett (3.77 ERA) might get left out despite the no-hit bids he's now turning in on a regular basis.

Wakefield has been a slightly-above-average pitcher this season. That's exactly what the Red Sox have needed him to be, and that's what he is. Against the Yankees on Wednesday, he allowed three earned runs in six innings -- the minimum standard for a quality start. He wasn't dominant. He was effective. He kept his team in the game.

"Every time we talk about Wake, you look up in the sixth or seventh, and you have a chance to win," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He finds a way."

That's all the Red Sox are looking for out of their fifth starter. But it's not what you're looking for out of an All-Star.

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