Originally posted on The Flagrant Fan  |  Last updated 2/18/12

Tim Wakefield retired yesterday after a long career, most of it spent with the Boston Red Sox. Wakefield, of course, was a knuckleball pitcher and member of a small club of such pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball. Knuckleball pitchers are an oddity and we baseball fans love them. Why though? Perhaps we love knuckleball pitchers because it doesn't take an elite arm to throw one. Such pitchers can pitch on little rest and seemingly, with little effort. Knuckleball pitchers can pitch well into their forties. And, of course, we have a Bob Uecker's wonderful description of how to catch one ("Wait until it stops rolling and pick it up").
Whenever a player has played as long as Wakefield has, we usually try to put such a career into perspective. And, no, Tim Wakefield is never going to be a candidate for the Hall of Fame. So we can't write that kind of post. After all, Wakefield's closest comps on baseball.reference.com are Chuck Finley and Livan Hernandez. Since knuckleball pitchers are a rarity, we can put Wakefield's career in perspective compared to other knuckleball pitchers over the history of baseball. That's what this post will do.
The hardest thing to do to compile such a list is first determining who the knuckleball pitchers were through history. Fortunately, such a list exists and was culled as the starting point of this little research project. Using this list of names and looking up all the careers of the players on the list, and going by accumulated rWAR, Tim Wakefield is the ninth best knuckleball pitcher ever. Here is the list:

  1. Phil Niekro - 96.8 rWAR
  2. Ted Lyons - 58.8 - 19.2 of his rWAR was accumulated before he started throwing the pitch in 1929.
  3. Eddie Cicotte - 49.7 - banned from baseball after the 1920 season for his part in the Black Sox scandal  of 1919.
  4. Dutch Leonard - 45.6
  5. Wilbur Wood - 45
  6. Hoyt Wilhelm - 41.3 - Only a starter one season. The rest was in relief.
  7. Tom Candiotti - 41
  8. Charlie Hough - 37.5 - Did not become a starting pitcher until his thirteenth big league season.
  9. Tim Wakefield - 31.6
  10. Joe Niekro - 30.2 - Also compiled some WAR before converting to the knuckleball full time.
  11. Bob Purkey - 26.5
  12. Hal Brown - 16.6
  13. Johnny Niggeling - 15.6


While we're at it, we might as well list the best pitching years ever by a knuckleball pitcher. Wakefield won't make this list. His best season was 1995 when he accumulated 4.6 rWAR.

  1. Wilbur Wood (1971) - 10.7 rWAR
  2. Ed Cicotte (1917) - 10.0
  3. Phil Niekro (1978) - 9.1
  4. Hoyt Wilhelm (1959) - 7.4 - His only year as a full time starter. And what a year!
  5. Bob Purkey (1962) - 7.2 - Amazing year for the Pirates that season.
  6. Joe Niekro (1982) - 7.1


Tim Wakefield had a productive career and being ninth all time among his pitching peers is pretty darned good. He was a fan favorite in Boston and his pitching of the last couple of seasons won't be missed, but he will be.

Spreadsheet and notes. Click on the the image to make it larger.





GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Rob Manfred: No significant rule changes in 2017, blames MLBPA

Report: Zach Britton has potential oblique injury

The Rock returns to WWE, leaves CM Punk a voicemail after 'Raw'

After outfield collision, Ichiro pranks teammate and claims he’s been cut

Simeon Rice gets vulgar with radio host over HOF debate

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ronda Rousey to be guest star on NBC’s ‘Blindspot’

Lakers replace Jim Buss with Magic Johnson, fire Kupchak

Report: James Harrison, Steelers share mutual interest in 2017 return

Jimmy Garoppolo’s mom keeping him up to speed on his trade rumors

Report: Clippers intent on keeping both Blake Griffin, Chris Paul

Slam dunks and startups: How all-star technology took over the NBA in The Big Easy

Nintendo is finally, thankfully embracing sports and eSports

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

Will the Timberwolves start showcasing their potential?

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

Box Score 2/21: It's trade heartbreak season

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams and players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Movies you can stream now to get your football fix

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Nintendo is finally, thankfully embracing sports and eSports

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

Will the Timberwolves start showcasing their potential?

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 100 games with two different teams

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams, players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker