Wakefield joined Varitek in being enshrined in the Red Sox Hall of Fame this year, but similar to his former teammate, his value to the Red Sox was far beyond what his numbers indicate.
A 200-180 career record and 4.41 ERA doesn’t pop out as Hall of Fame worthy, but the 186 wins he piled up in a Red Sox uniform are the third most in franchise history. The 26.5 WAR he produced in Boston puts him 10th among Red Sox pitchers, per FanGraphs. Those career accomplishments are a credit to his impressive longevity, as the effortless release of his knuckleball allowed him to stay on the mound until he was 44 years old. He spent 19 seasons in the big leagues, 17 of which came with the Red Sox.
Wakefield finished third in Cy Young voting in his first season in Boston back in 1995, but never earned another vote after that. He made his lone All-Star appearance in 2009, which was more of a lifetime achievement award than a sign that he was among the league’s top pitchers that year.
The nature of the knuckleball invited inconsistency, skewing his overall numbers, but fans will remember that when Wakefield had a feel for the pitch he could be as unhittable as any pitcher in baseball. He was also invaluable for his durability and versatility, a pitcher who was unique for his ability to bounce between the rotation and the bullpen to fill any role the team required of him. He could toss nine innings or be used for only one. He could pitch in long relief and even temporarily severed as Boston’s closer.
Wake was a true team player, which earned him the respect of his teammates and Red Sox Nation. Unfortunately it’s unlikely to earn him many Hall of Fame votes.