Did Wakefield Mess With The Jays?

From Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun:

“A week ago today the Blue Jays faced Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield at Fenway Park.

“I just hope,” Cito Gaston told radio announcer Jerry Howarth on the manager’s pre-game show, “that Wakefield doesn’t mess up the swings of our hitters for a couple of days.”

The Jays have not won since.

As a team, the Jays have hit .249 (60-for-241) since Wakefield’s first pitch to Scutaro a week ago tonight.

With men in scoring position, the Jays are down more than .100 points to .138 (8-for-58).

The Jays scored one run in Wakefield’s start. Then, three, then one.

In Atlanta, the count was zero, three and two.

And yesterday one.

That’s a total of 11 runs in their seven losses, which might be enough of an output to win some soccer games, but zero ball games.”

It’s an interesting theory, for sure, and I looked deep into the Internet to find statistical evidence. I eventually discovered a fascinating conversation on a site called “The Book – Playing the Percentages in Baseball.” Here, somebody undertook the painstaking task of researching Wakefield’s 2007 data, and evaluating how relievers fared, when compared to following other Red Sox pitchers.

Of course, this is no indication of an extended slump, but it’s a convenient excuse for Vernon Wells.

From “The Book” –

“I looked at 2007 game logs where Tim Wakefield was the starting pitcher. His relievers collectively allowed 22 earned runs in 82 inninings for a 2.41 ERA. Here is a list of the relievers and there numbers in games Wake started or did not:

w/ 10 IP 06 H 01 BB 08 K 00 ER (0.00 ERA)
w/o 59 IP 44 H 16 BB 55 K 17 ER (2.59 ERA)

w/ 14.0 IP 10 H 08 BB 12 K 07 ER (4.50 ERA)
w/o 40.1 IP 35 H 24 BB 39 K 16 ER (3.57 ERA)

w/ 04.0 IP 04 H 1 BB 02 K 2 ER (4.50 ERA)
w/o 16.2 IP 15 H 4 BB 13 K 2 ER (1.08 ERA)

w/ 10.2 IP 06 H 03 BB 17 K 00 ER (0.00 ERA)
w/o 47.2 IP 24 H 12 BB 67 K 12 ER (2.27 ERA)

w/ 06.2 IP 06 H 00 BB 03 K 02 ER (2.70 ERA)
w/o 48.2 IP 40 H 14 BB 28 K 19 ER (3.51 ERA)

w/ 06 IP 07 H 00 BB 02 K 02 ER (3.00 ERA)
w/o 28 IP 34 H 14 BB 18 K 17 ER (5.46 ERA)

w/ 06.2 IP 06 H 05 BB 3 K 0 ER (0.00 ERA)
w/o 13.1 IP 18 H 10 BB 8 K 7 ER (4.73 ERA)

w/ 09.2 IP 07 H 06 BB 10 K 1 ER (0.93 ERA)
w/o 34.1 IP 21 H 11 BB 31 K 9 ER (2.36 ERA)

w/ 04.1 IP 08 H 04 BB 03 K 03 ER (6.23 ERA)
w/o 36.1 IP 28 H 14 BB 60 K 14 ER (3.47 ERA)

Gagne (Boston only)
w/ 02.0 IP 04 H 0 BB 03 K 2 ER (9.00 ERA)
w/o 16.2 IP 22 H 9 BB 19 K 12 ER (6.48 ERA)

w/ 001.1 IP 005 H 01 BB 00 K 03 ER (20.26 ERA)
w/o 133.1 IP 146 H 50 BB 77 K 74 ER (5.00 ERA)

w/ 03.0 IP 01 H 2 BB 03 K 0 ER (0.00 ERA)
w/o 19.2 IP 13 H 8 BB 19 K 4 ER (1.83 ERA)

w/ 3.2 IP 0 H 1 BB 4 K 0 ER (0.00 ERA)
w/o 5.2 IP 6 H 3 BB 2 K 2 ER (3.17 ERA)

Here is the collective performance:

w/ 080.2 IP 065 H 031 BB 070 K 019 ER (2.12 ERA)
w/o 366.1 IP 300 H 139 BB 359 K 131 ER (3.22 ERA)

That ERA edge appears substantial (over a full run less following Wakefield).

Conclusion? Well this is far too limited a sample to prove anything and does not account for opponents or parks. But it is a data point that would suggest that there is some type of short term lingering effect from facing a knuckleballer.”

Interesting. Maybe Cito was on to something, although clearly it’s a deeper problem. “Timing” is the other word of the day, as written by Jeff Seidel on MLB.com:

“The Blue Jays remain the American League’s top hitting team (.284 average after Sunday’s loss to the Braves) and first in hits (474 in 47 games), but timing is everything — and Toronto isn’t getting those hits at the right time.

During the six-game skid, the Blue Jays are hitting just .248, and only .143 with runners in scoring position.

“It’s been about getting timely hits,” Gaston said. “In the first part of the season … we got a lot of timely hits. We’re just not getting [hits] with guys in scoring position. That will beat you every time.”

Gaston has a point here. Early in the season, the Jays came through in pretty much every clutch situation. They were winning tight games, and hitters could do no wrong. I’ve written before that it’s too early to panic, and that still holds true. Boston and New York both got off to awful starts this season, and they’ve rebounded nicely. The Jays had an incredible month of May last season, which was masked by a bad April. Streaks happen, and they’ll continue to happen. I believe the Jays will break the slump soon, and they will need to.

There really is no need for excuses – The team just needs to hit better. For now, though, we can use Wakefield, if it makes anyone feel better.

Elliott is here.
The Book is here.
Seidel is here.


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