Match up number four is Tim Wakefield vs. Andy Pettitte
It’s hard to believe that Tim Wakefield is still pitching in the bigs after 16 seasons. He may be the last knuckleball pitcher to have a long and productive career in the majors since many teams look at them as glorified batting practice pitchers and a liability at the backend of the rotation. What’s surprising about Wakefield is that he still has the ability to get hitters out with a knuckleball, a basic curveball and a high school fastball. And despite a bad back he has stayed out on the mound with a good amount of frequency over the past two seasons, pitching an average of 185 innings with an ERA of 4.45. Those are some respectable numbers from a number four starter.
Andy Pettitte, on the other hand, spent his last four seasons of his career at the top end of both the Houston Astro and the New York Yankee rotations. Clearly last year he fell off a little but he has been a steady arm and a reliable 200 innings for the past four seasons. He has also has a better K/BB ratio than Wakefield over that time period and he also allows far fewer home runs (79 to 101).
The last thing that needs to be mentioned about these two pitchers is reliability. Though Pettitte is prone to getting knocked around like every pitcher, the likelihood of him laying an egg is far lower than that of Wakefield and most of that has to do with the knuckleball. It is an unpredictable pitch and that translates to unpredictable results.
Verdict: Perhaps this was never a fair match up for the Sox and if you asked them maybe they would say Wake is the fifth starter. But that Brad Penny/John Smoltz/Others fifth spot is still in the air to much to jump Wakefield who has a guaranteed slot. All that aside, this one goes easily to the Yankees. Pettitte has the better track record in terms of performance and durability. Wakefield does a fine job at the backend of the Sox rotation and he is perfectly respectable in the position of a five starter and to an extent of a fourth. But Andy Pettitte is of a different pedigree than Wakefield. He is a pitcher who can step up and be fully capable of being a three or even a number two on any given day and because of that he is a step above most other fourth starters. Yanks take a commanding 3-1 lead.