Wakefield allowing fly balls to leave the park
After beginning the season 4-1 with an ERA less than 3.00, Tim Wakefield has struggled a bit of late, allowing five or more earned runs in three of his past four starts. The problem has been one that has plagued Wakefield throughout his long major league career: giving up homers when his knuckleball hangs over the plate. As a pitcher with a below-average strikeout rate and a low ground ball-to-fly ball ratio, Wakefield's success often is dependent on being able to keep the ball in the park. He allowed only one home run on 76 fly balls in his first six starts (well less than the MLB average of 7.6 percent of fly balls that go for home runs) but has given up four homers on 53 fly balls since then, with three of those home runs coming on pitches on the upper half of the plate. With the Red Sox facing a Tigers lineup that ranks fifth in the majors with a home run per fly ball rate of 8.9 percent this season, you would be wise to keep Wakefield out of your lineup Thursday.