After surgery, Wakefield has plans for 2010 and beyond

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Tim Wakefield had surgery Wednesday to repair a herniated disk in his back and said afterward that “everything went awesome.”
He’ll likely be cleared to begin normal offseason training in 4-6 weeks and the Red Sox are expected to pick up his perpetual $4 million option for 2010. In fact, the 43-year-old knuckleballer said yesterday that he has plans to pitch beyond next season.
Wakefield is 11 wins short of 200 for his career and 17 wins away from tying Roger Clemens and Cy Young for the Red Sox’s franchise lead with 192 victories. He’s apparently aiming for both marks, which would almost surely involve pitching through at least 2011.
“Past that, I really can’t tell you,” Wakefield said. “I’m not planning on getting to that point and retiring, if that’s the question you’re asking. I still feel like I can contribute. I still feel like I can compete at the highest level, and I’m going to continue to play as long as my body allows me and as long as the Red Sox want me around.”
Health is obviously the biggest key for Wakefield, because before being sidelined by back problems he went 11-3 with a 4.31 ERA in the first half to make his first All-Star team. He’s posted an ERA in the 4.00s in each of the past seven seasons, so while it’s tough for the Red Sox to count on a 43-year-old knuckleballer with a bad back, prior to the injury he’d shown no indication that his days as a solid fourth starter were over.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.