It's some what fitting that a day after facing a knuckleballer we discuss a knuckleballer who played for the Astros. In this Joe Niekro edition we'll be looking at his wild pitches, which could easily be confused with passed balls. Something the current Astros catchers struggle with.
Before we breakdown Niekro's wild pitches let's look at the difference between a passed ball and a wild pitch.
According to The Free Dictionary:
passed ball (pst)n. BaseballA pitch that should have been fielded by the catcher but was missed, allowing a runner to advance a base.
wild pitchn. BaseballAn erratic pitch that the catcher cannot be expected to catch and that enables a base runner to advance.
As you may have guessed by now Niekro had 128 wild pitches in his 11 seasons with the Astros (it's game number 128 today if you hadn't guessed). Four times he led the league in wild pitches with the Astros, and for his career. In 1979 and 1982 he lead the league with 19 wild pitches. In 1983 he lead the league with 14 wild pitches, and in 1985 in 32 games he lead the league with 21 wild pitches.