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Astros History: Wild Joe Niekro

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. Baseball
A pitch that should have been fielded by the catcher but was missed, allowing a runner to advance a base.

wild pitch

n. Baseball
An 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.

The determination between a wild pitch and a passed ball is left up to the official scorer. And there you have it, onto Joe Niekro.
Now I say 32 games because he was traded mid-season to the New York Yankees. September 15, 1985, ended up being that fateful day for Niekro. He was traded for three players Jim Deshaies, Neder Horta and Dody Rather. He would pitch in 36 games over three seasons for the Yankees before finishing up his career with the Minnesota Twins.

One interesting note is that leading the league in wild pitches didn't seem to have a whole of an effect on his overall success: In 1979 he posted an ERA of 3.00; in 1982 he posted an ERA of 2.47; in 1983 he posted an ERA of 3.04; and in 1985 he posted an ERA of 3.83.