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Monday, October 29, 2012

Jeremy Stahl: Master of the Knuckleball.

Then, in 2005, Rangers management convinced Dickey that his best hope of having a life in the big leagues was to turn himself into a knuckleball pitcher, or what he described in his book as “the baseball equivalent of a carnival act.” The knuckleball, a slow pitch with virtually no rotation that is infamous for its wild movement and its near impossibility to control, is one that pitchers generally only ever come to late in their careers after more traditional routes have failed them. Only a tiny number of players have successfully tamed the pitch to a sufficient degree to throw it at the top level, and Dickey is currently the only knuckleballer in the Majors.

I have the power!

Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: October 29, 2012 at 07:10 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: beards, comebacks, knuckleballers, mets

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   1. puck Posted: October 29, 2012 at 09:57 PM (#4287935)
I'm surprised this one drew no comments. It's an interview, maybe some of it is old stuff. Or maybe there's just nothing to say other than the game is better with RA Dickey in it.
   2. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: October 30, 2012 at 02:22 AM (#4288089)
Very true.

The only really remarkable thing, imo, is that there's only one, ONE! knuckleballer currently in the majors. It's easy to underestimate how incredibly difficult it is to throw a baseball past major league hitters, but with the fantastic amount of money in the game I'm amazed there aren't a couple of guys who can go six innings with an ERA around 4.75 with a knuckler. You'd think every single minor leaguer who had struggled or was over 25 would have given it a serious try at some point.

That might be a thousand guys in the past decade. Throw in every catcher and middle infielder who can't catch on, and every single pitcher who can't quite cut it in the majors any more, then add every guy who seems condemned to the indy leagues, and you might be up to five thousand potential knuckleballers, WAGgily speaking.
   3. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: October 30, 2012 at 02:26 AM (#4288091)
[2]It's funny that his emergence came at pretty much the same time that Wakefield was headed out. It's almost as if there's a universal law: conservation of knuckleballers.
   4. Shock Posted: October 30, 2012 at 03:24 AM (#4288095)
I have to admit, I am pretty much dickeyed out at this point.
   5. Bug Selig Posted: October 30, 2012 at 07:28 AM (#4288118)
#2 - I feel pretty much the same way. It should be just about every pitcher's (or even crappy hitter, as you say) last resort as he's scratching and clawing to stay in the game. (My first thought was "hanging on by his fingernails" but that seemed too corny.)
   6. spycake Posted: October 30, 2012 at 09:09 AM (#4288147)
It's easy to underestimate how incredibly difficult it is to throw a baseball past major league hitters, but with the fantastic amount of money in the game I'm amazed there aren't a couple of guys who can go six innings with an ERA around 4.75 with a knuckler.

I think maybe you're underestimating how incredibly difficult it is to throw a knuckleball past major league hitters, even consistently enough to eat innings or post a 4.75 ERA.

Dickey was almost a 4.75 ERA type pitcher already through 2005, pre-knuckleball (career MLB ERA+ of 90). Then it apparently took him 4-5 years of focusing on and practicing with the pitch, at the AAA and MLB levels, before he became capable of sticking in the majors with it in 2010.

Tim Wakefield is a better example for your proposition, but I suspect there's a reason he's such a unique case, and it's not because others haven't tried.
   7. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: October 30, 2012 at 06:35 PM (#4288743)
@6: I probably am underestimating it, but of the 5,000 arms I guessed at, what percent seriously tried the knuckler, at least to the point of reasonably ruling it out? I'd be surprised if as many as 10 percent of those not ruled out by a lack of raw ability tried it.

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