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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A quick take on Knuckleball Pitchers in the MLB (by request)

RA Dickey, the MLB's only current knuckleballer, is 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA so far this season. Dickey's stats in his past six starts; 6-0;  allowed just 2 runs, 1 earned, for an ERA of 0.18; 63 strikeouts; just 5 walks allowed; and just 20 hits against. That is phenomenal. Especially only allowing 5 walks in that time frame as a knuckleball pitcher, as the Knuckleball is the hardest pitch to throw for a strike. In his past two starts, Dickey has thrown complete game 1-hitters. Just Sick. He is the first player since 1944 to accomplish that feat.                                  more after the jump.

The reason, Dickey, is the only current MLB pitcher to use the knuckleball, is it's extremely difficult to throw. The knuckleball is the toughest pitch to master, because the pitcher generally has no idea where it is going once it leaves his hand. To control the knuckleball, and throw it effectively, one must spend years practicing and perfecting it. With so few pitchers throwing it throughout the history of the MLB, it is difficult to get the proper teaching. If one can master the knuckleball, they are likely to have a long MLB career, because of the low velocity of the pitch. The knuckleball is the least stressful pitch one can throw. Most knuckleball pitchers can pitch effectively into there mid 40's.

There are two different knuckleballs; a slower one that dips and dives more, and appears to float to the plate and a harder/faster one that doesn't dip and dive quite as much, but gets to the plate faster.

Part of the key to RA Dickey's success is that he can throw both, and throw both types effectively. Dickey usually throws a fast knuckleball(knuckleball that is above 76 MilesPerHour) when he is ahead in the count. This is his "out pitch" He has touched 79 MPH on his knuckleball consistently when the count is 1-2 or 0-2. This is extremely fast for a knuckleball. The average speed for a knuckleball varies, but is generally between 72MPH and 76MPH. Dickey uses his slow knuckleball much like a normal pitcher uses his fastball. Generally, throwing it early in at-bats to try and ahead in the count, and set up his out pitch. He does this because the slower knuckler is easier to control.(relatively speaking). Dickey has great control of both pitches, for a knuckleballer, which affords him the ability to throw his knuckler almost exclusively.

A well thrown knuckleball is the toughest pitch in the major leagues to hit. Why? Because it can move one of four ways; up, down, left, or right. Often times the pitch moves two or more different ways on the way to the plate. So the batter knows whats coming, but he has no idea which way the pitch is going to move, or where it is going to cross the plate.

Notable knuckleball pitchers include; Tim Wakefield(200 wins, pitched until he was 45), Hoyt Wilhelm(Hall of Famer, one of the first elite relief pitchers in baseball, one no-hitter, pitched until he was 50), Phil Niekro(Hall of Famer. His 318 wins are the most of any knuckleballer. Pitched in 864 games.), Joe Niekro(221 wins), Lew Moren(One of four pitchers credited with inventing the knuckleball in the early 1900's), Charlie Hough(216 wins. Pitched in 858 games.), Jesse Haines(Turned an average career into a Hall of Fame one, when he learned the knuckleball.), Eddie Cicotte(another man credited with inventing the knuckleball. He was also a ringleader in the 1919 "blacksox" scandal. He won 208 games before he was banned from Baseball forever.)

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