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June 27, 2016 6:00 am
Knuckleballers are a fickle breed, but is there reason to believe Steven Wright can sustain his success?
Knuckleballers confuse the hell out of me. As far as I’m concerned, they may as well have strolled right out of Area 51 and onto the pitcher’s mound because I don’t know what to do with them. My strategy in the past—and by the past, I mean, when it has come to R.A. Dickey—has been to simply avoid knuckleballers because I don’t believe projection systems handle them very well.
A salute to a very special group.
Earlier this week, Angels starter C.J. Wilson threw a knuckleball—or so he said. Whether what left his hand was the genuine article is a matter of some uncertainty, which we’ll attempt to resolve before this article is over. Regardless of whether Wilson deserves induction into the knuckleball club, though, his claim made me wonder what other knuckleball news I might have missed. If a 33-year-old can break one out without warning in his 10th big-league season, who’s to say another knuckler hasn’t made an uncredited appearance at some point in the past several seasons? Knuckleballers, like ring-bearers, are entitled to retire to Valinor, so it’s important that we don’t leave anyone out.
Fortunately, pitch-tracking technology has made knuckleballs much easier to monitor. Over the seven-plus seasons for which PITCHf/x has been active, Pitch Info (aka Harry Pavlidis) has tagged 23, 922 pitches as knuckleballs, thereby establishing them as superior to every other offering. For those precious pitches, we have 11 men to thank, classified below by their relationship to and reliance on the pitch.
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