Results tagged ‘ Knuckleball ’

Steven Wright: The “New” R. A. Dickey

In the history of Major League Baseball, there have been very few pitchers who have actually succeeded in mastering the knuckleball to the point where they were able to absolutely dominate opposing batters on a consistent basis. For the most part, pitchers who throw the knuckleball are ineffective, and have up-and-down, short-lived careers.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Seattle MarinersHowever, as with anything, there are always a few exceptions — Phil Niekro, Tim Wakefield, etc. — with the latest example of that being Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox. Through four games started this season, Steven Wright has a 1.37 ERA, with a tick under one strikeout per inning pitched. Following an ERA of 4.09 in 2015, Wright appears to have figured things out.

On Wednesday night alone, Wright went seven strong innings against the Braves (given, Atlanta isn’t exactly a powerhouse team this season), striking out eight and giving up just two runs (only one earned run) in Boston’s 9-4 win. 

Due to his great performance to this point in the season, Wright has subsequently taken over the leading role of most dominant MLB knuckleballer, recently held by R.A. Dickey (the only other active knuckleball thrower).

With Toronto this season, Dickey has recorded a subpar 6.75 ERA, and hasn’t been all that terribly great since he took home the Cy Young award in 2012 with the Mets. That season — the only extremely fantastic season of his career — Dickey posted a 2.73 ERA over 33 starts, while striking out 230 batters, but he’s gone 40-40 with a 4.06 ERA since then.

Steven Wright didn’t actually appear in the big leagues until the season after Dickey had his breakout year, but it appears that Wright is on the verge of having a special season as a knuckleball pitcher much like the one of Dickey in 2012.

Boston could certainly continue to use successful outings from him, as their other starters hold ERA’s above 3.51, with David Price possessing a 5.76 and Joe Kelly unbelievably having a 9.35 ERA over three starts. For that reason, Steven Wright is currently being looked at as the surprising Ace of the staff, and has been a welcome surprise for the Red Sox so far this year.

While I’m not necessarily saying that Steven Wright’s 2016 season will end up being as successful as R.A. Dickey’s 2012 campaign, with him winning the Cy Young, it is definitely a positive sign for Wright of great things to come. I imagine not even Wright himself would have envisioned this good of a start to the season when things began back on April 4th, but every given baseball season is much like the knuckleball pitch itself: You never know where it’s going to wind up.

Kyle Gibson Outstanding In Coldest Ever Twins Game

Kyle Gibson was at one time ranked as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. However, after Tommy John surgery left him sidelined for a good deal of time, and a short 2013 major league stint left more to be desired (going 2-4 with a 6.53 ERA), the hope that Gibson would develop into the future front man for the Twins’ pitching staff began to fade away.20140411__140412GIBSON_300

But so far this season, Gibson has been proving people wrong. Nothing seems to be able to stop his great pitching — not even the coldest game-time temperature in Twins’ baseball history of a bone-chilling 31 degrees.

While cold days arguably lead to a disadvantage for hitters, with the ball not carrying as well as it usually does, cool temperatures also typically lead to poorer pitching performances. But on this day, Kyle Gibson was terrific, despite the cold weather that usually plays havoc on a pitcher’s effectiveness.

Controlling all his pitches on both sides of the plate, Gibson was able to keep the opposing hitters off balance the entire game. No one was able to figure him out throughout his eight inning shutout, earning him win number three on the year to go along with an impressive 0.93 ERA.

Things didn’t go as smoothly for Blue Jays’ starter R.A. Dickey, however.

Throwing a knuckleball the majority of the time, as he always does, Dickey didn’t have much break on any of his pitches throughout the game. Giving up five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning before being removed from the game, Dickey was far from his former Cy Young self, as has been the case for much of this season. Hopefully he can turn things around, as he can be fun to watch when things are going well.

With their pitchers beginning to click behind Kyle Gibson, and their offense running fairly efficiently, the Twins are beginning to slowly make the turn towards becoming a better team. While it will likely be another year or two before they’re making a ton of noise, with more top prospects yet to come, in Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer, among others, things are looking up for the Twins as an organization.

Tim Wakefield Retires From Baseball

Long time knuckleballer for the Boston Red Sox, Tim Wakefield, announced earlier today that he’s retiring from the game of baseball. You had a feeling that this news was coming, as Wakefield is fairly old for a Major League ball player, at 45, but I thought he’d at least last another season or so. Although ballplayers rarely play until age 45, the fact that Wakefield used his knuckleball as the primary pitch of his arsenal enabled him to extend his career due to the limited stress put on his arm. Wakefield’s retirement makes R.A. Dickey, of the New York Mets, the lone active MLB Pitcher with the knuckleball as his main pitch.

Tim Wakefield broke into the major leagues on July 31st, 1992 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After a successful first season with the Pirates in which he went 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA, Wakefield quickly lost his stellar stuff as he went on to go 6-11 with a 5.61 ERA in the 1993 season. After spending most of the next season in the Minors (due to the poor 1993 season) the Pirates apparently felt he was a lost cause as they released him when the season was over. A mere 6 days after Wakefield was released by the Pirates he was signed by the Boston Red Sox. The rest is history.

CAREER STATS AND INFORMATION

Tim Wakefield had a great MLB career no mater how you slice it. He recorded his 200th career win on September 13rd of this year. 186 of those wins came in a Red Sox uniform, which puts him third all-time for Red Sox team wins, behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens who had 192 in their Boston careers. Of those 186 wins he achieved while playing for Boston, 97 came at Fenway park–second all time behind Roger Clemens who had 100 wins at Fenway. One stat that Wakefield leads in is innings pitched in a Red Sox uniform. Wakefield spent 3,006 innings on the mound as a Red Sox player–229 more than Roger Clemens who had 2,777. Wakefield was also part of the 2004 and 2007 World Series winning teams. So add that to his resumé.

A lesser known fact about Tim Wakefield, however far more important than stats, is how involved he is in the community. Wakefield was nominated for the Roberto Clemente award 10 times in his career, and won the award in 2010. Although Wakefield will never play another game at Fenway park, his involvement with the community is going to continue for years to come.

To sum it all up I’ll end this entry with a few lines from Tim Wakefield’s retirement press conference held earlier today:

This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…..So it’s with a heavy heart that I stand here today…..and I’m sad to say that I have decided to retire from this wonderful game of baseball…..I have to thank the Red Sox fans. You are the greatest fans in the world. I have enjoyed every minute of every game I have ever played for you…..I was  fortunate enough to play 17 years here. It’s been a great one. I’ve been very blessed.