Can a Knuckleball Pitch Work As Just Part of a Mix?

If you’re regularly pitching a knuckleball at the pro level, it should be, by far, your primary pitch. That’s what the full-time knuckleballers tend to say. As we noted last week, during his struggle for mastery of the knuckleball Eddie Gamboa felt obliged to restrain an admittedly excessive tendency to revert to fastballs, a pitch with which he was more comfortable. His fastball just doesn’t have the same potential to discombobulate the batter, though. If it did, Gamboa would not have been encouraged to take up the knuckleball full-time to begin with.

Many pitchers sling a decent but not extraordinary fastball; few can unleash a decent—and by definition extraordinary, because rare—knuckleball.

Heart Breakers winWhich doesn’t mean that the knuckleball can’t be a good back-up pitch in certain circumstances. Maybe wiffle ball games are among the circumstances. Wes Perreault is a pitcher for the Heart Breakers, which beat the Know It Alls to win the annual Courier Wiffle Ball Classic last weekend. And, reports Emily Lake of the Fosters Daily Democrat, he has a knuckleball:

Perreault…is the current Wiffle Ball gold standard. His team, the Rochester-based Heart Breakers, have won three of the last four Courier Cups, and he is a three-time MVP….

“He just mixes it up well,” said Wolfeboro’s Tim DiPrizio, a local Wiffle Ball sage who pitched the Woodchucks to four Courier Cup titles in the 1990s. “It seems like he doesn’t throw the same pitch twice and he keeps it down. He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s awesome in the field. First you’ve got to hit it. Then you’ve got to get it by him.”

Perreault grew up playing backyard Wiffle Ball with his older brother, Ryan, who also plays in the tournament with the Know It Alls (champs in 2006, 2007).

“This is where I found my curve ball and knuckle ball,” Perreault said. “I throw five different pitches: curve ball, knuckleball, riser, slider and screwball.”

He tends to only use his knuckleball and curve ball as strikeout pitches.

Hey, whatever works. But we suggest that if Perreault one day makes the switch from wiffle ball to, say, MLB baseball, and can bring a sufficiently wily knuckleball with him, he may want to radically recalibrate his ratio of knuckleball pitches to other-stuff pitches.

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There’s a video going around about how you can learn the knuckleball in “three minutes.” Uh…. Let’s just say it’s a good thing it’s supposedly about rapid mastering of soccer’s supposed “knuckleball,” otherwise we’d be really annoyed. (Bad enough that there’s a kick in soccer which anybody even literarily-licentiously calls a “knuckleball.” [As we have explained.])

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