Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that Dickey
on Thursday held the Phillies to a season-low one run and three hits with eight strikeouts over seven innings. He also didn’t walk any batters for the first time in 12 starts, a significant development because Dickey blamed an unusually high walk percentage for much of his struggles this season.
Dickey said the knuckleball was “the best it’s been all year” because it was moving a lot and late. The frustration he expressed after his previous start was replaced by optimism that he’s tamed his best pitch. Dickey said he told manager Brian Snitker that this performance was “more of what I feel you should expect out of me.”
Bafflement in response to the pitch is the theme at Philly.com (“Phillies baffled by Atlanta Braves knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in 3-1 loss”). Add consternation, exemplified at one point by loss of a bat.
Franco missed on an R.A. Dickey knuckleball—a pitch that fooled the Phillies all night in a 3-1 loss to the Braves—and his bat went flying…
Dickey baffled the Phillies for seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits. The veteran Braves righthander threw almost exclusively knuckleballs as he struck out eight and walked none. Aaron Altherr was fooled so much by the knuckleball that he dropped to a knee after whiffing in the seventh. The Phillies were puzzled.
“It’s always tough because it’s different,” Mackanin said. “You face a submarine baller and half of it is deception. A knuckleballer, you never see it. It’s tough especially if he’s got it working. [Braves catcher Tyler Flowers] missed at least half a dozen pitches, so you know it was dancing. You have to give him credit for having a good knuckleball tonight. We just couldn’t get anything going.”
Dickey says he has known all along this season that “I am capable of much, much more. Now, this is one game, but I feel like if I am able to take what I did tonight and repeat that then the next 22 starts are going to be pretty daggum good if I can do that. Now that’s the challenge.”
The verdict from another Braves teammate, Brandon Phillips: “Today he had that ‘Bugs Bunny’ going, it was everywhere and it was nice.”
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Physicist Rod Cross asserts that it’s not all that hard to throw a knuckleball:
The hard part is to throw it accurately, relatively fast and consistently well. [Oh!] I cheated by throwing a very light polystyrene ball with string glued to the ball to simulate a raised seam. However, the physics of the problem is exactly the same, regardless of the mass or diameter of the ball, and that is what I was interested in. The video shows that the ball didn’t follow a simple curved path. Rather, the ball curved first in one direction and then in the opposite direction.
The page links to videos illustrating Cross’s discussion of the physics of the knuckleball.
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If you haven’t seen physicist Allan Nathan’s “nasty pitch” gallery of ten Dickey pitches, click on in. It’s hard to say which batter is the most baffled, but how about the guy in #5?