Knuckleballs and MLB knuckleballers are getting an extra nod of acknowledgement in some quarters lately. That’s thanks to a streak of nifty pitching performances, especially from relative MLB newcomer Steven Wright—who until recently had been making an art form of zipping back and forth between the minors and the majors.
So at xrepublic.com, colingreene exults that “The Knuckleball is Back!” and enjoins us to “Check Out Steven Wright While His Hot Streak Lasts.”
[T]here is money and glory to be made [with the knuckleball] in the Major Leagues; someone is always going to be throwing it. Tim Wakefield rode the erratic pitch to 200 wins, RA Dickey achieved the Cy Young at 37 and now it’s Steven Wright’s turn. He’s been dominant for the Red Sox this year, filling the zone with his spin-less pitches. He may even make the All-star team, and the 31-year-old is relatively unknown. If the Sox are in town, I recommend going to see the anomaly in person while it lasts.
Meanwhile, R.A. Dickey was the not-too-shabby star of the show in a matchup between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox (Wright not pitching opposite) last Friday, in which the Sox offense, per Lars Gjesteby,
was stifled by the knuckleball of R.A. Dickey on Friday night, collecting just one run and two hits off the starter. Boston tried mounting a late rally against the bullpen, but could not come up with the big hit. Xander Bogaerts failed to extend his hitting streak as it ended at 26 games. David Price and Koji Uehara each gave up two-run homers that put the contest out of reach….
Dickey held the Sox hitless through the first five frames, despite giving up five walks. Ortiz finally put an end to the drought with a hard double to begin the bottom of the sixth. However, no one else could figure out the knuckleballer and Ortiz was left stranded.
In the seventh, Betts managed to crack Boston’s second hit, a double, which ended Dickey’s night. Newly acquired Toronto reliever Jason Grilli came on to face Pedroia, who grounded out.
Final score: Jays 5, Sox 2.
Knuckleballers stick together, so even if we do one day soon witness the Wright v. Dickey matchup that we narrowly missed a few weeks ago, they’ll likely still be coaching each other on how to hone their delivery. Christopher Smith reports at MattLive (“Examining the bond between knuckleballers & Wright’s dominance for Boston Red Sox“):
“If one of us sees something in the other’s mechanics, we might text out, ‘Hey, you might want to stay close. You might want to get your hand up on top,’ ” Dickey said.
Sure, Dickey and Wright are on rival American League East ball clubs. But knuckleballers like to see each other do well.
Dickey, who earned the win against the Red Sox here at Fenway Park on Friday, is extremely happy to see Wright pitching so well. Wright began the year in the Red Sox starting rotation only because of a knee injury to Eduardo Rodriguez. But he has become Boston’s best starter….
“The way you feel about that, it’s like when I was facing Wake (Tim Wakefield): I wanted him to throw a one-hitter and we win 1-0,” Dickey said. “I’m proud of [Wright]. It’s not any easy thing to do. That’s why you don’t see a lot of guys able to do it. He’s on a great run right now—and just incredibly consistent.”
At MLB.com, Chris Landers compares Wright’s breakout performances to those of other late-blooming knuckleballers (knuckleballers being a kind of player who tend to bloom late as a matter of course). To be sure, 2016 so-far is not the whole season, so only if Wright “continues at this pace” will he “lay claim to one of the very performances by a knuckleballer ever.” The posts discusses the best seasons of Wilbur Wood (1971), Phil Niekro (1967), Tim Wakefield (1995), Phil Niekro (1974), R.A. Dickey (2012) (“the Platonic ideal of a knuckleballer,” no less), and Joe Niekro (1982).
In the Landers ranking of knuckleballers’ best all-time seasons, Wright’s current season is #2—so far.