Chris Nowlin—whose Knuckleball Nation training seminars are the subject of a Wall Street Journal profile (reprinted at Chris’s web site)—responds to Howard Rich’s July 3 post suggesting that teams pursue a strategy “that exploits skilled knuckleballers, who are often best deployed as relief pitchers.” Chris says:
I agree wholeheartedly with “The General Manager’s Undiscovered Secret Weapon.” We need technology to quantify the knuckleball so that teams, coaches, and stat nerds are no longer afraid of it. Right now, the knuckleball is shrouded in mystery, and today’s numbers-driven game shies away from it. Scouts can’t grade it, coaches can’t coach it, and general managers have no idea what they’re actually looking at and don’t see the value of the pitch.
The knuckleball is the last Sabermetic frontier—the last quantifiable frontier—in the sport. And it can be conquered.
With the proper technology, the pitch can be quantified just as a batter’s swing and any conventional pitch can be quantified. And then someone can stamp his name on the game by coming up with new nomenclature and numbers for the knuck. When that happens, the knuckleball will assume its rightful place. Knuckleball pitchers will be scattered throughout the minors, organizations will routinely invest in their development, and every major league team will boast a knuckleballer on the roster.
So I don’t think the pitch is on its way out. In fact, the age of the knuckleball is just beginning. All we need is the right vision.
I’m on a velocity program with former MLB pitcher Joe Beimel. We use spin-measuring technology called Rapsodo, and we’re slowly figuring out just how devastating the knuckleball can be.
Big-league spin rate on a curveball makes for a break that pales in comparison to the break of a high-60s knuckleball that has less than half a rotation. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, big-league execs!
Joe’s spin rate is measured in the thousands. My own spin rate is typically under 100…and the machine returns an error when I completely kill the spin of the ball. Hey, machine, it’s not a mistake!
Give Chris Nowlin a break, machine!
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A new Steven Wright injury? Say it ain’t so! But MassLive’s Chris Cotillo reports that the knuckleball pitcher left a game last Saturday after getting thwocked by a grounder.
Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright was removed from Saturday’s game [against the Los Angeles Dodgers] after getting hit with a comebacker in the seventh inning.
Wright suffered a right foot contusion and X-rays were negative, the team announced.
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” manager Alex Cora said. “That ball was hit hard. We’ll know a little bit more tomorrow. He’s limping down there. We’ll see.”
Wright took a 95.6 mph Max Muncy line drive off his right foot and hobbled around the mound as Muncy took first. Manager Alex Cora and a trainer jogged to the mound and removed him from the game.
Entering the season late, Wright has so far appeared in six games.
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Rumble Ponies pitcher Mickey Jannis talks about how he throws the knuckleball in a recent interview with WBNG’s Inside RumbleTown:
All the guys you mentioned are two-finger knuckleball guys. But to be honest, there is no right or wrong way to do it. As long as you’re taking spin off the ball, that’s the bottom line. So I just like to go right above the Rawlings signature on the ball, two fingers. It’s not really your knuckles. It’s your finger pads and your nail that dig into the ball and hold it firm, and thumb right underneath.
It’s like any other pitch. You have to make sure that you throw it with conviction. You don’t want to force it in there. You have to keep your wrist stiff, that is the biggest thing. Like any other pitch, fastball, curveball, you are following through with your wrist. Whereas with a knuckleball, if you see me finish you see my wrist just stay stiff, and I’m pushing the ball toward my target.