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(ESPN)   Sports writers and baseball historians are finally starting to realize that R.A. Dickey is making MLB batters look like knuckleheads   (espn.go.com ) divider line 49
    More: Followup, R.A. Dickey, Dickey, Major League Baseball, Greg Maddux, Orel Hershiser, knuckleball pitch, one-hitters, Triple-A Buffalo  
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1747 clicks; posted to Sports » on 19 Jun 2012 at 10:21 AM (3 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-06-19 09:42:37 AM  
If only there wasn't that damn unearned run in the 9th inning of the Tampa game.

He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.
 
2012-06-19 09:56:50 AM  
Anyone know his BABIP offhand? I'm curious.
 
2012-06-19 10:28:57 AM  

FreakinB: If only there wasn't that damn unearned run in the 9th inning of the Tampa game.

He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.


Yea, going to that game. Really looking forward to it.
 
2012-06-19 10:30:03 AM  

LineNoise: FreakinB: If only there wasn't that damn unearned run in the 9th inning of the Tampa game.

He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.

Yea, going to that game. Really looking forward to it.


He'll probably be up against C-Bass, too.
 
2012-06-19 10:33:36 AM  

qorkfiend: LineNoise: FreakinB: If only there wasn't that damn unearned run in the 9th inning of the Tampa game.

He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.

Yea, going to that game. Really looking forward to it.

He'll probably be up against C-Bass, too.


Yup, that's the matchup.
 
2012-06-19 10:34:48 AM  

FreakinB: He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.


He might be the only thing standing in the way of a complete whitewashing of the inter-league schedule by the Yanks.
 
2012-06-19 10:35:15 AM  
Haven't seen Dickey pitch, but after having watched Wakefield for 64 years, I'm curious to see what he's doing differently. Wakefield certainly went through some hot stretches, but he also got pasted quite a bit. And I don't remember Wakefield ever throwing two 1-hitters in a row.
 
2012-06-19 10:39:22 AM  

LineNoise: FreakinB: If only there wasn't that damn unearned run in the 9th inning of the Tampa game.

He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.

Yea, going to that game. Really looking forward to it.


My friend was looking into it on Stubhub and tickets are going as low as $60 before fees. I don't like going to Sunday night games though. We'll see.

Nana's Vibrator: Haven't seen Dickey pitch, but after having watched Wakefield for 64 years, I'm curious to see what he's doing differently. Wakefield certainly went through some hot stretches, but he also got pasted quite a bit. And I don't remember Wakefield ever throwing two 1-hitters in a row.


Dickey's knuckleball is faster. He can get it in the 80's. I'm sure that's been a part of it.
 
2012-06-19 10:53:03 AM  
pretty damn awesome story, and i say that as a Snakes fan.

he gave a pretty solid interview on Jim Rome at thes tart of the season, in part because he'd gotten out to a hot start but also to hype his book, where he discusses being a victim of child sexual abuse. compelling stuff.

go RA!
 
2012-06-19 10:54:28 AM  

FreakinB: LineNoise: FreakinB:
Dickey's knuckleball is faster. He can get it in the 80's. I'm sure that's been a part of it.


Thanks. You're probably right. That speed doesnt leave batters much time to decide which way the ball will dance or dive. Wake's was in the 60's. He used a high 70's fastball as a reverse changeup. But he'd have days where the ball would fly flat and stay up in the zone and batters would tee-off on him. He'd try to figure out why. There was talk about arm position and angle, wind speed, air temperature, and humidity...just getting you primed for his bad days, though I hope they never come. It's good fodder for those off days on sports talk radio when there's nothing else going on.
 
2012-06-19 10:59:40 AM  
R.A. Dickey trifecta in play.
 
2012-06-19 10:59:43 AM  

mainstreet62: FreakinB: He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.

He might be the only thing standing in the way of a complete whitewashing of the inter-league schedule by the Yanks.


They sure kicked the Reds' asses.
 
2012-06-19 11:00:17 AM  

Nana's Vibrator: FreakinB: LineNoise: FreakinB:
Dickey's knuckleball is faster. He can get it in the 80's. I'm sure that's been a part of it.

Thanks. You're probably right. That speed doesnt leave batters much time to decide which way the ball will dance or dive. Wake's was in the 60's. He used a high 70's fastball as a reverse changeup. But he'd have days where the ball would fly flat and stay up in the zone and batters would tee-off on him. He'd try to figure out why. There was talk about arm position and angle, wind speed, air temperature, and humidity...just getting you primed for his bad days, though I hope they never come. It's good fodder for those off days on sports talk radio when there's nothing else going on.


I was listening to the aforementioned sports talk radio here in NY and they were talking about comparative knuckleballs and speed. Wakefield's problem with leaving the slow ball up is that it would basically drop down into the strike zone and get clobbered, and if he didn't leave it up, it would drop out of the strike zone and be a ball. Dickey's faster knuckler isn't as susceptible to gravity, he can get it across for strikes, and at 80+ mph, it looks an awful lot like a sinker until it doesn't sink.
 
2012-06-19 11:02:14 AM  

FreakinB: LineNoise: FreakinB: If only there wasn't that damn unearned run in the 9th inning of the Tampa game.

He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.

Yea, going to that game. Really looking forward to it.

My friend was looking into it on Stubhub and tickets are going as low as $60 before fees. I don't like going to Sunday night games though. We'll see.

Nana's Vibrator: Haven't seen Dickey pitch, but after having watched Wakefield for 64 years, I'm curious to see what he's doing differently. Wakefield certainly went through some hot stretches, but he also got pasted quite a bit. And I don't remember Wakefield ever throwing two 1-hitters in a row.

Dickey's knuckleball is faster. He can get it in the 80's. I'm sure that's been a part of it.


The Yankees doe well against knuckleball pitchers.
 
2012-06-19 11:09:50 AM  
Dickey seems to have found the formula for locating a hard knuckleball fairly well. If he can do this consistently without the walks, he'll get the Cy Young and pitch for another 30 years, since the knuckler demands little from your body compared to a hard slider or a high velocity fastball
 
2012-06-19 11:26:25 AM  

bhcompy: Dickey seems to have found the formula for locating a hard knuckleball fairly well. If he can do this consistently without the walks, he'll get the Cy Young and pitch for another 30 years, since the knuckler demands little from your body compared to a hard slider or a high velocity fastball


Yeah, Clayton Kershaw is really the only guy on par with him statistically so it's a race to see who gets slightly cold or just less ridiculously hot first.
 
2012-06-19 11:28:26 AM  
And not that i don't love Dickey, and think what he is doing is great, but a part of it is because most of the guys in the majors haven't hit against a true knuckleball pitcher in years, and certainly none of them have done it regularly. If suddenly every staff had a guy throwing knuckleballs on it, they would start figuring it out.
 
2012-06-19 11:36:59 AM  
R.A. Dickey - one of the best old timey names for an old timey pitcher.
 
2012-06-19 11:39:03 AM  

SilentStrider: Anyone know his BABIP offhand? I'm curious.


Link

.246

Very low. If this were a regular pitcher, I would scream regression! But, since he throwing great knuckle balls right now, I'd wager that he is inducing a ton of weak contact, and that low BABIP might be sustainable.
 
2012-06-19 11:40:16 AM  

FreakinB: If only there wasn't that damn unearned run in the 9th inning of the Tampa game.

He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.


The crazy thing about his knuckleball is: He's throwing at about 80 mph. You usually see those pitches register bet. 65-72 mph.

So he's throwing a harder knuckler that still has unpredictable movement.
 
2012-06-19 11:43:55 AM  

LineNoise: If suddenly every staff had a guy throwing knuckleballs on it, they would start figuring it out.


You don't "figure out" the knuckleball; its movement is physically chaotic. When the pitcher releases it, only God knows exactly where it's going to go. About the only thing you can do is figure out the pitcher (% of strikes, etc.) and play the odds. When a knuckleballer is on, the pitch is literally impossible to hit hard on purpose. Knuckleballers implode when the pitch either stops dancing or starts dancing right out of the strike zone.

bhcompy: the knuckler demands little from your body compared to a hard slider or a high velocity fastball


Repeat after me: The hard knuckleball is not a conventional flutterball. It's better to think of them as related, but two distinctly different pitches. I do understand that the hard knuckleball has been extinct in the majors for decades, but don't confuse it with Wakefield's knuckleball. Dickey is throwing his knuckleball hard. I hope his arm holds up but he's wearing it out as much as any pitcher in the league.
 
2012-06-19 11:48:09 AM  

LineNoise: And not that i don't love Dickey, and think what he is doing is great, but a part of it is because most of the guys in the majors haven't hit against a true knuckleball pitcher in years, and certainly none of them have done it regularly. If suddenly every staff had a guy throwing knuckleballs on it, they would start figuring it out.


Probably not. Managers mix in softtossers in between their hard throwers and it works fairly well at throwing off their timing, regardless of how well they hit the slow stuff. If a softtosser can locate, like Maddux did and Moyer used to and Dickey is doing right now, they'll do pretty well.

The difference is that the knuckleball, while easy to identify, is very hard to square up if it's moving and very hard to time. A properly thrown knuckleball is going to get grounders and popups if someone makes contact the majority of the time, simply because the movement doesn't allow you to square it up. A flat knuckleball is just a bp fastball and will be smashed, which happened to Wakefield many many times.

The reason their aren't that many knuckleballers is because it's both very difficult to master and not given any credence by scouts(who pretty much only care about fastball velocity at this point). Dickey added his later in his career after he failed as a "normal" pitcher(and he throws it differently, using a forkball grip, which allows you to throw it hard). Wakefield was a position player that transitioned after they figured out he could throw a damn good knuckle. Charlie Hough learned to throw it well after he was drafted as a pitcher.
 
2012-06-19 11:48:34 AM  

The Muthaship: mainstreet62: FreakinB: He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.

He might be the only thing standing in the way of a complete whitewashing of the inter-league schedule by the Yanks.

They sure kicked the Reds' asses.


Forgot about that, was looking at the month of June only.

Derp.
 
2012-06-19 11:50:20 AM  

Minarets:
Very low. If this were a regular pitcher, I would scream regression! But, since he throwing great knuckle balls right now, I'd wager that he is inducing a ton of weak contact, and that low BABIP might be sustainable.


Also, he upped his K/9 in from the mid 5s to over 9 this year. That could help explain his increase in strand rate
 
2012-06-19 11:54:52 AM  
As a Mets fan, I'm glad that we don't have to worry about him needing Tommy John surgery.

Ever.
 
2012-06-19 11:55:51 AM  
Is there any truth that the reason Dickey wears 43 is because of a tribute to Doug Adams?

I mean, the dude has his bats named after swords and he comes up to the plate to The Game of Thrones theme.
 
2012-06-19 11:56:56 AM  

dragonchild: You don't "figure out" the knuckleball; its movement is physically chaotic. When the pitcher releases it, only God knows exactly where it's going to go.


That's the amazing thing about what Dickey's doing. His knuckleball seems to break where he wants it to break.
 
2012-06-19 11:57:35 AM  

dragonchild: Repeat after me: The hard knuckleball is not a conventional flutterball. It's better to think of them as related, but two distinctly different pitches. I do understand that the hard knuckleball has been extinct in the majors for decades, but don't confuse it with Wakefield's knuckleball. Dickey is throwing his knuckleball hard. I hope his arm holds up but he's wearing it out as much as any pitcher in the league.


Yes, it's different, but the grip he's using means you can't really torque your arm that much anyways or the ball will stick and spin. It's not like he has the pressure on his elbow like a slider puts on it(and he was born without the elbow ligament that Tommy John replaces anyways) and he has never thrown that hard to begin with, which puts less pressure on his shoulder over time
 
2012-06-19 11:58:30 AM  

MattyFridays: Is there any truth that the reason Dickey wears 43 is because of a tribute to Doug Adams?

I mean, the dude has his bats named after swords and he comes up to the plate to The Game of Thrones theme.


You're clearly joking. It's not possible for R. A. to become any more awesome.
 
2012-06-19 11:59:56 AM  
The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up.
-Bob Uecker
 
2012-06-19 12:05:07 PM  

bmr68: FreakinB: LineNoise: FreakinB: If only there wasn't that damn unearned run in the 9th inning of the Tampa game.

He's got the Yankees on Sunday. That'll be fun.

Yea, going to that game. Really looking forward to it.

My friend was looking into it on Stubhub and tickets are going as low as $60 before fees. I don't like going to Sunday night games though. We'll see.

Nana's Vibrator: Haven't seen Dickey pitch, but after having watched Wakefield for 64 years, I'm curious to see what he's doing differently. Wakefield certainly went through some hot stretches, but he also got pasted quite a bit. And I don't remember Wakefield ever throwing two 1-hitters in a row.

Dickey's knuckleball is faster. He can get it in the 80's. I'm sure that's been a part of it.

The Yankees doe well against knuckleball pitchers.


It's the short, short porches down the lines. I remember Jason Giambi reaching out and check swinging one over the right field fence just inside the foul pole. Wakefield looked up watched it land, and just laughed.
 
2012-06-19 12:14:24 PM  

bhcompy: Yes, it's different, but the grip he's using means you can't really torque your arm that much anyways or the ball will stick and spin. It's not like he has the pressure on his elbow like a slider puts on it(and he was born without the elbow ligament that Tommy John replaces anyways) and he has never thrown that hard to begin with, which puts less pressure on his shoulder over time


OK, fair enough, but it's still a 37-year-old arm throwing a breaking ball in the high 70s. He's putting way more strain on his arm than Wakefield.

Dafatone: That's the amazing thing about what Dickey's doing. His knuckleball seems to break where he wants it to break.


I should clarify; "chaotic" does not mean "wild". The knuckleball is chaotic; that's the point. However, the biggest misunderstanding about "chaotic" is that people think it means "unconfined". It doesn't, or we'd have 90,000 mph hurricanes and summer snowstorms in Phoenix. What I mean is that while a pitcher can contain the movement within what they consider an acceptable area (namely, the strike zone or maybe even a part of it), beyond a certain point they have no control. The knuckleball wobbles by design, and a pitcher can control where it doesn't wobble, but beyond that the movement is essentially random. If it wasn't, you get a "flat" knuckleball that's on a one-way ticket to the stands.
 
2012-06-19 12:43:03 PM  

dragonchild: The knuckleball wobbles by design, and a pitcher can control where it doesn't wobble, but beyond that the movement is essentially random. If it wasn't, you get a "flat" knuckleball that's on a one-way ticket to the stands.


Dickey seems to break it in when he wants it in, out when he wants it out, and down when he wants it down. He's even got a knuckleball that seems to break UP, at least to the hitter. Obviously it doesn't actually break up, but I can see how it'd mess with a hitter's perception enough to look that way.

It's as if he's figured out how to throw a knuckleball slider that breaks either way, a knuckleball change, and a knuckleball fastball.
 
2012-06-19 12:47:15 PM  

Dafatone: It's as if he's figured out how to throw a knuckleball slider that breaks either way, a knuckleball change, and a knuckleball fastball.


The grip gives you control. If you read up on it, he says he uses a modified forkball grip. You can have a semblance of control with it(I've dicked around with it myself for years). Put it where you want more or less, sink it when you want to(it is a forkball grip), etc. Now, I haven't watched Dickey all that closely(just when he was a Mariner mostly), but you can get different action based off arm angle, release point, wrist pronation, etc based off my own use of a similar grip for a knuckler.
 
2012-06-19 12:53:51 PM  

bhcompy: If you read up on it, he says he uses a modified forkball grip. . . I haven't watched Dickey all that closely(just when he was a Mariner mostly)


You are incorrect, but only because your info is outdated. He used a "custom" forkball grip when he was a Mariner, but that pitch got crushed. Three years ago he was coached into changing to a more conventional knuckleball grip, which is the root of his recent success:

www.getreligion.org

The control comes from the velocity -- at 75-80mph, the knuckleball just doesn't have a lot of time to go wandering down the street. But he's not throwing a forkball or even a modified forkball; the grip is entirely different. He's throwing a knuckleball.
 
2012-06-19 12:55:35 PM  
Correction -- he switched to the knuckleball grip AS a Mariner. So I'm wrong, but you're more wrong. :)

(He's wearing a Mariners cap in that photo.)
 
2012-06-19 01:01:46 PM  

dragonchild: Correction -- he switched to the knuckleball grip AS a Mariner. So I'm wrong, but you're more wrong. :)

(He's wearing a Mariners cap in that photo.)


Fair enough. Guess I need to read up, as you've said.

/pitch does work like I said, though, try it sometime
 
2012-06-19 01:14:56 PM  

Dafatone: Dickey seems to break it in when he wants it in, out when he wants it out, and down when he wants it down.


Look, I hate to drop cred on Fark as it's a very quick way to get trolled, but I've studied quite a bit on how the knuckleball works. The only way Dickey can will a true knuckleball to break the way he wants is if he's literally a goddamned airbender.

A true knuckleball is thrown with very low spin -- not zero (contrary to popular belief -- even Wakefield himself thought his knuckleball had zero spin), but about one to one-and-a-half rotations over the 60.5 feet to the plate. This requires VERY precise consistency. Most pitches are thrown with moderate to fast spin, which creates some very obvious vortices that are ideally powerful enough to manipulate the ball's movement in flight. In the knuckleball's case, the slow rotation of the seams doesn't create vortices; it (to oversimplify) amplifies the random vortices in the air itself, which is for all intents and purposes random. That is how it works, and in fact it's known that knuckleball effectiveness depends to some extent on actual environmental factors such as temperature, wind, pressure and humidity (they're generally most effective in warm, still, most air), though this can easily get drowned out by the intense consistency requirements of the pitch itself. Anyway, if his pitch isn't doing this, he's not throwing a knuckleball. If it is, he does not decide how it breaks; only that it does.

Fun fact -- well-trimmed fingernails are so important to knuckleball pitchers that they use women's nail enamel. They're the one sort of pitcher who HAS to go on the DL for a broken nail.
 
2012-06-19 01:42:05 PM  

qorkfiend: MattyFridays: Is there any truth that the reason Dickey wears 43 is because of a tribute to Doug Adams?

I mean, the dude has his bats named after swords and he comes up to the plate to The Game of Thrones theme.

You're clearly joking. It's not possible for R. A. to become any more awesome.


No, I'm not. I know he can't wear 42 so I'm wondering if that's why he wears 43.

Kind of like Spinal Taps' amps going to 11. It's one more.
 
2012-06-19 02:36:43 PM  
No run is better in my lifetime than the end of 99, including Postseason, than Pedro's. The fact that it was in the middle of the steroid era makes it more impressive than Gibson or Koufax's respective pitching runs of excellence.

I do know that if any pitcher ever deserved an MVP, it was Orel in '88. He ended up needed surgery for his overworked arm, but he carried a team at the end of the year that was average at best without Kirk Gibson.
 
2012-06-19 02:46:53 PM  
Dickey's having success because it knuckle-ball is never left out there to die, he constantly changes speed(I think I saw one at 54mph) and location(height wise), and when he throws his fastball it's accurate and can get strikes.

If anybody saw the Rays game the whole team was making hideous cuts right through to the 9th ending.

/so glad I picked him up in fantasy.
 
2012-06-19 03:57:17 PM  

torr5962: No run is better in my lifetime than the end of 99, including Postseason, than Pedro's. The fact that it was in the middle of the steroid era makes it more impressive than Gibson or Koufax's respective pitching runs of excellence.

I do know that if any pitcher ever deserved an MVP, it was Orel in '88. He ended up needed surgery for his overworked arm, but he carried a team at the end of the year that was average at best without Kirk Gibson.


I heard dickey is a big fan of orel.
 
2012-06-19 04:41:22 PM  

Brosef13: Dickey's having success because it knuckle-ball is never left out there to die, he constantly changes speed(I think I saw one at 54mph) and location(height wise), and when he throws his fastball it's accurate and can get strikes.

If anybody saw the Rays game the whole team was making hideous cuts right through to the 9th ending.

/so glad I picked him up in fantasy.


He's currently throwing three variants - a hard mid-80's one, a slower 70's one, and a very slow (60ish) one occasionally... in addition to a low-mid 80's FB.

What's incredible is that he's given up 22 ER on the year, 8 of which came in a terrible start in Atlanta when it was pouring rain (which destroys the knuckleball and basically made him a low 80's FB-only batting practice pitcher)... without that game he'd have a 1.33 ERA right now.
 
2012-06-19 04:58:59 PM  

Gdiguy:

He's currently throwing three variants - a hard mid-80's one, a slower 70's one, and a very slow (60ish) one occasionally... in addition to a low-mid 80's FB.

What's incredible is that he's given up 22 ER on the year, 8 of which came in a terrible start in Atlanta when it was pouring rain (which destroys the knuckleball and basically made him a low 80's FB-only batting practice pitcher)... without that game he'd have a 1.33 ERA right now.


Ya, I'm pretty sure I heard an announcer say next time it rains they will just skip his start. If I was a hitter I'd just close my eyes and hope for the best.
 
2012-06-19 07:16:15 PM  

Quigs: torr5962: No run is better in my lifetime than the end of 99, including Postseason, than Pedro's. The fact that it was in the middle of the steroid era makes it more impressive than Gibson or Koufax's respective pitching runs of excellence.

I do know that if any pitcher ever deserved an MVP, it was Orel in '88. He ended up needed surgery for his overworked arm, but he carried a team at the end of the year that was average at best without Kirk Gibson.

I heard dickey is a big fan of orel.


+1
Favorited
 
2012-06-19 07:38:04 PM  

SilentStrider: Anyone know his BABIP offhand? I'm curious.


HOW IS BABIP FORMED?
 
2012-06-20 10:25:54 AM  

Minarets: .246

Very low. If this were a regular pitcher, I would scream regression! But, since he throwing great knuckle balls right now, I'd wager that he is inducing a ton of weak contact, and that low BABIP might be sustainable.


I think you're right. It's not so low as to say he's obviously getting lucky, and with that knuckleball I don't think it's really valid to compare his BABIP to the rest of the league OR to his past performance. Plus, the rest of his numbers don't scream outlier, either. His FB% and HR/FB rate are right at his career averages (actually, he's giving up HR at a HIGHER rate than the last couple years and still getting it done). His LD% is steady though, so it's not quite true that he's inducing worse contact than most pitchers.

So, it comes down to how often batters are actually MAKING contact: This year his contact% has fallen from 83.4% to a very low 74.7% and his swinging strike % is up to 12.7% from 7.8%. Hence a big increase in strikeouts and a reduction in total hits even though those hits are still being hit hard at the same rate. He's also getting the highest first pitch strike percentage of his career which is helping him all-around.
 
2012-06-20 10:28:58 AM  
One more way to look at it:

MLB Pitching Leaders in contact%:
Strasburg, Santana, Hamels, Capuano, Dickey, Lincecum

MLB Pitching Leaders in swinging strike%:
Dickey, Hamels, Strasburg, Santana
 
2012-06-20 11:34:48 PM  

Nana's Vibrator: Haven't seen Dickey pitch, but after having watched Wakefield for 64 years, I'm curious to see what he's doing differently. Wakefield certainly went through some hot stretches, but he also got pasted quite a bit. And I don't remember Wakefield ever throwing two 1-hitters in a row.


That's because he never did. fangraphs, baseball reference, baseball prospectus, beyond the box score, etc are all gaga over the awesomeness. There's articles everywhere on how this is the best stretch a knuckleballer has had. ever.

Over the last 6 games his era is 0.04. I'll let that non-typo settle in for a bit
 
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