Knuckleball was the last bastion. Knuckleball was the last pitch that pitchers at a dead end challenged. Hoyt Wilhem and Phil Nico have been the pitchers with knuckleballs since his debut. The two pitchers were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Knuckleballs are mutants. That’s why pitchers who throw are considered in each era. Led by Wilhem and Nicro, Charlie Huff, Tom Candyotti, Tim Wakefield, and RA Dickey are representative pitchers who succeeded knuckleballers. Consisting of a small number of elite members, their own ties are also strong. Wakefield was assisted by Nicro, and Dickie was handed a knuckleball by Huff. Dickey, who won the Cy Young Award for his high-speed knuckleball in 2012, is the last runner to lead the heyday of knuckleball.
The knuckleball then faded away. I couldn’t see a pitcher who said he would throw, let alone a pitcher who threw. In 2021, the LA Times reported that knuckleball “has become a relic like a paper ticket.”
In fact, the decline of knuckleball was foreseen. Even Nicro, the “Godfather of knuckleball,” did not expect knuckleball to prevail. Nicro pinched the point where more knuckleballers could not come out.
“Who teaches you?”
There were 11 knuckleballers who played in the major leagues for 30 years since 1990. Wakefield and Dickie are well known, but most of the pitchers are unfamiliar with their names. Charlie Zink, Charlie Hager and Eddie Gamboa have thrown less than 20 games in Major League Baseball. Knuckle ball is a ball that guarantees a long run when it is reached, but it was a ball that was difficult to reach. Nicro, who has studied knuckle balls all his life, was not sure if he threw a proper knuckle ball.
The player who reminded me of the forgotten knuckleball was Mickey Janice in 2021. Janice, who was drafted in the 44th round of the 2010 draft, has been in the minor leagues and independent leagues for more than a decade. His talent had fallen short of the major leagues. However, he made his major league debut after enduring passion.
Janice, a 33-year-old late pitcher, gained more attention for throwing a knuckleball. June 24, 2021, as the second pitcher in the game, he faced the league’s best team, the Houston Astros. Janice struck out first batter Jordan Alvarez with four knuckleballs. With this momentum, he blocked the top of the fifth inning without losing a point. But this joy was brief. Janice, who scored his first run in the next inning, allowed a home run to Alvarez, who came out as the leadoff hitter in the top of the seventh inning. And he gave up two more home runs and collapsed out of control. Janice’s debut was 8 hits, 4 walks and 7 runs in 3 2⅓ innings.
Janice was no longer given a chance in Major League Baseball. He spent 11 years in the minor leagues, but stayed in the major leagues for only four days. Contrary to the ideal, the reality was cold.
▲ Matt Waldron
Janice stepped down from Major League Baseball after failing to achieve results. Just as knuckleball skepticism resurfaced, the next challenger appeared this year. Matt Waldron of the San Diego Padres. Waldron, who threw knuckle balls as a joke during training, seriously honed knuckle balls at the recommendation of his teammates. He made his debut against the Washington Nationals on June 25 and was named another knuckleballer.메이저놀이터
Waldron was a little different from the existing knuckleballer. Previously, knuckleballers had an overwhelmingly high proportion of knuckleballs. It accounted for more than 70% of the total repertoire. In the previous knuckleballer Janice, 57 out of 71 balls were knuckleballs (80.3% knuckleball, 12.7% four-seam, 7% curve). However, while Waldron used knuckle balls as his main weapon, the proportion of knuckle balls was around 20%. He wasn’t just a knuckleball pitcher.
Percentage of waldron by ball type (%)
24.1 – Sinker
23.9 – Knuckle Ball
23.2 – Four Seam
16.6 – Sliders
12.2 – Cutter
In general, knuckle balls are difficult to harmonize with other pitches. The throwing method itself is different. Knuckle balls should be pushed with the strength of the knuckles, but the rotation of the shoulders and arms is important for other pitches. Leaving this conventional wisdom behind, Waldron sought a way to be reborn as an independent knuckleballer.
But Waldron is also still dull. He allowed only four runs in five innings in his first start in about a month. He also has only three losses and an ERA of 5.55 in five games of the season (24⅓ innings, 15 strikeouts, 7 walks, 6 home runs). If even Waldron is sluggish, knuckleball’s popularity in Major League Baseball will drop further.
Why are knuckleballers shunned. First of all, it doesn’t fit the latest trends. Recently, Major League Baseball is an era of speed and speed. Faster, more colorful balls are the trend. Knuckleball, which is slow in speed and has little rotation, is a game against the times. In fact, as pitchers with excellent speed and speed of speed perform well, each team also focuses on finding and raising pitchers with these two.
▲ Charming, but deadly knuckleball
The uncertainty of knuckleball is also burdensome. Knuckleball doesn’t know exactly where the pitcher will be heading. Hall of Fame hitter Willie Stargell described the knuckleball as a “hiccup butterfly.” Quiet classical music suddenly changes. As a result, even the catcher who receives the knuckleball cannot come to his senses. This was evident by looking at Luis Campusano, who breathed with Waldron. Campusano also had a hard time catching the ball properly. He even made two mistakes because his mentality was shaken by two catcher fastballs.
It also doesn’t fit with the new regulations of the Major League. This year, Major League Baseball is encouraging baseball to play actively while expanding its base size while limiting the check of runners. However, knuckleballers are vulnerable to tying runners due to their characteristics. Waldron is also giving up five stolen bases. No matter how fast a catcher has a pop time, it is not easy to block a steal without the help of a pitcher. The catcher should even pay attention to receiving a knuckleball before caring about the runner.
Knuckleballers mainly had a lot of standby pitchers. Thanks to the less burden on my body, I was able to run late even if I started late. Wilhem played until age 49, Nicro 48 and Huff 46 and Wakefield 44 and Dickie 42. Dickie was 37 years old when he won the Cy Young Award.
The problem is the position of promising players in the major leagues.