Steven Wright- ace up the sleeve... Amiright?!?!?

pantsparty

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I lived in the wrong time zone to see Wakefield's hot streak when the Red Sox first picked him up. Is this what it was like to watch those starts?
From what I remember of Wakefield back then, his strikeouts looked so much more ridiculous because of how slow his pitches were. Wright's knuckleball is faster than Wakefield's fastball was.

A pair of articles on Steven Wright worth reading:
Steven Wright: A failed 2nd-round pick who rebuilt his career with the knuckleball (from last year)
Boston Red Sox 'ace' embraced Aloha spirit after learning Padres drafted him as a catcher (from last week)
 
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glasspusher

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When Wake was on against the Indians at The Jake in the late 90s, watching him in binocs from the CF bleachers was a lot of fun. Seeing Thome and Manny flail at floaters was a thing of beauty. It was almost comical.

Edit: Note: Game 2 of the 1999 ALDS was not one of those games. I was there that day too :(
 

Rasputin

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I lived in the wrong time zone to see Wakefield's hot streak when the Red Sox first picked him up. Is this what it was like to watch those starts?
It was somewhat similar, lots of popups and soft contact, the occasional ball that got clobbered. Maybe it's just a drafty memory, but I think Wake made hitters look more ridiculous. It felt more magical then. I think probably because Wake was literally the worst pitcher in AAA the year before and he came completely out of nowhere. The only thing we'd seen in recent memory that resembled the results was Roger Clemens and the difference couldn't have been more stark. And of course, in 95, Clemens couldn't be bothered to stay in shape with the strike on and ended up starting the season late and not pitching terribly well for a couple months. It was Wake that made 1995 possible.

I've got to say, though, if the change of speeds that whatsername was yammering on about tonight, I think I've got to revise my estimation of Wright's value upwards. A guy who can throw an incredibly unpredictable pitch at vastly differing speeds is a guy that's going to be very hard to hit. If we're looking at a rotation of Price, Rodriguez, Porcello, Wright, until Price opts out, I have to really like our chances of being a very competitive team.
 

BaseballJones

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Wake could only throw a 75 mph (something like that) fastball when he needed to. Wright threw some in the 87 mph range last night. Obviously not "fast", but that's about what Koji throws right now. When you're looking for a knuckleball, 87 probably looks really quick.

They made a good point on the national broadcast last night. Wright, being a knuckleballer, may have another decade of effectiveness ahead of him. In any case, I think it's clear that he needs to keep on pitching every 5 days for the Red Sox. Maybe when he goes through a crummy stretch things will have to be re-thought.
 

BuellMiller

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When Wake was on against the Indians at The Jake in the late 90s, watching him in binocs from the CF bleachers was a lot of fun. Seeing Thome and Manny flail at floaters was a thing of beauty. It was almost comical.

Edit: Note: Game 2 of the 1999 ALDS was not one of those games. I was there that day too :(
I don't know...Wakefield wasn't horrible that day in mopup (2 IP , 1 H, 0 ER, 4 K, 2 BB). I know Saberhagen's junk probably looked like wakefield's knuckleball on a bad day. And Wasdin's fastball was probably just as hittable as Wakes. (or maybe you meant 1998 :p)

edited for spelling
 

Max Venerable

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I don't think I've ever seen a Knuckler baller with the upside that Wright has. His slow knuckleball has Wakefield like movement, he can vary its speed to get something more crisp and controllable (don't think Wake could ever to that) and his fastball is in another league in terms of utility. He seems to have good control, and strikes out more hitters than Wake ever did while giving up less hits and home runs. Granted, the eras they are pitching in are different, and the sample sizes wildly incongruous, but the results so far look amazing:

Wakefield career (3226.1 IP)
H/9 8.8, HR/9 1.2, BB/9 3.4, K/9 6.0,

Wright career (148 IP)
H/9 7.6, HR/9 1.0, BB/9 3.4, K/9 7.4

Its also worth noting that, apart form Wake's two best full seasons (1995 and 2002), Wright's career ERA+ of 129 is already better than any single season Wakefield had.

I think he's something special, personally. "Quiet eyes" BS and all that, but Wright seems to me to be a little more of a bull dog than Wakefield... one of my problems with Wake was that, as good and steady as he was, pretty much any batter seemed to have an equal chance of knocking one over the fence at any given time, as his approach was just too predictable batter to batter. Wright so far has seemed like he has a little bit of tooth to him, in comparison. Maybe its just the stuff in his arsenal, but I think the approach is different as well, in that he can kinda bare down on hitters when needed and act a bit more like a power pitcher.
 

EllisTheRimMan

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The Wright is Price.
You know Wright has been what we hoped for out of Price to start the year and Price has been what we were afraid Wright would be. With EdRod coming back and Price likely regressing to the mean the staff could get even better. We don't know how to regress Wright to his mean (has he really figured it out?), which hopefully bodes well for a very strong SP staff going forward. Despite our concerns about Price, his struggles haven't really hurt us that badly in the W/L columns. If he can figure out what's wrong, and Pedroia may have just done so for him,then this is going to be a fun year.

When I saw that 87 mph FB last night, I said to myself, "that's just unfair". I didn't know he threw it that fast before last night.
 

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It was somewhat similar, lots of popups and soft contact, the occasional ball that got clobbered. Maybe it's just a drafty memory, but I think Wake made hitters look more ridiculous. It felt more magical then. I think probably because Wake was literally the worst pitcher in AAA the year before and he came completely out of nowhere. The only thing we'd seen in recent memory that resembled the results was Roger Clemens and the difference couldn't have been more stark. And of course, in 95, Clemens couldn't be bothered to stay in shape with the strike on and ended up starting the season late and not pitching terribly well for a couple months. It was Wake that made 1995 possible.

I've got to say, though, if the change of speeds that whatsername was yammering on about tonight, I think I've got to revise my estimation of Wright's value upwards. A guy who can throw an incredibly unpredictable pitch at vastly differing speeds is a guy that's going to be very hard to hit. If we're looking at a rotation of Price, Rodriguez, Porcello, Wright, until Price opts out, I have to really like our chances of being a very competitive team.
Wakefield seemed unstoppable for most of the season. Since 1994/1995 was a strike season, the shot in the arm he gave the Sox is sometimes understated. Spring training that year was composed of the replacement players. Clemens was chronically injured and didn't start until June. The rotation was Sele, Cormier, Hanson, Frankie Rodriguez (two terrible starts), V.Eshelman, Zane Smith. No one was thinking Wakefield would be of any real long term use. But then Sele got injured in late May (season ending).

So Wakefield was called up to make his first start on on May 27th. He went 7 innings and gave up one run. That sort of effective spot start out of AAA always puts you on the radar, especially when the rotation is crumbling around you.

But then he started again (two days later) on May 30th, going 7 shut out innings. That was unbelievable. Clemens came back on June 2nd and was bombed. Two days after that, Wakefield's third game for the Sox was a one run 10 inning complete game against a good Seattle team.

And he was doing this with a knuckleball. In context it was the most amazingly unexpected and marvelous debut.
 

MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

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Wright's start to the year is incredibly similar to Wake's start to 1995. Here's their first six starts side by side:

Wright: 1.52 ERA, 41.1 IP, .517 OPS, 38K, 16BB
Wake: 1.59 ERA, 45.1 IP (including one 10 inning start with no ER), .542 OPS, 26K, 12BB

The big difference, of course, is the strikeouts. That pace from Wright is pretty amazing.

But the knuckler is historically streaky. In that amazing 1995 season, Wake just suddenly up and lost it. Through his first 17 starts, he never gave up more than 3 ER and sat at an ERA of 1.65 (yes, that's insane). Then, in start 18, he got shelled by Seattle, lost 7 of his last 9 decisions, and gave up 5 or more ER in 6 of those games. Everything went south in a hurry.

In 1996, he was a disaster from the get go, finishing with a 5.14 ERA that was actually the lowest it had been all season, thanks to some late-season magic he discovered.

Did the league figure him out as it started to see him? Will something similar happen to Wright? Will his knuckler be less prone to come and go since it's harder and he has better secondary stuff? That all remains to be seen, obviously.
 

Drek717

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When I saw that 87 mph FB last night, I said to myself, "that's just unfair". I didn't know he threw it that fast before last night.
From this article:
http://www.masslive.com/redsox/index.ssf/2015/08/boston_red_sox_rhp_steven_wrig.html

Wright was a 2nd round draft pick who threw in the low to mid 90's but never made it beyond the high minors as none of his secondary offerings were able to generate strikes. That may be a pretty important factor in his success since converting to the knuckleball. It generates strikes for him but he has a far better fastball than knuckleballers are supposed to offer and is far more comfortable with the curve he mixes in (at least per fangraphs) than what you'd see from many other knuckleball converts. He has some pretty substantial pitching pedigree and by knuckleballer standards is quite young.

It will be very interesting to see how it develops for him. His PitchF/X numbers, for what that is worth with a knuckleballer, shows a higher percentage of both fastballs and curveballs than what Dickey and substantially more than Wakefield. Instead of being a pure knuckleballer who has misdirection pitches he's looks like a natural pitcher who uses the knuckleball like most guys use their fastball and his fastball like most guys use their change-up.
 

mauidano

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From what I remember of Wakefield back then, his strikeouts looked so much more ridiculous because of how slow his pitches were. Wright's knuckleball is faster than Wakefield's fastball was.

A pair of articles on Steven Wright worth reading:
Steven Wright: A failed 2nd-round pick who rebuilt his career with the knuckleball (from last year)
Boston Red Sox 'ace' embraced Aloha spirit after learning Padres drafted him as a catcher (from last week)
Class guy. I remember him well from his days pitching for UH here.
 

mauf

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And he was doing this with a knuckleball. In context it was the most amazingly unexpected and marvelous debut.
It wasn't a debut, though. Wakefield had a remarkable half-season run in Pittsburgh in 1992, including two wins in the NLCS. The wheels came off the next year, however, and the Pirates inexplicably gave up on him. A guy like that with half a season of MLB success and options remaining would simply never become available today; even back then, I was surprised by the Bucs' impatience. (This was on the front end of that franchise's long run of ineptitude.) Snapping him up was one of Duquette's less-heralded shrewd moves.
 

The Gray Eagle

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The Wright is Price.
In the Price thread, I noted that Price has been given the lead 11 times so far this year and has blown 6 of those leads. Wright has only been given the lead three times, but he hasn't blown any of them. Wright has allowed 2 runs or less in every one of his 6 starts, and pitched into the 7th or later in 4 of his 6 starts, going an even 6 IP in the other two.

From Speier's 108 Stitches email today: "No one else in the majors has as many starts this year of six or more innings and two or fewer runs. Only four others — Stephen Strasburg, Kenta Maeda, Clayton Kershaw, and Jose Quintana — have as many as five such outings... Put in a different context, Wright’s run of six straight starts with six or more innings and two or fewer runs allowed is tied for the longest by a Sox starter this century. The others to pull off the feat: John Lackey in 2013 (en route to a 10-13 record, 3.52 ERA, and the win in the World Series clincher); Clay Buchholz in 2013 (12-1, 1.74 season); Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2007 (15-12, 4.40); and Pedro Martinez in 2000 (18-6, 1.74, in perhaps the best season ever).
Put in yet another context: 19 pitchers last year had a run of six or more quality starts. Of those, 10 finished with ERAs of 3.18 or under, and every one finished with an ERA no worse than 4.05. A six-start run like Wright’s typically signals sustained success over the full season."

So far, Wright has pitched exactly like a #1 front-of-the-rotation ace starter, coming up big, eating innings and saving the bullpen while Price has been terrible.
 

BaseballJones

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In the Price thread, I noted that Price has been given the lead 11 times so far this year and has blown 6 of those leads. Wright has only been given the lead three times, but he hasn't blown any of them. Wright has allowed 2 runs or less in every one of his 6 starts, and pitched into the 7th or later in 4 of his 6 starts, going an even 6 IP in the other two.

From Speier's 108 Stitches email today: "No one else in the majors has as many starts this year of six or more innings and two or fewer runs. Only four others — Stephen Strasburg, Kenta Maeda, Clayton Kershaw, and Jose Quintana — have as many as five such outings... Put in a different context, Wright’s run of six straight starts with six or more innings and two or fewer runs allowed is tied for the longest by a Sox starter this century. The others to pull off the feat: John Lackey in 2013 (en route to a 10-13 record, 3.52 ERA, and the win in the World Series clincher); Clay Buchholz in 2013 (12-1, 1.74 season); Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2007 (15-12, 4.40); and Pedro Martinez in 2000 (18-6, 1.74, in perhaps the best season ever).
Put in yet another context: 19 pitchers last year had a run of six or more quality starts. Of those, 10 finished with ERAs of 3.18 or under, and every one finished with an ERA no worse than 4.05. A six-start run like Wright’s typically signals sustained success over the full season."

So far, Wright has pitched exactly like a #1 front-of-the-rotation ace starter, coming up big, eating innings and saving the bullpen while Price has been terrible.
So what do you think is more likely: Wright ending up with a 4.00 era, or Price ending up with a 3.00 era?
 

SouthernBoSox

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So what do you think is more likely: Wright ending up with a 4.00 era, or Price ending up with a 3.00 era?
I mean, Stephen Wright has 148.1 major league innings with a 3.28 ERA.

The thing with Stephen, and it's been discussed up thread, is arm talent. Wake's knuckle had some dip to it, where Stephen's doesn't. He throws it extremely hard to the point where even high knuckles induce swing and misses.
 

nighthob

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Wake could only throw a 75 mph (something like that) fastball when he needed to. Wright threw some in the 87 mph range last night. Obviously not "fast", but that's about what Koji throws right now. When you're looking for a knuckleball, 87 probably looks really quick.
Actually, back when he pitched for the Pirates and during that first magical run with Boston, Wakefield threw a traditional fastball that traveled in 82-84 range. Later in his career he mastered throwing a "fastball" with same motion as he threw the knuckler (my brother and I jokingly referred to that pitch as the straighball) and that's the pitch that traveled in the mid 70s. But he got more swings and misses with that pitch than he did the traditional fastball he threw earlier in his career.
 

m0ckduck

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It was somewhat similar, lots of popups and soft contact, the occasional ball that got clobbered. Maybe it's just a drafty memory, but I think Wake made hitters look more ridiculous. It felt more magical then.
'Magical' is well put— that's exactly how it felt.

Wake was so hot for a while that I remember one of the local resident Globe geniuses writing a column suggesting that, in the inevitable* ALCS matchup with the Indians, he should pitch games 1-3-5. Can you imagine??

* Back in the days where it was pre-determined which division leader would face which in the playoffs, IIRC. Thus, the playoff seeding suspense was mostly over before Wake's hot streak had even elapsed.
 

m0ckduck

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It wasn't a debut, though. Wakefield had a remarkable half-season run in Pittsburgh in 1992, including two wins in the NLCS. The wheels came off the next year, however, and the Pirates inexplicably gave up on him. A guy like that with half a season of MLB success and options remaining would simply never become available today; even back then, I was surprised by the Bucs' impatience. (This was on the front end of that franchise's long run of ineptitude.) Snapping him up was one of Duquette's less-heralded shrewd moves.
You can be sure that the Bucs wouldn't have given up on a guy who'd gotten identical results by throwing a 95 heater. A lot of Wakefield's being released had to do with the perception of the knuckleball as a unmanly gimmick pitch. I can recall Tim himself saying something about his 1994 season, how he felt like a 'big sissy' at times on the mound when things weren't going well.
 

O Captain! My Captain!

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It wasn't a debut, though. Wakefield had a remarkable half-season run in Pittsburgh in 1992, including two wins in the NLCS. The wheels came off the next year, however, and the Pirates inexplicably gave up on him. A guy like that with half a season of MLB success and options remaining would simply never become available today; even back then, I was surprised by the Bucs' impatience. (This was on the front end of that franchise's long run of ineptitude.) Snapping him up was one of Duquette's less-heralded shrewd moves.
'Magical' is well put— that's exactly how it felt.

Wake was so hot for a while that I remember one of the local resident Globe geniuses writing a column suggesting that, in the inevitable* ALCS matchup with the Indians, he should pitch games 1-3-5. Can you imagine??

* Back in the days where it was pre-determined which division leader would face which in the playoffs, IIRC. Thus, the playoff seeding suspense was mostly over before Wake's hot streak had even elapsed.
Wakefield was nuts in that series, beating a young Tom Glavine twice with two complete games. IIRC, the Braves were terrified that Jim Leyland would pitch Wakefield on 0 days rest (!!!) in game seven, but he went with Doug Drabek, who pitched 8 shutout innings before being sent out in the 9th to allow a double, an error, and a walk to put Sid Bream on first as the winning run. Drabek was pulled, and we all know how that series ended.
 

TimScribble

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I've shared this before in a game thread, but Timmy and his knuckler is how I became a Sox fan. I lived in Jacksonville during those Brave runs of the early 90s, and everyone there was a rabbid Braves fan. I latched onto the Pirates as they were rivals. For an 11 year old kid, Timmy and the knuckler were amazing to behold. He was unbelievable in that 92 series and the Bucs gave up on him so quickly. We moved around a lot when I was younger, so I really had no team. When Wake went to Boston, I followed him over there and have been a fan ever since.

Saying all of that, Wright's knuckleball is definitely a different animal. Wake at times seemed like he couldn't tell where his pitch was going. He was just throwing to a general location and hoping for the best. Wright appears to have more control and can spot his pitch better.
 

Rovin Romine

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It wasn't a debut, though. Wakefield had a remarkable half-season run in Pittsburgh in 1992, including two wins in the NLCS. The wheels came off the next year, however, and the Pirates inexplicably gave up on him. A guy like that with half a season of MLB success and options remaining would simply never become available today; even back then, I was surprised by the Bucs' impatience. (This was on the front end of that franchise's long run of ineptitude.) Snapping him up was one of Duquette's less-heralded shrewd moves.
Point taken - but going into 95, Wakefield wasn't really on anyone's radar as the savior in waiting in AAA.
 

Rudi Fingers

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I mean, Stephen Wright has 148.1 major league innings with a 3.28 ERA.

The thing with Stephen, and it's been discussed up thread, is arm talent. Wake's knuckle had some dip to it, where Stephen's doesn't. He throws it extremely hard to the point where even high knuckles induce swing and misses.

So you're saying that Steven Wright has a deadpan delivery? ***

The lack of dip in Wright's knuckleball likely helps disguise the fastball better than Wakefield's was disguised, and also helps Wright be able to throw his fastball effectively more often than Wakefield did. Batters also have to be ready for Wright's curve - so they can't assume that a pitch with a faster release will be a fastball.

Supporting numbers:
Per Fangraphs' PITCHf/x pitch type charts, Wakefield threw fastballs less than 5% of the time from 2007 to 2011.

From 2013 to 2016, Steven Wright, per his PITCHf/x pitch type charts, threw fastballs almost 12% of the time, plus curveballs another 12% of the time.



***If you tell a joke on the main board thread, and nobody laughs, is it a joke? ;)
 

Eddie Jurak

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Those Fangraphs numbers seem quite different from what I found on Brooks Baseball the other day: in 2016, Wright has thrown 86% knucklers, 12% 2-seam, 2% 4-seam, no curves at all. What gives?
 

Drek717

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Those Fangraphs numbers seem quite different from what I found on Brooks Baseball the other day: in 2016, Wright has thrown 86% knucklers, 12% 2-seam, 2% 4-seam, no curves at all. What gives?
The difference there is basically a matter of knuckler:curveball ratio as the 12-14% fastball rate is pretty consistent on Fangraphs PitchF/X from the quick check I did yesterday. I could see where PitchF/X or Brooks would each be vulnerable to classifying knuckleballs as curves or curves as knuckleballs. It would probably be hard short of talking to Wright himself to really know the ratio.

But then this confusion might just be part of why Wright is so effective. If we're talking about a 10-12% rate of knuckleballs that replicate the movement of an effective curveball so effectively to fool PitchF/X that implies a pretty exceptional bit of control on Wright's part.
 

One Leg at a Time

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So you're saying that Steven Wright has a deadpan delivery? ***

The lack of dip in Wright's knuckleball likely helps disguise the fastball better than Wakefield's was disguised, and also helps Wright be able to throw his fastball effectively more often than Wakefield did. Batters also have to be ready for Wright's curve - so they can't assume that a pitch with a faster release will be a fastball.


***If you tell a joke on the main board thread, and nobody laughs, is it a joke? ;)
(Thanks for the joke - I have been wanting to make it since April, but I didn't think it would be (w)right...)

Watching the game on Sunday - the commentators spent a good bit of time talking about the significant mechanical differences between throwing a knuckleball, and throwing a fastball - particularly mentioning the push-off with the back leg, the release point, and where the hand ends up on the follow-through.

When Wright throws his fastball does he replicate those 'knuckleball' mechanics, or is the delivery different enough that a batter can tell that he is throwing a fastball?
 

One Leg at a Time

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I was not able to tell the difference between the different pitches using the 'rewind' function of my DVR, if that's what you're suggesting; but I am not a major league ball player.

We do have some experts here, who often point out minor things in stance, delivery, release that I find interesting and educational. I was asking for their insight.
 

m0ckduck

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To this point, the Sox rotation almost perfectly mirrors the '95 staff, actually:

- Steven Wright = Tim Wakefield, as discussed
- David Price = Roger Clemens. The perennial ace trying to work his way back into form.
- Rick Porcello = Erik Hansen. The career #3-4 guy stepping up into the #2 role.
- ERod = Aaron Sele. Promising young guy derailed by injury.
- Joe Kelly = Zane Eshelman
 

glasspusher

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I don't know...Wakefield wasn't horrible that day in mopup (2 IP , 1 H, 0 ER, 4 K, 2 BB). I know Saberhagen's junk probably looked like wakefield's knuckleball on a bad day. And Wasdin's fastball was probably just as hittable as Wakes. (or maybe you meant 1998 :p)

edited for spelling
You're right. After Sabes left I was already traumatized!
 

luckysox

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It's like he has that one "bad" inning, most starts, that Wake used to have, but instead of giving up 5 or 6 runs, he gives up 1 or 2, and then he's lights out again. A pleasure to watch, and so, so, so important to this rotation right now. He's sure as heck showing himself as anything except a throw away, AAAA, replacement level #5.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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He threw a 59mph pitch today. 59! That's nuts.
And IIRC, followed it in the same AB with an 85-mph "heater" down and in. Later on he froze Adam Jones with another fastball for strike three. Having a FB that's close enough to legit that you can set up pitch sequences around it, and not just sneak a strike with it here and there, is a huge weapon for a knuckleballer--especially when he's changing speeds on the knuckler as well.
 

nattysez

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Jeff Passan cannot believe this pitch by Wright. It's not quite the Bard wipe-out slider, but it's pretty crazy:


 

uncannymanny

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And IIRC, followed it in the same AB with an 85-mph "heater" down and in. Later on he froze Adam Jones with another fastball for strike three. Having a FB that's close enough to legit that you can set up pitch sequences around it, and not just sneak a strike with it here and there, is a huge weapon for a knuckleballer--especially when he's changing speeds on the knuckler as well.
It's a far cry from the Wake "heater" that's for sure. It must seem like a million miles an hour. Even at 85 it's ~20mph jump.
 

iayork

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It's a far cry from the Wake "heater" that's for sure. It must seem like a million miles an hour. Even at 85 it's ~20mph jump.
Only about ten, because Wright also throws his knuckler faster than Wakefield did. Wright and Dickey both throw their knuckleball about 75 mph, while Wakefield's was around 65. I don't know how fast the classic knuckleballers like Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm threw; I think more like Wakefield. When Wakefield was around, I remember pontificators saying that the knuckleball had to be thrown that slowly or it wouldn't work; obviously that's wrong, because Wright's has at least as much stupid movement as Wakefield's did.
 

Harry Hooper

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Jeff Passan cannot believe this pitch by Wright. It's not quite the Bard wipe-out slider, but it's pretty crazy:
Shades of that old Ray Milland baseball movie "It Happens Every Spring." Start about 1:00 into the clip.

"
 

glasspusher

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Only about ten, because Wright also throws his knuckler faster than Wakefield did. Wright and Dickey both throw their knuckleball about 75 mph, while Wakefield's was around 65. I don't know how fast the classic knuckleballers like Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm threw; I think more like Wakefield. When Wakefield was around, I remember pontificators saying that the knuckleball had to be thrown that slowly or it wouldn't work; obviously that's wrong, because Wright's has at least as much stupid movement as Wakefield's did.
IIRC, Wakes KB was around 70-72 in his younger years, and only dipped below 70 his last few years.
 

Soxfan in Fla

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Crazy indeed. It's like the space-time continuum lurches 10 degrees counterclockwise in a couple of milliseconds, and Wright's pitch is the only thing that isn't affected. Call it the General Relativity Ball.
It looks like he's throwing a wiffle ball in the wind.
 

Todd Benzinger

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To this point, the Sox rotation almost perfectly mirrors the '95 staff, actually:

- Steven Wright = Tim Wakefield, as discussed
- David Price = Roger Clemens. The perennial ace trying to work his way back into form.
- Rick Porcello = Erik Hansen. The career #3-4 guy stepping up into the #2 role.
- ERod = Aaron Sele. Promising young guy derailed by injury.
- Joe Kelly = Zane Eshelman
I hope and expect that this is a much better version of that rotation (Price isn't better than Clemens, career-wise, obviously). But it is Vaughan Eshelman, not Zane.
 

Average Reds

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Sep 24, 2007
35,547
Southwestern CT
Only about ten, because Wright also throws his knuckler faster than Wakefield did. Wright and Dickey both throw their knuckleball about 75 mph, while Wakefield's was around 65. I don't know how fast the classic knuckleballers like Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm threw; I think more like Wakefield. When Wakefield was around, I remember pontificators saying that the knuckleball had to be thrown that slowly or it wouldn't work; obviously that's wrong, because Wright's has at least as much stupid movement as Wakefield's did.
If the book Ball Four is accurate, I'd say that Wilhelm threw a "slow" knuckler and Niekro was slightly faster. Bouton used a different grip, threw harder than both of them and had different action. (Their knucklers "danced" and Bouton's had a late break.)

All things being equal, the harder you throw it, the greater the movement. Of course, keeping spin off the ball is more important than throwing hard. And the biggest reason that most knuckleballers don't throw that hard is that the tendency to overthrow will put spin on the ball.

Dickey and Wright represent a refining of the art to the point where they throw consistently harder with no spin. The next step forward is to master the ability to change speeds without a noticeable change in spin.

The knuckler is so difficult to control that it will probably never happen, but if a pitcher could master a knuckleball and a "knuckle change" it would change the sport, IMO.
 

Buzzkill Pauley

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Jun 30, 2006
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The knuckler is so difficult to control that it will probably never happen, but if a pitcher could master a knuckleball and a "knuckle change" it would change the sport, IMO.
Because no one could catch it with a conventional mitt. You'd basically need a pillow to deaden the ball and knock it straight down, and just give up the idea of gloving it.