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Two Orioles pitchers are learning the knuckler

May 17, 2013, 11:03 AM EDT

Knuckleball

When Tim Wakefield was winding down I was worried that we’d not have any knuckleballers. Then R.A. Dickey emerged from years of obscurity. Dickey, of course, will not last forever, so we’re faced again with the possible extinction of knuckleballers.

Thank goodness there are two of them on Dagobah right now, learning from the knuckleball Yoda:

[Zach] Clark and [Eddie] Gamboa are getting plenty of help as they try to learn the finer points of the knuckleball. Pitching at Double-A Bowie, they’ve been receiving tutelage from Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, whose 318 career major league victories are the most ever by a knuckleballer.

They’re in the Orioles’ system and have been tasked by Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter to get crafty.

I still hope that one day the knuckler will re-emerge as just another pitch otherwise conventional pitchers have in their repertoire, as was the case for much of the 20th century. But having to  live in a world where it is primarily seen as a means of salvaging otherwise stalled careers is better than nothing.

  1. hittfamily - May 17, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    “You need to learn a knuckler” is a much more polite way of saying “We will not be renewing your contract at years end”.

    • jwbiii - May 17, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      Both of these guys are in their late 20s and at AA. Last Chance Cafe for them.

  2. chill1184 - May 17, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    The craft will live!

  3. chacochicken - May 17, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    The key, as displayed by Dickey, is to be able to control and throw a fast (78+mph) knuckleball otherwise it is only mildly useful when compared to more conventional pitches.

    • Jeremy Fox - May 17, 2013 at 12:36 PM

      The Neikros, Wilhelm, and Wakefield all threw their knucklers slower than Dickey, and had more than mild success. So I’m not sure why you think it’s “key” to throw a knuckleball as hard as Dickey does.

      Comparing the effectiveness of a knuckleball to other pitches isn’t meaningful. The effectiveness of any pitch depends on how well it’s thrown.

      • chacochicken - May 17, 2013 at 12:52 PM

        That is four pitchers out of thousands. To be a truly effective pitcher the fast knuckler has propelled him to a Cy Young award. I’m comparing the the learning curve for throwing the knuckleball to other pitches. There is a reason why so few pitchers have thrown it in the last 20 years.

      • Jeremy Fox - May 17, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        So you think the fact that Dickey won a Cy Young shows that everyone trying to throw a knuckleball should throw it as hard as Dickey does? Afraid you lost me. Different pitchers are effective by pitching differently. The fact that one guy won a Cy Young pitching one way doesn’t show that everyone else who throws the same pitches as that guy is doing it wrong.

      • chacochicken - May 17, 2013 at 1:11 PM

        Yes, I think the fact that Dickey won a Cy Young with 78-80 mph knuckleball suggests that is a far more repeatable pitch compared to Rivera’s cutter or Verlander’s 100’s. If you are trying to learn to pitch in the major leagues, I’m going out on the limb to think you’d like to be at least a very good player. Why do you think Dickey listened to all the other knuckleballers in the first place? Compare Wakefield’s relatively average knuckler and you see a 5th starter with nearly a career 5.00 ERA. Throw a fast knuckleball.

  4. dondada10 - May 17, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    RIP Hoyt Wilhelm, one of the greatest knuckleballers ever and Orioles legend.

  5. arrooo - May 17, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Go get me Eddie

  6. moogro - May 17, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    There is always a master and a pupil.

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