Most who have watched Atlanta Braves knuckleballer R.A. Dickey pitch, after seeing his almost effortless approach and lack of blazing speed, have figured a base hit off the Major Leaguer would come somewhat easily. Come on… how many times have you said: “I can hit that?”
Dickey throws two pitches with regularity, a knuckleball with an average speed this season of 76.6 MPH, according to PITCHf/x data from Brooks Baseball, and a sinker (84.4 MPH). He also has a four-seam fastball (83.1 MPH) and a changeup (74.8 MPH), but he rarely throws those offerings (less than 4 percent of his pitches). He tosses his knuckler up to the plate 84 percent of the time.
Who’s drooling now at the idea of mashing one of those pitches?
Watching on TV, most of us can tell that there’s too much movement on those knuckle balls for the average person to hit; heck, Major League hitters have only managed a 26 percent success rate over the course of Dickey’s 15 years in the bigs. But there are still some who absolutely believe the knuckle ball is hittable to the average person.
Watch this video (shot three seasons ago when Dickey was with the Blue Jays and the team was on the road in Milwaukee) and you’ll know you can’t. Fast forward to the 4-minute mark and you’ll truly see just how unpredictable Dickey’s knuckler can be.
So far this season, his first with the Braves, Dickey is 3-3 in nine starts with a 4.17 ERA. He’s five years removed from a Cy Young Award in 2012 where he was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA with Toronto.
[h/t to Ballhawk Shawn, who works hard on his YouTube page to capture MLB bullpen sessions from some of the greats.]