The Knuckleball Is Vanishing From Major League Baseball

Only 200 knuckleballs have been thrown in the majors in all of 2019

The Knuckleball Is Vanishing from Major League Baseball
Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox pitches in London. (Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty)
By Evan Bleier / August 19, 2019 11:10 am

With fewer pitches being thrown with each passing year, the knuckleball is striking out in Major League Baseball.

A pitch which peaked in 1970 when seven knuckleball pitchers — including Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm — combined for 47 wins and 44 saves, the knuckleball is in decline for the second straight season, according to The Washington Post.

Last year, only 727 knuckleballs were thrown in the majors (719 of them by Boston’s Steven Wright), the fewest in the pitch-tracking era (2008-present).

That number looks like it will go down once again this year as Wright has only thrown 114 knuckleballs over six innings of work this season. Other than him, only Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Ryan Feierabend (73) and Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile (13) have tossed knucklers this season. That’s only 200 knuckleballs in the majors in all of 2019, a number which likely won’t rise all that much as Wright is injured and Feierabend is in the minors.

Though the pitch was never a popular one, there always seemed to be at least one pitcher, be it (R.A. Dickey or Tim Wakefield, in MLB who relied on it as his primary mode of attacking hitters. But with MLB teams putting more of a value on power pitching than ever before, the knuckleball might be out for good.

“It will be sad when it’s a lost thing,” Dickey, who won the CY Young in 2012, told The Post. “The hopeful part of my heart says it’s the natural ebb and flow of the pitch. The realistic part of my heart feels more and more front offices are not so inclined to give that type of pitch a chance over a guy who throws hard.”

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