Friday, February 8, 2008

Floating the knuckler

OK, this isn't the place you come for human interest stories; you can visit for that. However, thanks to the great baseball content aggregation site, I came across this story of a nearly-washed up pitcher named R.A. Dickey. He played for the Texas Rangers. Nothing special. Eminently forgettable. Arm problems, loss of velocity, promotions and demotions to Triple A. A story told a thousand times, if not more.

[Dickey's claim to fame? In April 2006, he gave up 6 home runs in a game, one less than Charlie Sweeney's record. Nice.]

Then in 2004, "Rangers pitching coach Orel Hershiser watched him in the bullpen and suggested he could prolong his career if he would commit to the knuckleball."

Last year he and his knuckleball had a breakthrough season in Nashville. He was virtually unbeatable the second half of the season, finished 13-6 and was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year. About 80 percent of his pitches were knuckleballs.
It's a pretty interesting story more for the mental challenges he faced when deciding to abandon his "conventional" pitcher approach than for anything else. It made me think of someone who lost a leg or arm and having to relearn how to do everything that once was "normal" to them.

Anyways, he was claimed by the Mariners and is making a go of it this year as a knuckler. Here's wishing him luck.


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