Lindbergh: A comprehensive history of knuckleballers in the PITCHf/x era

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus on April 10, 2014, with mention of SABR member Harry Pavlidis:

Earlier this week, Angels starter C.J. Wilson threw a knuckleball—or so he said. Whether what left his hand was the genuine article is a matter of some uncertainty, which we’ll attempt to resolve before this article is over. Regardless of whether Wilson deserves induction into the knuckleball club, though, his claim made me wonder what other knuckleball news I might have missed. If a 33-year-old can break one out without warning in his 10th big-league season, who’s to say another knuckler hasn’t made an uncredited appearance at some point in the past several seasons? Knuckleballers, like ring-bearers, are entitled to retire to Valinor, so it’s important that we don’t leave anyone out.

Fortunately, pitch-tracking technology has made knuckleballs much easier to monitor. Over the seven-plus seasons for which PITCHf/x has been active, Pitch Info (aka Harry Pavlidis) has tagged 23, 922 pitches as knuckleballs, thereby establishing them as superior to every other offering. For those precious pitches, we have 11 men to thank, classified below by their relationship to and reliance on the pitch.

The Primary Pitch-ers
Five of the 11 arms are bona fide knuckleballers who entrusted their careers to the pitch, throwing it a majority of the time. R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield are the names everyone knows. In addition to receiving 100 percent of the Cy Youngs ever awarded to knuckleballers, Dickey has thrown 54.2 percent of the knuckleballs floated in the PITCHf/x era; he’ll up that percentage tonight in Toronto. Wakefield, who retired after 2011, accounts for another 37.9 percent. Together, the two produced 92.2 percent of the knuckleballs PITCHf/x cameras have recorded.

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Originally published: April 11, 2014. Last Updated: April 11, 2014.