Interesting article. I’ve always been fascinated by the knuckler.
In regards to the difference between righties and lefties, I wonder if the fact that he’s played his career at Fenway could be responsible for some of those numbers? Specifically the difference in approach/mentality of visiting righties and lefties? I don’t know where to find data to try and back that up (I find it tricky trying to get to know more when getting in to sabermetrics), so it’s just a theory. If you have them, it would be interesting to see the home/away lefty/righty/ splits.
“righties go up there looking to knock one out of the park while lefties just look to make contact, but I don’t know why that would be”
I suppose that would be because RF is far more daunting than the Monstah. It may not be a herculean task to pound a 50 mph floater over Fanway’s RF wall, but RH’s looking to pull the ball surely have the easier task.
Comment by Dirty Water — February 18, 2010 @ 3:51 pm
I can’t remember who did it (and it probably was a while ago), but I seem to recall there being switch-hitters that would hit right-handed against Wakefield.
(Yeah, this comment’s not going to be very useful unless someone comes up with the guy who did it. I’m sorry.)
I think a lot of switch hitters choose to bat righty against wakefield but I cannot remember the reason.
Comment by walkoffblast — February 18, 2010 @ 4:09 pm
how about the fact that most people are naturally right-handed?
If most of the pitchers are righties, then the fact that far more than the normal societal % of lefty hitters find their way to the majors probably means that as a whole, the righties that DID make it are better PURE hitters. And if there were such a thing as a pitcher without a platoon split, then the righties should hit him better than the lefties because, again, they have to be better hitters to be in the big leagues.
I have absolutely nothing to back this up. I just know that if Jacque Jones were a right-handed hitter and his splits were flipped, his career baseball earnings would be 6 figures rather than 8.
Almost all switch hitters face Wake from the right side because it’s easier to pick up the knuckler from the right side as opposed to the left. I can’t remember a single switch hitter batting from the left side against Wake in about 5 years of watching Red Sox baseball.
Comment by Evan Kirkwood — February 18, 2010 @ 4:41 pm
Since it’s been addressed already, is there any way to check Wakefield’s L/R splits on the road? That would take a ton of digging but could shine some extra light on him.
Even though if you’re an AL East fan and haven’t seen enough of Tim Wakefield to evaluate him yet, you pretty much can’t make a visual observation on anything, ever.
His 1994 season in Buffalo (AAA):
5-15, 5.84 ERA, 1.679 WHIP, 4.25 K/9, 5.02 BB/9.
That just makes his 1995 season in Boston even more astounding, going from a guy who looked one bad outing away from selling Buicks to a Cy Young candidacy.
Obviously he’s never approached that since, but it takes a lot of crying to not appreciate a guy who constantly starts 30 games w/ a better-than-average ERA. Fortunately even most Red Sox fans are immune to that level of annoyance.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some power relievers with great stuff, great movement, but no control had similar splits. I could imagine a pitcher who is close to unhittable in the zone (so has low OBP and low SLG), but throws a ton of balls so gives up a lot of walks (high OBP and low SLG outside the zone).
I’d have to think that if he hangs a few that don’t quite knuckle, it becomes softball out there for a few outings (why balls would be easier to hit than strikes maybe). Also, switch hitters bat righty vs Mariano Rivera because of the cutter.
For switch hitters batting right-handed, Joe Maddon had the right idea:
“Some switch hitters will bat right handed against Tim Wakefield because they are worried that facing his knuckleball delivery would disrupt their normal left handed timing against other right handed pitchers. ”
and “Two of the switch-hitters in the Indians’ lineup, Victor Martinez and Asdrubal Cabrera, even tried a unique approach to solved Wakefield. They eschewed the platoon advantage and batted from the right side after the right-hander pitcher. “It was Victor’s idea, because the way a knuckleball breaks, it moves away from a left-handed hitter instead of into the body,” said Cabrera, the rookie second baseman. “You actually see the ball better by moving over to the other side.” The numbers suggest that their changing gears was a good move—right-handed batters had a 780 OPS against Wakefield in the regular season, while lefties had a 716 mark; during Wakefield’s 16-year career, the splits are 765/722, again slightly worse against hitters stepping in from the right side.”
Comment by bballer319 — February 19, 2010 @ 10:30 pm
Jim Bouton (coincidentally, also converted into a knuckler and purportedly a “knuckle-head”, but that’s besides the point) writes in his book, Ball Four, that he treated all of his hitters as flesh and would just go after them regardless of how good or bad they were. Maybe this is approach by Wake is an explanation of why he throws hitters 85% knuckleballs, 10% fastballs, and 5% curves. Also, it might be an explanation as to why with a similar approach to hitters the splits are similar. Just a thought, even though I’m not selling it as anything definite (more information needed).
Hey Dave – here’s a random question for you. Wakefield’s PitchFX tab of this site is showing that his knuckleball has very consistently been a “rising” pitch, much like a fastball with backspin. As I understand it, this metric is relative to a pitch with no spin.
However… Wakefield’s knuckleball has no spin! I mean, it has a tiny amount of spin sometimes, but for the most part, I would guess it’s backspin is 1/50th of that of a normal backspun fastball.
Shouldn’t his vertical pitch fx be just about 0, just like his horizontal? Does this demonstrate an inaccuracy in the pitch fx system if it’s showing a knuckleball as having “rise”?