How do you know when a knuckleball pitcher is good? It’s not an easy question to answer. We know it’s not just a matter of having a knuckleball — there have been bad knuckleball pitchers. But the pitches themselves aren’t easy to scout, and the whole idea behind an effective knuckleball is sort of the lack of consistency. There’s not a large sample of these pitchers to examine, which further complicates things. A knuckleballer is the most unusual player type in the game, someone who can be almost impossible to trust, but someone who also throws a pitch that seems almost impossible to hit.
There’s a line somewhere. There has to be. There’s a line beyond which a knuckleball pitcher is legitimately good, and maybe that’s when he throws 60 good knuckleballs out of 100, or maybe it’s when he throws 90 good knuckleballs out of 100. We’ve seen R.A. Dickey be an ineffective knuckleballer, and we’ve seen him be an effective one. The pitch gave his career a second chance, which is one of its magical aspects. At some point, I suppose, you just have to look at the numbers. The numbers will tell you when a knuckleballer is working. I don’t know of any other approach, and what the numbers are indicating is that Steven Wright has mastered the weirdest pitch in the sport.