- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

Kevin Millar and the Knuckler

Kevin Millar’s role with the Blue Jays is one he’s played often: the non-descript, blasé veteran bat that happens to tote a championship ring on his finger. Millar’s pitch-type distribution reeks of oddity despite seeing nearly 600 pitches. That’s because nearly 5% of those pitches have registered as knuckleballs. The most recognizable knuckleballer remaining, Boston’s Tim Wakefield, has faced off with Millar on six different occasions this season.

How can nearly 5% of Millar’s pitches seen come from those six plate appearances? Like this:

PA#1: three pitches, pop out
PA#2: one pitch, homer
PA#3: three pitches, groundout
PA#4: seven pitches, walk
PA#5: four pitches, strikeout
PA#6: eight pitches, walk

Sure enough, 26 pitches over six plate appearances. A Millar season would not be complete without a few lengthy at-bats against Wakefield. In 2008, Millar racked up 23 pitches in six plate appearances, including a nine-pitch strikeout; in 2007, Millar drew 13 of his 29 overall in one plate appearance, which ended in a single.

To Millar’s credit, he’s been quite good at hitting the knuckler. After departing from the Red Sox, Millar’s wKN/C are: 8.18, 3.75, -2.29, and this year 9.79. Using the leaderboards from the past three seasons, Millar leads the majors in wKN, just ahead of Johnny Damon, Aubrey Huff, and a trunk load of Yankees. This makes sense, given Millar’s residence in the division during each of those seasons.

I guess the ability to hit knucklers is as good as any reason to keep Millar employed.