Mariners Insider Blog

The Great Knuckleball Dilemma

There's a reason there are so few knuckleball specialists in the majors – and it's the same reason R.A. Dickey has had so much trouble sticking in the Seattle rotation despite his success.

The bottom line: Most managers and pitching coaches don't trust the pitch.

Every pitcher fights the endless battle of what to do when his stuff isn't there on any particular day, but most managers think the knuckleball is the worst offender.

Few understand the pitch – other than considering it something of a freak of nature.

If it's breaking well, it often eludes the strike zone. It can drive veteran catchers crazy, which is why Jason Varitek almost never catches Tim Wakefield.

In the case of Dickey, his "spot" in the rotation is so tentative that the moment Erik Bedard can pitch, Dickey returns to the bullpen. Why?

Jim Riggleman is leary of the knuckleball on a consistent basis. He respects Dickey, but considers his main pitch a trick pitch. It's the dilemma every knuckleball pitcher has to face – no matter how well they throw their specialty, people in the game are leary to rely upon it.

All Dickey can do is continue to pitch well when he has a chance. It would be the same in most organizations, he knows, and Seattle has given him more of a chance than any other team.

So if you throw a good knuckleball, enjoy it. Torment your friends with it. Just don't figure it's an automatic ticket to the majors.