Steve Wright Particularly Fascinating

Steve Wright continues to dominate American League batters with his nasty knuckleball, using it to fan five against the Chicago White Sox on June 20th at Fenway Park. The knuckleballer is 8-4 so far this season with 80 strikeouts, leading the AL with three complete games. What makes Wright particularly fascinating to watch is that he’s not just any knuckleballer. Wright seems to bring the pitch to a whole new Wright Particularly Fascinatinglevel.

For almost a century, since Chicago White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte allegedly invented the pitch, the knuckleball has baffled hitters. Bill Lee once tried to show me how to throw one, but I got lost in his directions after a few minutes. I’m not sure if that was because Bill Lee was being himself, or because it’s so difficult to explain how to throw the pitch to begin with.

I know you start by gripping the ball with the top of your fingers instead of your actual knuckles, which keeps the ball from rotating as it (hopefully) crosses the plate. Its effectiveness is in the unpredictability of where it’s going. The ball is at the mercy of the wind, humidity, or other natural forces that physically manipulate it. This unpredictability makes it hard for batters to hit, but also for catchers to catch. Sportscaster Bon Uecker puts it best, “The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and pick it up.”

Monday’s outing against Chicago made Wright particularly fascinating to watch because, in theory, knuckleballs aren’t supposed to make one full rotation. Keeping the ball from doing so between the time it leaves the pitcher’s hand and hits the catcher’s glove is next to impossible. But Wright threw a pitch past Chicago’s Alex Avila monday night that didn’t make a single rotation. Not one. Single. Rotation. It was just as fascinating to watch Avila take a swing at it—the White Sox catcher never even had a chance.

Move over Tim Wakefield, Steve Wright is the new knuckleballer in town and, if he can keep it up, the new ace.

Steven Wright Is Here To Stay

Coming into the 2016 season, Steven Wright was still unknown to most fans. Following an impressive spring in which he had a 2.66 ERA, Wright won the final spot in the Boston Red Sox rotation. A guy who had posted average minor league numbers finally had his chance to cement himself in a major league rotation, no more bus rides.

Wright is primarily a knuckleball pitcher, throwing it 85.9 percent of the time. His secondary pitchesSteven Wright consist of a very hittable low to mid 80s fastball and a curveball that he rarely throws. Wright’s pitch arsenal is very comparable to former Sox fan favorite, Tim Wakefield. However, Wakefield threw his curveball a bit more than Wright. Strong secondary pitches are essential for starting pitchers to succeed at this level as they keep hitters thinking and off balance. However, the knuckleball has proven to be a pitch that one can make a career out of as a starter if they master it, easier said than done. So far, Wright looks to have mastered it and as a result he is pitching like the ace of the staff.

Last night was Wright’s fifth start of the 2016 season. He went six innings, allowing two runs and striking out six batters, including impressive hitting third baseman Todd Frazier twice. This was a strong start to May for Wright following an outstanding April, where he had a 1.37 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. The numbers have been great for Wright but the most important feature he brings to the table is the ability to eat up innings.

Steven Wright: What Makes Knuckleball Pitchers So Valuable?

Throwing a knuckleball gives a starting pitcher a much better chance at being able to pitch longer in their career. This is because the knuckleball is less stressful on the arm of a pitcher than other off speed pitches such as a slider and curveball. Two examples of the longevity that a knuckleball pitcher can have are Wakefield and Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher, R.A Dickey. Wakefield retired at the age of 45 and Dickey is still pitching at age 41. While both of these guys have never been true aces, beside Dickey’s money making years in the big apple from 2010-2012 wearing a New York Mets uniform, their ability to eat innings and sustain a high pitch count is invaluable to a major league bullpen. Dickey has thrown 200 plus innings in the past five seasons and Wakefield did so five times in his career, while coming just short multiple times. Wright has yet to throw that many innings in  a season but has shown the potential to do so in the minor leagues, surpassing 100 innings a few times. Is 2016 the year he finally reaches the 200 inning plateau?

If Wright is healthy, that is a very likely scenario for him. While the sub 2.00 ERA may not uphold, he will continue eating innings, providing rest for the bullpen. Wright’s season has been very impressive thus far and he may very well be the next Wakefield in Sox Nation, possibly even better. Get to know who Wright is and embrace the knuckleball again as he is here to stay, pitching like a man on a mission to stay off those buses.

Steven Wright Making Case For Bullpen Spot in ’15

steven wright

Photo Credit: Ken Jancef Photography

Sunday marked Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright’s second appearance of the season, but it is not the sample size that matters — it is what he does. Pitching in long relief for the third time this season, Wright single-handedly saved the bullpen once again; tossing three beautiful innings allowing no runs on three hits while walking no one and punching out a pair. His ERA now stands at 0.75 on the year in the Bigs over 12 innings.
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Once again, it is not the sample size that matters — but instead it is more important what Wright does. Throwing three types of knuckleballs — hard, regular, and soft. Using a combination of those three pitches, he gets plenty of whiffs. Wright is seeing plenty of success and can go a number of innings on a relatively short notice. Knuckleballers are known for the immense stamina and Wright is no exception.

Last year in the big leagues, Wright was not too shabby either earning two wins due to impressive long relief outings. Not all of his outings were sharp, but pitching in the wind rain for a knuckleballer is tough and so is having Ryan Lavarnway behind the backstop.
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Right now as it is projected, there appears to be a serious lack in stamina in the 2015 Boston Red Sox bullpen. Sure, there are some guys like Brandon Workman and Alex Wilson who can give the occasional two innings, but what happens when a starter blows up? What happens when Clay Buchholz surrenders seven runs and does not make it out of the second inning alive? Well then, the bullpen would be exhausted of it’s resources. With Wright in the bullpen, that would not occur.

In his second outing of the year, when Wright faced R.A. Dickey on the mound, it was the first time two knuckleballers faced each other since Tim Wakefield faced Dickey.

Red Sox Knuckleballer Steven Wright: Next Tim Wakefield?

steven wrightAfter starting the year on the Disabled List due to a sports hernia, Steven Wright didn’t start the 2014 season until May. Wright pitched in extended Spring Training a of couple times and got a rehab start with the Portland Sea Dogs in late May.
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In three starts with the Pawtucket Red Sox so far this season, Wright has been dominating his AAA competition. Boasting a 1.35 ERA in three starts totaling 20 innings, Wright has fanned a total of 23 batters while walking just five showing amazing control over his knuckle-ball. Perhaps the thing that stands out the most for Wright is his control. In his last start, a start where he fanned ten batters in seven innings, Wright threw 70 of his 99 pitches for strikes. This is much higher than usual for a knuckleballer.  Although three starts is a small sample size, it is a great sign to see Wright recovering well from his injury, especially since Boston is low on starting pitching at the Major League level.
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Last year Steven Wright looked good for the Paw Sox, posting a 3.46 ERA in 24 starts totaling 135 1/3 innings fanning 99 batters while walking 65. Perhaps the most impressive part of his year though, was when he posted a 2.15 ERA from July 1st onward in Pawtucket totaling 13 appearances, 11 of which were starts. In the big leagues Wright pitched in four games, one of which was a start, totaling 13 1/3 innings in which he gave up eight earned runs while striking out ten and walking nine.

If Wright keeps up what he is doing, which he should be able to, the future looks bright for him. Wright is valuable to the Boston Red Sox organization because of his versatility. Given his ability to start and pitch in long relief, Boston has some choices they can make when it comes to Wright. Knowing Boston, it would be tough for Wright to get a spot in the rotation right away, but the bullpen is more likely. In the bullpen given his immense stamina, Wright could log a high number of innings and save the bullpen during a blowout or during extra innings. Not to say that Wright could not give the Red Sox one good inning alone, but why should the Red Sox settle for one when they can get several good innings from him.
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Like fine wine, knuckleballers get better with age which is another plus for Steven Wright. Despite already being 29-years-old, Wright could have a long career ahead of him. The best part of it all is that all Wright cost the Red Sox back in 2012 was failed first base prospect Lars Anderson.

A potential heir to Tim Wakefield? Maybe, who knows. What is known is that Wright should be able to help Boston out in the long run logging large amounts of innings for the team.