Hitting a baseball is already really hard. With the hand eye coordination required to actually hit a baseball, it has been proven to be one the hardest thing to do in sports.
Getting a hit three out of 10 times in baseball is considered outstanding. But if you got three out of 10 on a test, it’s considered a fail. Good pitchers can make it just that much harder to hit a baseball with different release points and movements on pitches. I’m not talking the typical changeup or curveball. Based on all the stats and information collected and watching a lot of baseball, the two most interesting types of pitchers to me are knuckleballers and sidearm pitchers.
Let’s compare sidearm pitcher Joe Smith and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
Smith’s sidearm release is a great tactic for getting batters out. The east to west motion of his arm is the tricky part. Hitters usually don’t even know when or where the ball is being released. Since a 90 MPH fastball reaches the plate in half a second, hitters only have .25 seconds at most to react to the ball. Smith’s sidearm release is at a lower angle, which can throw off the hitters timing.
Over his first 41 innings this year, Smith pulled the rabbit out of his hat 30 times, tricking batters with his release point. More impressive is that he produced 73 ground balls and allowed only 30 hits in 165 batters faced. By pitching standards these are impressive results.
But how does he stack up with Wakefield?
Wakefield is famous for throwing a knuckleball that has more moves than XBox 360 Kinects Dance Central. He grips the ball with two fingertips to control the little spin that’s put on it. The ball jitters around the strike zone going so slow at times that it mesmerizes batters. I’ve seen hitters swing so hard at Wakefield’s knuckleball and hope they hit it. It almost looks like they are blind folded swinging at a piñata. As it turn out, Wakefield is effective as well. He is a master of the knuckleball. Do his stats prove it? He had 16 strikeouts and 33 hits in 151 batters faced. He also produced 76 fly balls.
The verdict: Wakefield’s knuckleball is still one of the most unpredictable pitches in the game. But based on this set of stats, the more effective pitching style is the sidearm release of Smith. However, I’m still waiting for the sidearm knuckleball to make its MLB debut.