Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Ahh the knuckleball.  A crazy pitch that is fun to watch when you are at home and seeing major league hitters fail at a pitch that even those who toss it have no idea where it is going.  Watching these hitters whiff on 70-mph junk that bobs and weaves in no sort of rhythm is no don't captivating but when it comes to fantasy baseball purposes, investing in a knuckleball pitcher is filled with peril.  Whether it is R.A. Dickey or Tim Wakefield, any single start by a knuckle ball pitcher has the strong possibility of seeing 6 earned runs in 3 innings as it is a 2-hit complete game gem.  So is in the unpredictability of the pitch.  This brings us to another Boston Red Sox knuckleball pitcher who is taking the game by storm early in the 2016 season and of course were are referring to Steven Wright who sits with a 1.52 ERA and 3 wins a little then a month into things.  Fresh off dominating the Yankees, Wright is now becoming a topic in fantasy baseball which brings us to the point of our latest trend and mirage.  Having been a second round pick way back in 2006 Wright was pretty much a minor league failure who picked up the knuckleball as a last resort to save his career.  Save his career it did as Wright put up a 2.57 ERA in a cup of coffee run with the Sox as an injury fill-in during the 2014 season and then followed that up with more solid pitching in registering a 4.09 ERA in 72.2 innings a year later.  Having made the rotation out of spring training in a sizable upset, Wright has been phenomenal thus far as the knuckler ball has struck out batters at a high 8.27 clip and he is giving up virtually no home runs at a 0.44 rate which is always the biggest bugaboo for those who throw the pitch.  Put it all together and Wright's numbers scream out fantasy baseball ownership at the moment. 

There lies the issue though as we once again remind you that things can go horrible wrong and very fast for a knuckleball pitcher.  Wright is just as likely to put up a 5.00-plus ERA in May or even the rest of the way as he is to continue pitching at a high level.  Now of course Wright won't keep putting up an ERA under 2.00 but we have seen with Dickey winning the Cy Young a few years ago while punching out over 200 batters that some big numbers are possible.  In digging into the stats a bit more, Wright has an insane amount of luck on his side as expected with such a low ERA.  The luck is extreme though as Wright's BABIP is an unsustainable .219 which is as low as it can get.  The correction will be coming soon and when it does, things will get messy.  Consider that Wright's FIP ERA of 3.24 and especially XFIP ERA of 4.08 shows that he is pitching way above his level.  Thus using Wright going forward is filled with fraught.  The K rate is also elevated as Wright has never been around that level as he is with his 8.27 mark right now.  Less strikeouts equals more baseballs in plays which then results in more earned runs.  See the connection?  Thus if you are a Wright owner, ride it out until the first bomb and then cut bait.  You won't be able to sell high here as no one will want to trade for a knuckleball pitcher so this is the only course of action you can take. 


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