Has Steven Wrighted the Ship?

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Last week we looked at Steven Wright’s knuckleball and showed that over his first four starts of 2017, his knuckleball was moving less, and more predictably, than in 2016.  In Wright’s most recent start, on April 29, he gave up five runs on seven hits and one walk over 6 ⅓ innings. Even though the results were bad, there was a tiny gleam of optimism: His knuckleball seems to have been moving more than in his earlier starts this year.  

Here’s what his pitch movement looked like (see the last article for an explanation of this chart); the pitches that were hit are shown in red:

It still wasn’t as good as many of his 2016 starts, but at least he had a number of knuckleballs that had positive horizontal movement; earlier in 2017 almost all of the knuckleballs were clustered on the negative side of the “Horizontal Movement” chart, suggesting that Wright was putting spin on them and making their movement predictable.

Most of the pitches were still on the negative-movement side, and all of the hits were in that cluster.  What’s more, most of the hits were on pitches near the “0” movement line.  Batters were presumably watching for his predictable set of pitches, and were most successful in hitting the ones that had the least movement in that group.  

Wright still has to improve his knuckleball’s unpredictability, and he may never get back to his early-2016 levels, but at least there is a sliver of hope that he is on the right path.


Follow Ian on Twitter @iayork

Featured image courtesy of Steven Senne/Associated Press

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Ian is an immunologist and virologist who lives in Atlanta with his wife and two sons. Most of his time is spent driving his kids to baseball and soccer games, during which he indoctrinates his children on the glories of Pedro Martinez, the many virtues of the Montreal Expos, and other important information.

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