San Francisco Giants v Toronto Blue Jays

This was going to be just one part of a larger post on Day Four of the Winter Meetings, but… it’s done now, and I’m sort of thinking, why hold it while I write up a bunch of other stuff? So… here you go!

An interesting development that, in addition to the Rule 5 draft, I slept through this morning was some talk about the Jays becoming a breeding ground for knuckleball pitchers.

In yesterday’s reignition of the Ohka Crisis the Jays made a shrewd move, giving A.J. Jimenez a knuckleballer– which Ohka returns as– to practice catching with in double-A. The move also means bringing an extra knuckler to camp, in order to give Josh Thole, Eric Kratz– maybe even Dioner Navarro!– the chance to work with the pitch without having to be exclusive with R.A. Dickey

Most impressive of all, though, is that this doesn’t seem to be just a catcher thing:

For a brief, fleeting second when I saw it I confused Josh Banks with Matt Fucking Bush, before I remembered that Bush is in jail until, like, 2016, and not nearly as funny/weird a story as he was before the profoundness of his problems became evident anyway, so… even better!

It just makes complete sense that they would go full-on into this, since they’ve got Dickey for at least the next two seasons anyway (plus an option for a third, and the potential he may pitch even beyond that), so they’ll need guys who can catch it, and will need extra guys who can throw it. Better still, those guys can get instruction from the best in the game, and doing it all can make the organization a beacon for pitchers like Banks and Ohka, trying to wring just a little more out of their careers by taking one last shot at success based around the pitch.

There aren’t a whole lot of guys taking that path just yet, but there also weren’t a lot of landing spots for them prior to, basically, today.

The thinking here goes, if the Jays provide the best infrastructure for knuckleballers, in terms of instruction, catchers who can receive it– catchers who need to learn how to receive it– and coaches who understand the place the pitch has within the club’s pipeline, they’ll be more desirable to better pitchers who are willing to give it a shot.

I don’t exactly foresee an army of knuckleballers making their way through the roster in future seasons– part of the appeal of the pitch, of course, is the drastic change of speed compared to what hitters are used to, so having a lot of them makes less sense– but since there are advantages to doing it on the catching side anyway, and since the guys who’ll be throwing it will be essentially zero cost signings, any value at all that they get out of it at the big league level would be tremendous. It’s actually a great strategy.

So… there’s that.

Comments (129)

  1. I think this was brought up last year too. I can’t remember if it was pitchers or coaches, but it’s been a thing since the Dickey trade.

  2. Teach the knuckler to everyone on the 25 man roster, that way the next time the team gets involved in a 14+ inning clusterfuck, they’ll have pitching for days!

  3. CLOSE THE DOME!!!
    (right?)

  4. Knuckleballers are the new market inefficiency!

    If they ended up having 4-5 guys in the organization working on the knuckler, I wonder if they would go as far as to try to get someone like Hough or Wakefield on as an instructor or consultant or something.

  5. They discussed the pros and cons of an organization doing this on the Effectively Wild podcast a few months ago. If I recall they thought it would be a pretty shrewd move, but would fairly quickly reach a point of diminishing returns if you had more than two in the rotation. Even quicker if other organizations started doing it too. Unfamiliarity is pretty key with the knuckler.

    Anyways, it’s nice to see them trying to do something innovative to leverage a potential market inefficiency.

    • I would mostly agree with their assessment, but I’m guessing the idea would be to have them working at different levels. I’m sure they wouldn’t load up on them, but if they had, say, 4-5 pitchers in the organization working on the knuckleball at 3-4 different levels, hitters still wouldn’t have much of a chance to get used to it.

    • Odds are the overwhelming majority of these guys become nothing, so I don’t having more than two qualified guys to pitch in your rotation is going to be a problem. If you do somehow churn out more than two guys, you can always trade one of them. Even if there are four, five, six guys in the majors who throw knucklers, I don’t think it’s going to effect the utility of the pitch all that much.

      • I remember Magnum XL-200 when it first came out. It was elsaiy 1989 when this coaster was launched and it was 200 ft high and absolutely amazing. I stood inline for 2 hours + in hot humid Ohio weather. No stamps, no get in front. But the ride was worth every second. Ah Cedar Pointe

  6. I love this idea. It can be done at minimal cost and risk with some real potential upside.

    Imagine having two MLB-calibre knuckleballers occupying the 2 and 4 spot in the rotation in terms of the “Dickey effect”, durability, lessened injury-risk, cost savings, etc.

    Most importantly, in a world where competitive advantages are near impossible to hold for long, this is not something other teams can imitate.

    • I also think this is awesome, it always amazed me that they’re weren’t more Knucklers. If you’re a AA/AAA pitching talent that is about 32 and hasn’t been able to make it to the majors, why wouldn’t you commit a couple years to trying the knuckle? Love that the jays are jumping on this!

  7. It might be something to have a knuckler in the pen.

    Start the 6th with no-one on and go through the order messing with the hitters timing until the harder throwers come in for the save.

    Has there even been a lefty that throws the pitch?

    • Wilbur Wood was a lefty knuckler.

    • Could be great in the pen for third time through the order for sure . Seems like a feel pitch sometimes they get working into the game

      How many guys can actually throw it well? Maybe we will find out.

      Dickey is playing but Hough or Wakefield would be perfect throughout the season if they try this out with multiple guys

    • The knuckler in ‘pen would be interesting to see how it would throw someone off who’s been facing flamethrowers all game. Basically the opposite of facing hard throwing relievers after Dickey.

      Also think having a second spot-starting knuckler might be interesting, so you could set the rotation to have a knuckleball pitcher once for every series… avoids players getting too used to it, and throws off betters in every series.

      • Batters. But, I guess betters too.

        • I’m thinking a knuckler swingman. If Ohka really has something he could give the rotation a day off once in a while. Of course they’d have to buy out his contract and find a place for him.

          Alright…nevermind !

    • One downside to a knuckler reliever might be the hesitancy to bring him in with runners on base b/c of fear of passed balls.

      • bring him in at the start of an inning and leave him in for a couple. Starter –> knuckler –> setup/closer. Do that in 2 of 3 games in a series and the other one – you guessed it we will start a knuckler!!

  8. I’m so down with this.

    I want Mark Buerhle to be the hardest thrower on the team.

  9. Reminds me when Cecil had an interview with Jamie Campbell last winter saying that he had a decent knuckleball. I remember thinking that he should go all-in on it and try to re-establish himself as a starter, seeing as “he had nothing to lose.”

    Who could have predicted this turnaround as a reliever?

  10. Even if the Jays don’t want to have a rotation stacked with knuckleballers, if they managed to develop a second knuckleballer who isn’t quite as good as Dickey, then maybe they can flip him for another SP?

  11. Anyone else remember Josh Banks being a fucking boss in like, MVP Baseball 04 or something?

    • I started a season of MLB 13 The Show yesterday.

      Jays were ranked 1st going into the year and finished with 87 wins…. Just missed the playoffs that finished when the Braves beat the Angels in the WS.

      Also Bonifacio was a stud 2b, Romero led the team in wins, every SP in my rotation (except Buehrle) had an ERA below 4 and I signed JJ to an extension mid season.

      Oh what might have been.

  12. They may as well try to teach it to Ricky Romero.
    What does he or they have to lose?

  13. An Oka crisis and Who’s Harry Crumb reference within a week? Loving it! Feeling like I am back in the early 1990′s.

    • If they try this any seriousness they should get Hough if they can. He was Dickey’s mentor and had a long career always having to prove himself with the knuckler. Is a coach. You never know who can throw one even Wakefield was a position player about to get cut fooling around throwing a knuckler and a coach said hey go try to pitch that. Then he was rookie of the year. You get Dickey and Hough just check out guys trying it and you never know when you might find the next wakefield. And Hough is the guy to mentor them while they are learning it which seems like no trivial task at all.

  14. Doesn’t strike me as a bad idea. I mean why not?

    Say you’ve got a prospect who has an average MLB quality pitch but can’t seem to develop other offerings to a major league level… rather then just discard them why not try converting him to a knuckleball pitcher and turn the decent pitch he has into the secondary pitch? As an added bonus even if the knucklers themselves never work out you now have a cadre of catchers with experience catching the knuckler that you can offer in trade to any other teams that may have knuckleball pitchers.

    We have the best Knuckleball pitcher to come along in a long time… he’d probably be an excellent instructor when it comes time to call it a career. Why not leverage that asset as much as you can.

    • Seems like a guy with a hard fastball but little secondary and maybe control issues would be ideal candidate. Instead of the mid 80s stinker fastball you try to sneak in throw one over 90 then guys cant sit on the mediocre second pitch and it throws off their timing more.

  15. I like it. I like it a lot.

  16. This is why I really like this edition of the jays front office: thinking outside the box

  17. So a rotation of knuckleballers, and 7 guys in the pen that can throw 97?

  18. please sign Santana Garza Price or Jiminez. Its hard to get excited about the signing of failed pitchers giving the knucleball a shot in the minors. im sorry.

  19. throw your knucks out there and if it rides you gotta ride em till there raw and runnin down the freeway like a wobbler comin heavy in on a bread basket. amen jesus christ to the knuck lord.

  20. new movie coming based on the story of Alex Anthopolous..

    KnuckleBall

  21. All jokes aside this could be a serious coup. Bit of a stretch but imagine having 3 knucklers who are good . 2 in rotation and one in the pen. The “Dickey Effect” could really add some value when you start a guy once a series and have a guy in the pen to bring in between flamethrowers and they dont see knucklers on the other teams

    After watching knuckleball it was kind of comical how the knucklers always had to reprove themselves and nobody would have faith in them even though they were great when they got a chance – one poor outing and no more knuckleballer. So if encouraged and fostered there may be a real thing to tap into here.

  22. “The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and pick it up.”

    -Bob Uecker

    • “….well she said she was a hooker… but I don’t remember paying.”

      Bob Uecker

  23. Now *that* is bright as hell! Congratulations Front Office!

  24. Another jackass move by the jackass.

    • I like the Jackass. In fact, most GMs are now scratching their heads wondering how AA has just gamed the rule 5 draft! Good move AA.

    • There’s no easy answers these days. Just gotta pcrtaice (there’s a new batting pcrtaice mode in The Show). I try to think about where I want to hit the ball, like a real hitter, so I’ll wait a tic longer to hit it the other way or jump on a pitch early to pull it down the line. Focusing on your timing can help you lock in and actually think about the necessary timing.

  25. If the Jays have the ability to teach and coach the knuckleball, it would give them an edge. One thing with the knuckleball is the only person that can help you is another kb pitcher, like Dickey had with Hough. The problem with Hough is he can only relay his own experience. Dickey’s knuckleball is much different than Hough’s cause of velocity.
    The Jays need to invest time to find coaches that can teach the knuckleball and work with pitchers to correct mechanical issues. It could be a pretty big competitive advantage and it wouldn’t cost much.
    Every 28 year old fame out would be beating a path to the Jay’s door.

  26. Get Dickey to teach it to Morrow.

    Lovely way to change speeds after a 95 mph heater puts him ahead in the count.

  27. I wonder if we didn’t do Dickey any favours making him our #1. Wouldn’t it be better to pitch him 2nd between a couple of hard throwers? Start Morrow as #1 and then Dickey after him. Even though he has a Cy Young, I think he’s better at #2.

    • Second time thriughbthecrotation it’s completely irrelevant whose #1.

    • our guys were hurt it seemed all year but I think he was slotted between Morrow and Johnson when they were both going no? Not at the start but later on

      Right now we have only Morrow for a flamethrower, Drabek could be a good switch from the knuckler too if he throws hard enough and can get that bender in there for strikes

  28. @Stoete.

    I know you are busy posting at a crazy rate, but I was wondering if you were thinking about do a post on the Jays potential free agent pitching targets from their perspective.

    Are any of the targets friendly with Jays players?

    Do any of the targets have any connections to Toronto Girlfriends wives etc?

    Would someone like Garza be excited about returning to the AL East?

    • Oakville69, This can’t be you asking these silly questions. Please whoever you are go away. If it is you, go to bed, you sound screwed up from reading all the posts.

  29. So, does that turn Tomo Ohka into AJ Jimenez’s personal pitcher? When AJJ is promoted, Ohka is too? Mind blown…

  30. If it wasn’t for this site I dont know how big of a jays fan I would be, going on sites like TSN and Sportsnet don’t have close to the coverage that Stoets gives. Helps that the commenters graduated highschool too!

    • +1.

      stoeten has been saving his energy for these offseason hot stove league.

      If he did this during the season he would get very tired.

      I could see Stoeten doing after game posts, batting practice posts, commenting on dirk Hayhurst or gregg Zaun lunchtime baseball show, Jays talk reviews.

  31. funny they haven’t signed me yet…

  32. So Elliott reporting the Cubs want Sanchez, Stroman, and a 3rd prospect for Shark. LOL are they for real? Please AA don’t do it.

    • No need to plead. No way AA does that.
      Not enough Ouzo on the planet.

    • It really sounded like elliot was speculating to be honest. Dont think he knows that for a fact, but if true, no fucking way AA does that.

    • From the Cubs perspective it doesn’t hurt to ask for the moon, especially if they know that AA is semi desperate for pitching help. The Cubs can hold onto Samardzija for a few weeks, until the trade deadline or this winter all with the idea that they can resign him long-term once they show they are going to contend. We have to remember the Cubs have tons of cash but aren’t spending it while they rebuild. Also their system is pretty loaded with young position players. All they have to do is throw a boat load of money at him when it’s time and they are covered. It seems like that’s the way AA is operating with Colby right now by waiting on doing an extension.

  33. While there is nothing wrong with having the Jays organization become a landing place for those who want to exploit the Knuckler, let’s keep it realistic.
    Dickey is the only fulltime knuckle baller in the majors.No two knuckleball pitchers throw the exact same way.Dickey has used a composite of Hough,Wakefield and Niekro to get to where he is.He credits these mentors for his success. He has thrown the pitch, in his estimation 300,000 times. He was the NL SO leader in 2012. He also holds the record for giving up the most homeruns in one game.
    There’s a reason he’s the only one in the majors throwing the knuckle, it’s a very vey difficult pitch to throw. Even the pitcher doesn’t know exactly where it’s going to end up. That’s why a different catching style is needed ( no target, glove down, sideways squat instead of square,etc.). Also it’s not the slow speed that confuses batters, it’s the movement.
    Spin is the enemy.
    So, while it’s something that can give the Jays organization some unique knowledge, to expect a knuckleball factory of some sort, is just unrealistic.If it was that easy, every pitcher’s last resort would be the knuckle. It’d be a standard procedure once a pitcher turned 35.
    Many have tried but very, very few, have ever mastered the pitch well enough, to make it to the majors.

    • So you’re saying there’s a chance!

    • Well said. RA is the only person on the planet in the majors throwing the pitch. If Ohka makes the team this year I am guessing we lost six or seven starters or we got 6/49 lucky.

  34. Does this mean the Jays have zero intention of trading A.J. Jiminez?

  35. Tomo Ohka played 2013 for the Toyama Thunderbirds in Independant Japanese league. Here’s his player profile: http://www.t-thunderbirds.jp/players_info/players/… (best viewed in Google Chrome with translate feature)

  36. All knuckleballs, all the time.

  37. Just a thought: what about a knuckler coming out of the pen as a long reliever or mid relief? Definitely a change of pace after Morrow throws 6 1/3

    • It’s an interesting thought.
      Dickey was interviewed when he came to the Jays and was asked about the knuckle’s effect on hitters timing, for the next days pitchers.He said the most noticible effect was for the relievers that followed him in a game,not the next days starter.
      Ya gotta figure, the reverse would be true.Again, it’s not the speed but the movement,the flutter.

  38. Lets not stop here.. .Dickey is an innovator. Get him working on knuckle-bats.

  39. Anyone out there know what happened in that rule 5 draft yesterday? AA took a guy named Moran and traded him to the Angels for $244,000 in additional international pool money, which apparently you can do.
    But from what I read, there is no international draft and probably won’t be until after the current CBA expires in 2016.

    Anyone?

    Bueller?

    • Looking at Tanaka’s stats, he was great last year but pretty unreal in 2011: 8.93 (!) K/BB, 0.875 WHIP, 14 complete games. But I guess 19-5 doesn’t look as sexy as 24-0?

      • I don’t know anything about NPB ball but the complete games are unreal. Will this guys arm fall off?

        • Dunno. In comparison, Darvish threw 50 (!) complete games in his last 5 years in Japan.

          • You see I didn’t know that. I would like to know about the conditioning and training used in the NPB league. I’m going to do a little research but if anyone has any links please throw them out.

            • When he first got posted I checked out his IP’s. They were amazing numbers. Way more than MLB pitchers. Additionally, they pitch every 4th day as I remember.

  40. Braves sign Gamel and Brewers still discussing Ike Davis. Seems like a lot of AA’s deals hinge on whether he can trade Adam Lind and whether Tanaka will be posted. With every 1b/dh type slowly going off the market, you start to hear more crumbs of different rumours regarding players that would seemingly be blocked by Lind, like a Butler for example

    • At some point the Jays are going to have to bight it and go the free agent route. I’m not necessarily talking about Lind but eventually you have to spend the dollars in order to not create a hole or weaken a position in order to strengthen or fill another.

      • Yea and I think AA is prepared to do that but is waiting for the trade market to sort itself out first. I think he would go after a guy like Loney but on the flip side if he can acquire a Butler instead, that’s his preference. If the Brewers get Ike Davis for example, AA can suddenly become more aggressive on both fronts – telling KC he’s ready to commit to Loney as there is one less suitor or push toward a deal with Loney knowing the dollars/years could come down to the levels he’s comfortable with.

        • Reading different reports of the Butler and Weeks rumours yesterday it seems that maybe Jays were getting Butler for prospects then flipping Lind to MIL for Weeks. I’m not all that high on Weeks – not for Lind straight up anyway. Maybe a couple other parts in there would think MIL would be giving up more

  41. I believe that Tomo Ohka won’t exactly bounce back, but that the Jays are looking to utilize his Knuckleball throwing ability to get him to infuse that talent in the farm system with Dickey, Thole and Nickeas being familiar with the rare pitch type. The real reason the Jays signed Ohka may be because of this; http://www.gcconnected.com/?p=326

    • I thought that was a given. At no time do I ever expect him or any other knuckle baller to pitch for the Jays on the big league level.

    • GC
      While it’s okay to link your blog through your username,it’s considered gauche to promote it through a direct link in the comments.
      Stoeten deleted one of your comments already.
      Take the hint.
      Do what you want ( I don’t care either way) but I thought you should know there may be consequences.

  42. Odds on Stoeten throwing another post out until at least Monday (Barring breaking news) are now at 33 to 1. Who’s in? Pesos only please.

  43. Clint Longenecker is a godamn guru.

    • Tom W did you notice his summary of the Sanchez delivery change? KLaw was all upset about his shortened stride but Longnecker says it’s an intermediate step to get him more on top of the ball.

  44. Scott MacArthur of TSN said that Doc hoped to pitch for the Jays this year but was only throwing mid 80′s in October. He could have come back here!!!!

  45. Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this.
    Please let me know if you run into anything. I
    truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

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