Photo Credit: USA Today Sports / Charles Curtis
Steven Wright pitched an incredible game in his first start of the season. Will this continue? The test of time will show if Wright is back to 2016 form.
A giddy morning after for Red Sox Nation enjoying the afterglow of seven shutout innings by righty knuckleballer Steven Wright. The scoreless inning count rest at 16 and Wright – who was supposed to have a pitch limitation – tossed 96 pitches. I have not wandered into a pitching breakdown for the game, but watching the 32-year-old it was the K-Ball that was providing the extensive torture to a dismal Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park.
Wright is also – like virtually all knuckleballers a “real pitcher.” Wright adopted the dancing pitch for job survival since his normal repertoire was pedestrian at best. Nothing unusual and one just has to revert back to a one time Red Sox bonus baby named Wilbur Wood. Wood – a local kid (Belmont) – resuscitated his career with mastery of the pitch. A most difficult offering to master.
The trajectory of Wright this season will be an unknown and probably so until game 162 is in the books. A knuckleballer can be a flaky pitch that can suddenly go flat or can just as suddenly revert to looking like a tap dancer on meth. Expect a few games that will be forgettable such as Tim Wakefield once allowing six home runs, yet getting a win.
One item to the differentiate between Wright and Wakefield is a fastball. Wake really didn’t have one tossing it at a career rate of 10.7% with a 73.8 Velocity. Wright has tossed his “heater” a bit more with a career rate of 13.2% and an 83.4 velocity. That, quite naturally, goes back to the “real pitcher” mantra since Wake was an infielder who toyed with the knuckleball and the rest is history.
Wright occasionally mixes in a curve or change, but this is to either get a needed strike or to make hitters aware that the non-knuckleball option exists. And Wright is capable enough to throw strikes with it. What Wright has accomplished is a winning formula with his control of the mysterious pitch and ability to change speeds on it while still having the occasional non-knuckleball used and used effectively. Wright, as we saw a few seasons back, can be a rotation plus to the high-end. A former All-Star.
But we need to relax and give Wright the opportunity to put several starts under his expanding – at least it appears to be – belt. If I am part of the baseball jury I want a little more evidence before rendering a verdict. For now, Wright appears to be a lifeline for the rotation.
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