Monday, 11 June 2012

Heat-Thunder and Knuckleballs

The art of the knuckleball, explained more fully in this Washington Post article, is to throw the ball so that it has at most one revolution before arriving at the batter. The lack of spin on the ball enables it to take advantage of turbulence. Because the turbulence will take the ball in a random direction, it makes the knuckleball a very effective pitch when executed successfully. What makes the knuckleball so difficult is that if you get more than one revolution then you are throwing a very easy pitch to hit - a slow, straight fastball (like cricket, movement is king).

To have a good expected value for the knuckleball then one must have a high expected frequency of throwing a knuckleball.

Back in 2010 Red-Sox flame thrower Daniel Bard, who was top five in average fast ball velocity, performed far better when following Knucleballer Tim Wakefield. This is because Wakefield threw a very slow knuckleball. The change in speed, going from the slowest pitch in MLB to one of the fastest, improved the efficacy of Bard's repertoire. Proof of how effective the change of speed is: the most valuable fastball in 2009 belonged to Tim Wakefield.

Just something to think of before game one of the NBA finals.

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