Haeger Fails To Knuckle Under

For whatever reason, statistical analysts have a strange fascination with guys who throw the knuckleball. Whenever anybody shows a remote amount of success throwing it, he immediately generates articles from around the world. So, despite the fact that he’s only made two starts in the big leagues this year, I’m guessing you’re aware of Charlie Haeger.

After turning back the clock to give starts to Eric Milton, Jason Schmidt, and Jeff Weaver, the Dodgers have decided to look forward and see what Haeger can offer. The early results have been outstanding, as he’s racked up 14 innings and allowed just three runs so far. His knuckler has been moving, but more importantly, he’s been able to throw it for strikes.

Saturday’s start was a bit different than his first one, however. In his season debut against St. Louis on the 17th, just two of his 80 pitches were fastballs. He went almost exclusively with the knuckler, and it worked. His second time out, he worked in 14 fastballs, mixing speeds a bit more and giving hitters a different look. Unlike most knuckleball specialists, Haeger’s fastball actually can be described as one without being ironic.

He throws it between 81 and 87, and I’ve seen him as high as 89 in the minor leagues. If Tim Wakefield ever threw a pitch at 89 MPH, Jerry Remy would fall out of his chair. Having a fastball that can be described as “just below average” in velocity sets Haeger apart from others who practice the knuckler.

Is he the next Wakefield? Probably not. But I think we’re all hoping he will be. His fastball will be a big key in seeing just how far he can go.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Matt B.
13 years ago

Gotta love the knuckleballers. That’s an impressive fastball velocity. If Wakefield’s pitch run value is that high with his fastball, this kid could be even more impressive if his knuckler has even half the success of Wake’s.