Search Results for: knuckleballer

The best knuckleballer over the past 25-30 years….?

In the Blue Jays’ 10-2 victory over the Mariners on September 23, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey pitched a five-hitter through seven innings to thwart Seattle’s fading playoff hopes (while Toronto hammered M’s ace Felix Hernandez for eight runs).

For Dickey, he improved his record to 14-12 with a 3.78 ERA, the third straight season that he’s won at least 14 games.

Well, I was asked recently on Quora.com: Who was the best knuckleball pitcher in baseball in the last 25-30 years?

A lot of fans are going to come up with the names Charlie Hough and Tim Wakefield. Some might even say Dickey, who won the National League Cy Young Award with the New York Mets in 2012.

I’m going to, however, go with former Indians and Dodgers knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti, who was the most consistent knuckleballer over the last 25-30 years.

2012-R.A.-Dickey-213x300While Dickey had his one big season with the Mets (as well as a couple of other solid campaigns in New York where he pitched well but didn’t get much run support), he has not been that great with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013-2014. He hasn’t been able to duplicate his success from that 2012 season, which kind of makes him a one-hit wonder.

Wakefield will always be highly regarded in Boston because of his longevity and his being on two World Series championship teams with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007, but he had some very ugly seasons where he pitched poorly. In his rookie year with the Pirates, he was nearly unhittable and was a postseason star as he nearly pitched Pittsburgh into the World Series. However, over his postseason career, he was hit very hard and compiled an overall ERA of 6.75 in 18 career playoff appearances. In his final four career postseason starts, Wakefield was 0-3 with a 10.47 ERA. He especially struggled against Cleveland in the playoffs, allowing at least five runs in each of his three career postseason starts versus the Indians. Yes, he wound up winning 200 regular-season games over a 19-year career, but his ERA was over 4.00 in 15 of those seasons. He had six seasons where his ERA was over 5.00. However, he always seemed to win because of good run support with the Red Sox, as he was 14-13 with a 5.14 ERA in 1996 and 17-8 despite a 4.58 ERA two years later.

As for Tom Candiotti, he pitched 16 seasons in the big leagues, and though he finished with a career losing record and “only” 151 victories, he had an ERA over 4.00 only six times. Candiotti nearly won the ERA title in 1991, finishing with a 2.65 earned-run average that was second in the American League only to Roger Clemens (2.62). Had he allowed just one fewer earned run over the course of that season, Candiotti would have won the ERA championship. In 1993, he finished just 8-10, but suffered from atrocious run support while pitching for the Dodgers. That year, he was the ERA leader in the major leagues, pitching to a 2.43 earned-run average entering September before struggling in the season’s final weeks to finish at 3.12. In fact, for a full decade from 1986-1995, Candiotti had a 3.44 ERA, which was one of the best earned-run averages in baseball during that stretch. He also averaged 30 starts and over 200 innings during that decade, proving to be a very dependable pitcher for his clubs. He and Mark Langston were the only pitchers in the majors to work at least 200 innings in each season from 1986-1993, until the 1994 strike ended both streaks. His career ERAs after the 1995 season were 3.51 in the American League and 3.38 in the National League. Of his 151 career wins, 70 came in starts where he allowed one run or none. Even though he threw the knuckleball primarily during his career, he consistently had a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, meaning he consistently had twice as many strikeouts as he did walks.

Yes, R.A. Dickey was 12-1 with a 2.15 ERA at one point during the 2012 season, and Tim Wakefield started 14-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 1995. However, Candiotti had similar brilliant stretches of pitching…but not the gaudy won-loss records to show for them because the quality of his teams. In 1991, for instance, Candiotti had a 2.01 ERA in his first 19 starts…but only a 9-8 record and was left off the AL All-Star team. In 1993, he had a 1.53 ERA over a stretch of 17 starts, but was 6-1 with 10 no-decisions. The same summer when Wakefield made all the headlines in Boston with that 1.65 ERA in 1995, Candiotti had a stretch of 13 starts where his ERA was 1.74 for Los Angeles. Alas, the Dodgers gave him very little support, resulting in a 4-6 record in that stretch. Naturally, over time his accomplishments are no longer remembered.

Tom Candiotti never truly got any recognition because of the losing records he suffered while pitching for bad teams in Cleveland and Los Angeles. Had he gotten better support, he would have been better remembered. Or, if he had pitched today and gotten the same results, he would be talked about as a hard-luck pitcher because the baseball media now weigh more importance on other statistics and less on wins. During Candiotti’s time, it seemed that wins-and-losses were the be-all, end-all, and with his losing record he didn’t get as much press. Thus, he is forgotten today. On some lists on the Internet that talk about the best knuckleballers in baseball history, some bloggers cite Candiotti’s best season as 1988, when he was 14-8 with a 3.28 ERA. However, he won 15 games in 1990, nearly won the ERA championship in 1991, and from 1992-95 had the fifth-best ERA in the NL (behind only Greg Maddux, Jose Rijo, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz). People have forgotten that he was one of the best pitchers in baseball for a while, knuckleball or not.

To learn more about Candiotti and his career, check out his biography titled Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs, which is available on Amazon.

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Chatting ’88 Dodgers on TSN1040

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Sorry, no knuckleballs here, but it’s about the 1988 Dodgers book that I wrote. I got a chance to chat with Rob Fai, play-by-play man of the Vancouver Canadians, on his pre-game show about the book:

Now, in regards to the event that I had attended in LA that was referenced in the show, I did run into a knuckleballer. Check this out!

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Charlie Hough, pictured in the white cap, asked me a knuckleball trivia question – but I blew it. Oh well.

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If only they’d scored more runs….

On this day, September 17, in history, 24 years ago, the Colorado Rockies set an attendance record and also pounded Dodgers knuckleballer Tom Candiotti in the process.

In that September 17, 1993 game, Colorado ripped Candiotti for seven runs–all earned–in just 1.2 innings. Candiotti’s ERA went from 2.58 to 2.88, and his shot at the NL ERA title was essentially done.

Not many people remember this, but going into September, his ERA was 2.43, which lead the major leagues. The Dodgers that year, however, averaged 2.81 runs of support in his starts, according to Baseball-Reference.com, so he was only 8-10 on the year.

Interestingly, though, teammate Kevin Gross was 13-13–despite an ERA of 4.14. How did he manage 13 wins? Well, according to Baseball Reference, the Dodgers gave him an average of 5.22 runs of support in his starts.

Imagine being on the same team but getting completely different kinds of run support!

If the Dodgers had scored five runs in each of Candiotti’s starts in 1993–the same number of runs they averaged for Gross–he could have gone 24-7. He finished with a 3.12 ERA, seventh-best in the NL.

Hey, 24-7 wouldn’t have been a stretch. That same year, the Giants’ John Burkett was 22-7 with a 3.65 ERA. Tom Glavine was 22-6 with a 3.20 ERA. Consider that from May 1 to August 25, Candiotti had a 1.85 ERA in 22 starts–that’s a lot of games he should have won. Instead, he was just 8-2 with 12 no-decisions.

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Anyway, here’s a video of him striking out the Phillies’ Mariano Duncan from April of that season.

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Overly critical and uninformed folks in the Toronto media…

Up in the press box at Vancouver’s Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, people talk baseball and reminisce a lot.

A few days ago, I was sitting there working the scoreboard when the name “Perkins” was mentioned – a Toronto-based baseball columnist who had since retired.

I perked up when I heard that name and started ranting about that guy.

This goes back to Blue Jays baseball in the mid-’80s, when Toronto lost its first ever ALCS to Kansas City, blowing a 3-1 series lead. In 1987, the Blue Jays coughed up a huge lead in the final week of the season to lose the division to Detroit. In 1989, they made it back to the ALCS but were destroyed by the eventual champion A’s.

So, two trips to the playoffs and two exits in the first round (in those days, only the division winners advanced and played in the LCS for the right to go to the World Series).

In 1991, they made it to the ALCS again despite losing ace Dave Stieb for the rest of the season back in May. Tom Candiotti, the knuckleballer, was brought in and he was outstanding in his 19 starts, pitching to a 2.98 ERA but just a 6-7 mark due to poor run support.

They faced the Twins in the ALCS, a team that had never before lost a playoff game at the Metrodome. In 1987, the Twins had won all their games at home en route to their World Series victory.

Candiotti didn’t pitch well in Game One and the Blue Jays lost 5-4. They won the next game with rookie Juan Guzman pitching.

So, series tied 1-1.

The Blue Jays were now going back home for three straight games at SkyDome. Game Three, Jimmy Key pitched, and they lost in extra innings. Game Four, Todd Stottlemyre started and they were blown out. Game Five, Candiotti started, and left with a 5-2 lead (and inherited runners on base). Mike Timlin, Duane Ward, and David Wells all failed in relief. Jays lost 8-5.

Naturally, the Toronto media, led by that guy “Perkins,” blamed Candiotti for the series loss.

Excuse me? You’re tied 1-1 going home for three straight games, and you blame the Game One starter? In the NLCS that year, Tom Glavine lost Game One for Atlanta vs. Pittsburgh. Guess what? The rest of the starters – Steve Avery and John Smoltz – stepped up and the Braves won in seven!

Did Stottlemyre step up? No. Did Key win his start? No.

And yet Perkins and the rest of the Toronto media – there were plenty of them who did the same thing – assigned blame to the Game One starter.

Did these guys even know baseball? You blame the Game One starter when the series was tied 1-1 and the team lost three straight? What planet were these media people from?

Of course, over the years, when Toronto missed the playoffs and more recently, when the Jays made it back, Perkins and the rest of these idiots bring up Candiotti’s name as the reason they lost in 1991.

Totally biased and ridiculously stupid, these guys were.

Anyway, that was my rant that day in the press box when someone brought that name Perkins up. How dumb were those guys covering baseball in Toronto? Really dumb.

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Candiotti interview with Seamheads.com & retro Hough video

Yes, we’re almost a month into the 2016 season and this is only the first post of the new campaign here on A Life of Knuckleballs! (I guess our coverage here is just like “The Baseball Network” way back when – haha.) Yes, we know that Steven Wright of the Red Sox has surprised quite a few people with his strong start to the season – albeit with a losing record of 1-2 despite his 1.40 ERA – and it’s no surprise to me personally that R.A. Dickey continues to struggle, but the first post of the year deals with a couple of knuckleball pitchers from the 1980s and 1990s.

And yes, I realize that it was 21 years ago this week that the Red Sox signed Tim Wakefield. But c’mon, he gets a lot of press – and has gotten plenty of accolades over the years – so I’ll take a pass on that one other than to mention this piece of history in one line.

What we’re going to do instead here in this first post is post an interview that Seamheads.com, which covers the Red Sox, did with Tom Candiotti this week. As mentioned near the end of the hour (after Candiotti left), the guys noted the ex-Indian and Dodger knuckleballer averaged only one wild pitch per 30 innings for his career – great control for a knuckleball pitcher.

And we pay tribute today too to Charlie Hough as he pitched the first game in Marlins history and beat Orel Hershiser and the Dodgers back in 1993:

We’ll post more stuff throughout the season, so catch up with you later!

 

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