How The Yankees Fare Against the Knuckleball: It Ain't Pretty

On Wednesday night, the Yankees were stymied by Boston's knuckleballer Steven Wright and tonight, they will be facing another knuckleballer in R.A. Dickey. Because of this, I decided to take a look at how the Yankees have fared historically against the knuckleball. (Please note: My data only goes back to 2009, but I figured that was a big enough sample size for this exercise.) Anyway, here's their spray chart. Again, this is 2009 - 2015:


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Their best year came in 2009 when they played in four games against knuckleball pitchers and faced 188 pitches: .283/.327/.478/.805

Their two worst years are 2010 and this season and the numbers are quite similar. In six games in 2010, the Yankees batted .174/.204/.283/.487 and this year, in four games so far, they're batting .171/.242/.305/.547. Note the on base and slugging numbers which combine for the OPS are higher in 2015, but are still pretty awful.

Some more stats:

  • 2014 marks the only year in which the Yankees did not hit at least one home run off the knuckleball.
  • They faced the least amount of knuckleballs in 2012 (only one game on 6/24 against the Mets and Dickey) and they batted .200/.292/.350/.642. They hit three singles and a home run which came off a 78 mph knuckleball in the third inning. Nick Swisher hit it.
  • The Yankees have hit .198/.271/.316/.587 with seven home runs (five at home) in 14 games against Dickey.
  • The Yankees have hit .212/.288/.333/.621 with two home runs in three games against Steven Wright.
  • Their highest walk rate against the knuckleball came in 2011 - 8.9%
  • They struck out the most against the knuckleball in 2013 - 24.8%

Here's how they miss the knuckleball (2009-2015). Notice the spots around the strike zone:

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Here's their contact rate (2009-2015). It's much better over the plate (naturally):

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And look at that ISO (2009-2015):

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So that's the "historical" numbers. How has this current roster fared against Mr. Dickey?

Numbers and stats courtesy of Baseball Savant:

  • Batting Avg: 0.221 [44 / 199]
  • BABIP: 0.246
  • FIP: 3.766
  • K%: 13.36
  • BB%: 7.00
  • 49 Groundout, 34 Fly outs, 29 Singles, 27 Strikeouts, 17 Line outs, 16 Walks, 16 Pop Outs, 11 Doubles, 4 Force outs, 3 Home Runs, 3 Grounded Into DP, 2 Field Errors, 2 Sac Flies, 2 Strikeouts, 1 Bunt Groundout, 1 Triple

Here it is in picture form (click on the images to see the ginormous versions)!

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Jacoby Ellsbury and Garrett Jones have fared the best against Dickey:


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More than a few guys have had issues facing Dickey but Mark Teixeira seems to have a lot of trouble with only four hits in 19 at bats. (Yes, I realize the sample size isn't that large, but bear with me). The only good thing about Tex's number against Dickey is that he's making contact and not swinging through the pitches or striking out a lot:

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What does all of this mean for tonight's game? Well, the Yankees have a better chance of doing something positive because they're playing at home, but if tonight's game is similar in any way to Wednesday's game against Wright, it's not going to be fun for the Yankees or for the fans watching.

[Numbers, charts and graphs courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info and Baseball Savant]