This is fun. Some University of Toronto mechanical engineering students, inspired by R.A. Dickey and with his input, created a pitching machine that does what no other pitching machine does: throw knuckleballs:
. . . four mechanical engineering students at the University of Toronto set out to “demystify” the knuckleball by attempting to build the world’s first pitching machine that would replicate the notoriously capricious pitch on a consistent basis . . . On paper, it seemed doable. If they could control all the variables — velocity, air conditions, the orientation of the ball — theoretically they should be able to propel the ball exactly the same way every time.
It threw knucklers, but didn’t do it the same way every time. Which they talk about as a failure or a problem, but to me it seems more like what you’d actually want given that no two knucklers from an actual pitcher tend to be propelled the same way every time. They flutter and float and if someone sneezes in the fifth row behind the dugout they flutter and float differently. That is both a feature and a bug of the famously frustrating pitch.
Sadly, there was no commercial application here. They though it’d be good to train catchers and hitters to better handle knucklers, but the fact is there aren’t many knucklers left. At any given time in baseball there are, what, two? One most of the time. And R.A. Dickey may not have much time left himself.
Still, as with all things neat but pointless: cool.
The starters for the American and National League teams for the 2015 All-Star Game, hosted at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, were announced tonight on ESPN’s Esurance All-Star Starters Selection Show.
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper accrued the most votes on the National League side with close to 14 million. Buster Posey finished second with just shy of 10 million votes.
- C: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
- 1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
- 2B: Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins
- 3B: Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
- SS: Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals
- OF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
- OF: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
- OF: Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
Stanton and Holliday are both on the disabled list at the moment. Holliday, however, says he intends to play in the All-Star Game, per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch. Stanton is out four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone in his left wrist.
Josh Donaldson was the American League’s leading vote-getter with over 14 million votes. That sets a new single-season record for votes, according to Baseball Tonight.
- C: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
- 1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
- 2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
- 3B: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
- SS: Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
- OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
- OF: Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals
- OF: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
- DH: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners
Only four starters for the Royals. Seems a little light. No Omar Infante?!
In a report for the Toronto Star, Brendan Kennedy details how engineering students at the University of Toronto built a knuckleball pitching machine — the world’s first. Their goal was to be able to throw the same knuckleball every time, but they were unable to do so.
The project gave the students a greater appreciation for Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey.
“The amount of control you need to throw the same knuckleball every time is unbelievable,” said Martin Côté, who along with Gordon, Jessica Tomasi and Queenie Yuan built the prototype as part of their fourth-year design project — adapting a regular pitching machine with PVC tubes, motors and a series of sensors that modulated the velocity and automatically set the ball in the same orientation before every pitch.
“The mystery of the knuckleball prevailed over our efforts,” said Professor David Sinton, a baseball-loving mechanical engineer who came up with the idea and supervised the project.
Dickey started for the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon against the Tigers but lost after giving up five runs on 11 hits and two walks with one strikeout in 5 2/3 innings. The knuckleballer is 3-9 on the year with a 5.02 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, and a 64/42 K/BB ratio in 107 2/3 innings.
Update #2 (9:53 PM EST): For those who are still keeping tabs on this game, the top of the eighth inning just finished. The Jays have scored six runs, reducing their deficit to 8-6 against the Tigers. Following Carrera’s single to break up the no-hitter, the Jays singled twice more to knock in one run. Then, with Alex Wilson pitching in relief of Sanchez, Josh Donaldson singled to bring in two more runs. Wilson issued a walk and induced a pop-up before allowing a three-run double to Dioner Navarro. Bruce Rondon came in to relieve Wilson and uncorked a wild pitch before walking Justin Smoak to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Rondon was able to get Kevin Pillar to pop up to end the inning.
Despite finishing four outs away from a no-hitter, Sanchez didn’t even qualify for a quality start. His final line: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.
Update (9:28 PM EST): Sanchez lost his no-hitter with one out in the eighth inning when Blue Jays outfielder Ezequiel Carrera flared a single to left center.
We have another no-hit bid in progress. Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez has held the Blue Jays hitless through seven innings in Friday night’s game at Comerica Park. It’s a doubly impressive feat considering the Blue Jays own the best offense in baseball by far, averaging 5.44 runs per game entering Friday’s action.
The only blemishes on Sanchez’s line are a pair of walks. The first was drawn by Edwin Encarnacion to lead off the second inning and the second came with one out in the seventh inning. Sanchez has struck out four. The Tigers have backed Sanchez with seven runs, five of which came in the fourth inning.
Stay tuned as Sanchez attempts to complete the no-no. It would be the second of his career, as he also accomplished the feat on September 6, 2006 as a member of the Marlins against the Diamondbacks.
Despite it seeming like a pitcher flirts with a no-hitter once every couple of days, only two pitchers have actually closed the deal on a no-hitter this year: Chris Heston for the Giants and Max Scherzer for the Nationals.