Engineering students build a knuckleball throwing machine


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.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.