29 May

Steven Wright’s Hot Streak and The Importance of Mobility

wrightSteven Wright of the Red Sox has been on an absolute tear this season, emerging at the Sox most consistent pitcher. And that’s saying a lot considering the team’s payroll and superstar pitchers like David Price, Clay Buccholz and Rick Porcello. Wright’s dominant streak this season echoes the early seasons of Tim Wakefield, who began his Red Sox tenure with a mind boggling 16-1 record back in the 90’s. Wakefield cooled off a bit late that season but it didn’t stop him from coming in third in the Cy Young vote that year. It will be interesting to see what Wright can accomplish this year. His mid-2’s ERA should put him into consideration for the All Star Game. And remember — Managers pick the pitchers in the All Star Game, not fans, so Wright’s relative anonymity won’t hurt him. He still doesn’t have that big name.

But watching Wright reminds me of something very important in the knuckleball delivery — mobility. A second round draft pick, Wright shows his conventional pitcher’s body when he delivers that knuck. He has tremendous flexibility throughout his thoracic spine and his shoulders which allows him to hold onto the knuckleball for a long period of time throughout his delivery. This gives him great control over the baseball and has allowed him to fill the zone with baseball’s most unpredictable pitch.

Studies show that 80% of your velocity comes from hip-to-shoulder separation and the degree of separation is dictated, in large part, to you mobility. The more mobile you are through the ankles, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders, the harder you can throw. Velocity is not that important to a knuckleball pitcher, but understanding this kinetic chain can allow you to control your delivery that much easier. You could look smooth, like Wright.

Mobility drills should be a big part of your workout routine as a knuckleball pitcher. Make sure to get more mobile in the hips and spine especially. Mobility is flexibility plus the strength to move through a wide range of motion. Lifting done alongside mobility drills and Yoga all help you become a smoother pitcher which makes delivering the knuckleball much easier. Just take a look at Wright.

Knuckleball Nation created by Chris Nowlin in 2008