Before the 2012 season started, Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey published his memoir, Wherever I Wind Up. It was the best baseball book I'd read in ages. And now that literary surprise dovetails with a baseball one: Dickey, after back-to-back one-hitters, is pitching better than anyone else in baseball.
Dickey has apparently discovered a glitch in the game. He's not the first knuckleballer to have success, but he's doing things knuckleballers have never done before. He leads the National League in strikeouts. Phil Niekro, in all his years, led the league just once. And Niekro got the strikeout crown while also leading the league in walks. Dickey's walk rate is the third-lowest among National League starters. And he has—get this—zero wild pitches on the year.
The basic Dickey pitch is a fast knuckler. The classic knuckleball is usually described as a matter of the pitcher surrendering control, setting a butterfly free to flutter no-one-knows-where, as frustrated hitters try vainly to club it. What Dickey throws has more zip and aggression to it, like an angry hornet buzzing the plate, the ball darting unpredictably sideways and a bit downward, missing bats. When a hitter does put a bat on it, it usually dribbles harmlessly to an infielder. Here's Nick Johnson trying to catch up with one, succeeding only in adding injury to insult: