As awesome as it would be if a Knuckleballer could exclusively throw their special pitch, it is not practical whatsoever.
Even the 2012 version of R.A. Dickey, who was able to win the NL Cy Young award, relied on his Fastball 15% of the time despite averaging only 83.0 MPH on it.
So, I was inspired to try and put together a list of the best pitches excluding the knuckleball from pitchers who relied on it. This is not to be taken as a serious measure of potential ability, it is just to see where the secondary pitches of Knuckleballers stack up against normal pitchers. The qualification is the Knuckleballer must have pitched past the year 2002 with a decent sample size, leaving the following five hurlers:
- Tim Wakefield
- Steve Sparks
- Jared Fernandez
- R.A. Dickey
- Charlie Haeger
[Warning, minor Sabermetrics]
These pitches will be determined by Weighted Pitch Values to calculate the runs above average per 100 pitches (wX/C), made available by Fangraphs. This pitcher will have 4 pitches to satisfy a full repertoire without going overboard. Anyhow, these are the best non-knuckleball pitches by a Knuckleballer:
- Changeup, R.A. Dickey (wCH/C = 0.94, Thrown 6.6% of the time, Average V = 77.0 MPH)
- Curveball, Charlie Haeger (wCB/C = 11.76, Thrown 2% of the time, Average V = 72.3 MPH)
- Slider, Steve Sparks (wSL/C = 1.89, Thrown 1.9% of the time, Average V = Unavailable)
- Fastball, Tim Wakefield (wFB/C = 0.57, Thrown 4.7% of the time, Average V = 72.9 MPH)
When you combine these four pitches, it results in 0.35994 Weighted Runs Above Average, per 100 pitches. They would also be used 15.2% of the time, resulting in the Knuckleball presumably being used 84.8% of the time. Therefore, the best non-Knuckleball pitches thrown by Knuckleballers are borderline average, which is pretty good when you have hitters guessing on the hardest pitch to guess.