Earlier in the month, we wrote about knuckleballer Steven Wright's unlikely claim as the Red Sox' best starting pitcher.
On Monday, Wright threw his third complete game of the season in a 7-2 win over Baltimore. It wasn't his cleanest effort -- he walked five batters -- but it provides us with a logical reason to examine how he's pitched during the interim period. Plus, it gives an excuse to gawk over this knuckleball:
Including Monday's start, Wright has taken six turns in Boston's rotation since we last took his temperature. He's pitched into the sixth inning or deeper in all but one of those efforts -- a nasty, nine-hit, five-run outing against the Astros -- and has therefore recorded five quality starts along the way. Save for Monday's game and a four-walk performance earlier in May, Wright has consistently thrown strikes, missed bats, and kept runs off the board. In essence, he's given the Red Sox length and production, whereas most projected back-end starters can consistently offer only one or the other.
The result of Wright's good work is that he continues to lead the Red Sox in quality starts (by two) and average innings per start. Whether Wright can maintain those leads is irrelevant (though unlikely, given he shares a clubhouse with David Price), in part because there are bigger questions to ask -- like whether someone who has never thrown more than 150 innings in a season can keep up this pace physically. The Red Sox, for their part, have reportedly told Wright they have no innings cap in mind ... meaning, in other words, Wright will test the notion that knuckleballers don't fatigue like their normal peers.
Strangest thing about Steven Wright this season is that he has yet to record an infield popup. He's a knuckleballer! How is that possible?— Chris Towers (@CTowersCBS) May 30, 2016
Is Wright going to remain the Red Sox' most productive starter for the rest of the season? Probably not. Still, with the sample of Wright's work growing, we're nearing the point where we acknowledge him as the mid-rotation starter that we all felt the Red Sox needed entering the season. And boy have they ever proved that they did need someone like Wright to help buoy their rotation -- even if they, like the rest of us, didn't think it would be Wright who filled that role. For what it's worth, he seems to share the disbelief:
"The fact that I'm a starting pitcher on the Boston Red Sox, it's unbelievable," he said. "I definitely sometimes pinch myself like, 'Man, is this real?' But you know, in the end of the day, it's still a game. It's just you're playing against better hitters, better competition and better fields. But in the end, it's still 60 feet, 6 inches, and if you make your pitch, more times than not, they're going to get themselves out.
So far, that formula seems to be working for Wright.