Let's state right up front that this post takes nothing away from Tim Wakefield. He's found a way to succeed for a very long time with what he can do. What this post tries to deal with is why he is so successful. You see, the Fan watched a good part of Wakefield's game today. His knuckleball, at least early on, was consistently up in the strike zone. The pitches looked like great big lollipops. And yet, when the Braves did connect, they were way out in front and pulled the ball foul. When the ball was fair, it was a squib somewhere for an easy out. Wakefield only gave up three hits.
Understand that the Fan has never tried to hit a knuckleball. Heck, the Fan was forced from his baseball dreams because he couldn't hit a curve. But the Fan was a pretty darn good softball player. It seems to this observer that hitting a knuckleball is a bit like hitting a slow-pitch softball, especially when it's up in the zone.
From this perspective, the problem that Wakefield's victims all have is that they try to pull everything. If you sit back on the pitch, like a slow-pitch softball, and mentally try to put the ball up the middle, then when it is pulled, it will be hit hard and in the field of play.
The second observation: Why don't all Wakefield's opponents move up in the batter's box to take away the last break. From what this observer can see, there is usually a big dip or zag right as the ball is crossing the plate. If you move up in the box, you miss that last big break and--it would seem--have a better crack at squaring the pitch up.
If the Fan was a manager, to prepare for Wakefield, the Fan would bring in a softball pitcher from the neighborhood to pitch batting practice. Let the guys get the feel of hitting something slow with an arc and practice keeping the front shoulder down and attempt to hit the ball up the middle.
It doesn't seem as hard when watching as it must be to actually hit against Wakefield. But it seems that teams could take a smarter approach. After all, the batter already has the advantage in that he knows what's coming. The smarter approach to this writer would be to move forward in the batter's box, stay back, keep the front shoulder down and hit the ball up the middle.