As if the Cubs haven't had enough problems swinging the bats, now they've got to slow them down to deal with knuckleballer Charlie Haeger. Saturday's matinee features Ted Lilly against Haeger in Chavez Ravine, the third of a four game set against the Dodgers.
Haeger was drafted out of High School by the White Sox in 2001. After making no progress early on, Haeger was out of baseball for the 2003 season. Apparently, efforts to convert himself into a pro golfer got mixed up and he ended up learning how to throw a knuckleball instead.
Haeger made it to the majors in 2006, and has been up and down since as a member of the White Sox, Padres and Dodgers. He's had limited success outside of the minor leagues, and Saturday's start will be the third of his big league career.
Haeger PITCHf/x in Pictures
The pie chart shows Haeger's pitch mix (less than 300 pitches recorded by PITCHf/x) and, in the legend the speed of each pitch. The others are spin movement (inches, catcher's view), spin axis (degrees) by speed (mph), plate location (feet, catcher's view). Click to enlarge.
Rolling all of Haeger's pitches into one, the following line is essentially a reflection of the knuckleball's outcomes. With the three secondary pitches included, it's 292 total pitches with 239 knuckeballs.
Swing rate is swings/pitchers, Whiff is misses/swing, Chase is swing rate but only for pitches out of the zone (zone is 2 feet wide, hence IWZ for in wide zone below), Watch is takes on pitches in the zone (inverse of swings).
That's Ball to Called Strike ratio and In Wide Zone rate (also see above).
Run values (based on linear weights) similar to what you see on Fangraphs. Big difference - negative numbers are good for pitchers, so Haeger's stuff (mostly his knuckleball) are "worth" more runs per 100 pitches thrown than league average - for the opposition.
rv100E is based on batted ball type (line drive to pop-up) while rv100 is based on batted ball outcome (singles to homers). Balls and strikes are also included in both rates so the differences are only in the batted ball outcomes. It's a limited data set, but you can claim that Haeger has been below average, but unlucky on balls in play.
More on batted ball results. HRBIA is home runs divided by all balls in air (i.e. everything in play except grounders). Haeger is well above average here, 7% is about normal.
Especially when you consider most of this data is from relief appearances (only one start, 8/17/2009, is covered by PITCHf/x), Haeger is easier to hit than the average pitcher. Smells like replacement level talent.