First baseman Adam LaRoche has nothing scientific in his approach to facing Mets knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey on Thursday.
He won’t be studying multiple DVDs on the lack of spin to the knuckleball or break down every aspect of his at-bat.
LaRoche said you have to keep it simple because there isn’t anything similar than facing a pitcher as unique as Dickey.
“I remember facing (Tim) Wakefield just a handful of times and thinking, ‘This is pretty good,’ after not seeing it every day,” LaRoche said. “But not like an uncomfortable at-bat. You didn’t feel like you had to struggle to make contact.”
LaRoche has been able to guess right just two out of 11 times (.182) against Dickey in his career. He has walked twice against him and struck out twice. So he has been able to at least make some contact against the knuckleballer.
“Off of R.A., it is coming so much harder that it really is a crap shoot,” LaRoche said. “You hope that he throws one of those off ones that doesn’t dance a lot, which is rare.”
Manager Davey Johnson said that is what makes it so difficult when try to challenge Dickey. He throws an almost unhittable pitch, and he throws it with good velocity.
“He throws a real hard (knuckleball),” Johnson said. “It doesn’t wobble as much, but it wobbles enough to miss the bat. He has been real special.”
So what is LaRoche’s great plan at getting a hit from the mystifying Dickey knuckler? Should you try to be ultra-patient or overaggressive?
“I have heard both,” LaRoche said. “I have heard try to see it deep and stay on something. I have heard the old beer league philosophy of take three swings as hard as you can and hope you run into one. I have tried both, neither of them worked.
“I am looking for Plan C.”
LaRoche finally admitted that sometimes it just comes down to swinging the bat at the right time. I know - that seems so simple and obvious. But that might be the only way to go after the rare pitch.
“Other than that, you cross your fingers that the ball is where your bat is going through the zone,” LaRoche said. “It sounds stupid, but you really got to dumb it up. See something up in the zone, swing hard in case you hit it - the Little League philosophy.”