Brian Wilson’s career as a Major League pitcher is a decorated one, having made three All-Star teams, finished in the top-10 in NL Cy Young voting and closed out a World Series championship-clinching game.
So, what’s left for a famously-bearded pitcher to do after all that? Come back from a two-year baseball hiatus armed with a knuckleball and no beard, obviously.
According to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, the eccentric, formerly-bushy beard-wearing 34-year-old right-hander hit the comeback trail with his newfound knuckler in an attempt to return to the show. In a 30-minute bullpen session, Wilson threw mostly what he described to be “an MVP-Cy Young knuckleball. You can write that down, too. No joke.”
Believe me, few hitters will be laughing if Wilson can pull this off as well as he pulled off that intimidating beard he owned while accumulating 171 saves with the Giants from 2006 to 2012.
They won’t even be laughing at his now clean-shaven face:
No beard, no spin… pic.twitter.com/jduVacBBMA
— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) February 8, 2017
Here’s the kicker: Wilson’s discovery of a knuckleball wasn’t something that happened overnight:
“In San Francisco, he said, coaches had asked him to refrain from the knuckleball in deference to the health of catchers Mike Matheny, Bengie Molina and Buster Posey. The pitch can be savage on a catcher. Besides, Wilson was pushing triple digits with his fastball and his slider was borderline unhittable. A 74-mph knuckler seemed, to the Giants, unnecessary.”
Thanks to the Giants, we’ll never know how unhittable Wilson would have been if he was able to unleash a wicked knuckleball in addition to a fastball that sat in the high-90s and touched 100. That’s the kind of video game create-a-player stuff that gets you banned from playing MLB The Show in your dorm room.
And even though Wilson hasn’t thrown an average fastball at 95-mph since 2011, I’ll be tuning into wherever his comeback takes him to see what a low-to-mid-90s fastball paired with a 74-mph knuckbleball looks like. Especially if it happens to come in a World Series closeout situation.
Besides, who doesn’t love knuckleballs?