Give Us Mickey Jannis
The Knuckleballer would give O's Fans Something New to Watch this Year
You’ve probably never heard of Mickey Jannis.
Jannis is a journeyman minor-league pitcher who bounced around throughout the decade of the 2010’s. He’s pitched in the Rays and Mets systems, even bounced around the independent leagues for a while.
But Mickey Jannis can do this.
That’s right Jannis is a knuckleballer.
The Orioles have not had a knuckleballer for quite some time. As far as I know, the last knuckleballer to appear in a regular-season game as Oriole was Hall-of-Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, who pitched five-years for the O’s from 1956-1962. He pitched a no-hitter in 1958. In 2016, the Orioles did have knuckler Eddie Gamboa in Spring Training in 2016.
There’s something just fun about having a knuckleballer on the team. In most of baseball in 2021, pitchers are trying to throw harder and harder. There are trying to increase their spin rate to get maximum movement on the ball. There are guys, for example, who throw 103 MPH on a consistent basis. There are guys who consistently throw a pitch with 2800 revolutions per minute.
And then there’s knuckleballer, who try to throw the ball without any spin at all and at speeds from somewhere between 45 and 65 MPH.
Knuckleballers are a rare breed. Despite the low speed of the pitch, it is extremely difficult to throw a knuckleball. Throwing a ball 55 MPH is easy; throwing it with next to no spin is insanely difficult. Trust me; I’ve tried.
The point of the knuckleball is to 1. be off-speed but also 2. to be unpredictable in its movement and placement. Again, this is insanely difficult. You have to perfect the grip, you have to have good fingernails, you have to nail the release point. Here’s video of me trying to do it with a wiffleball and getting lit up like the 4th of July.
So with all of those being said, why do I want the Orioles to carry Mickey Jannis on their Opening Day roster? A few reasons.
First and foremost is a baseball reason. You don’t carry a guy who can’t be an effective pitcher. Assuming Jannis meets that test, think about what Jannis can do for this team. Throwing a knuckleball is not as taxing on the arm as it is on “normal” pitchers. That means that Jannis can throw more often and can be used in a variety of roles. He can be a starter. He can be a reliever. He can be both.
On top of that, think about the contrast that Jannis brings in the bullpen. Imagine going from a guy throwing a 62 MPH knuckler dancing all around the a guy throwing 97? It throws off a hitter’s timing, which is the most important part of pitching. Just look at Cesar Valdez from last year, another lower-velocity pitcher who was missing bats last year.
The other reason why Jannis should make the team? The fans. Knucklers are unusual. Knucklers are not seen every day. Knucklers are fun. Look, the Orioles are projected to be the third-worst team in baseball this year. The “experts” think the Orioles will lose 100-games again this year. Mickey Jannis on the team makes the Orioles just a little more must-see this year. He’s a player that helps the team on the field, and he’s a player who can help the team’s bottom line too through ticket sales and TV ratings.
Admittedly, at the end of the day, I just want to see a knuckleballer on the Orioles 2021 team. But as long as his performance merits it, keeping Mickey Jannis on the 2021 is truly what’s best for business.