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Expand chart
Data: Baseball Savant; Chart: Axios Visuals

The knuckleball has never been a popular pitch by any means (fewer than 100 MLB pitchers have used it as their primary pitch, per FanGraphs), but did you ever think it'd go extinct?

By the numbers: Just 727 knuckleballs were thrown in the majors last season, the fewest in the pitch-tracking era (2008-present). And since the guy who threw 719 of them, Boston's Steven Wright, has been limited to just six innings this year, we're on track for another record low.

Knuckleballs thrown in 2019:

  • Steven Wright, Red Sox: 114
  • Ryan Feierabend, Rays: 73 (currently in the minors)
  • Luke Maile, Blue Jays: 13 (catcher)
  • Total: 200

The big picture: The knuckleball's peak came in 1970, when 7 knuckleballers — including Hall of Famers Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm — combined for 47 wins and 44 saves.

  • Fast forward to the pitch-tracking era, and it's basically been R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield (2008–2011), Dickey and Wright (2012–2017) and now it's just Wright. What happens when he retires?

What's next:

  • The good news for the knuckleball is that the next Tim Wakefield or R.A. Dickey could certainly be out there, and all it takes is one pitcher to stave off extinction.
  • The bad news for the knuckleball is that it's designed to induce fly balls, which is something teams are avoiding like the plague in today's era of launch angles and juiced baseballs. Plus, the lack of former knuckleballers to teach the pitch makes it harder to spread.

The bottom line:

"It will be sad when it's a lost thing. It's a great piece of curiosity that keeps people engaged .... The hopeful part of my heart says it's the natural ebb and flow of the pitch. The realistic part of my heart feels more and more front offices are not so inclined to give that type of pitch a chance over a guy who throws hard."
R.A. Dickey, per WashPost

Go deeper: "Knuckleball" movie trailer (YouTube)

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.