How to Hit a Knuckleball (Video at the bottom)
- By Scott Butler
- Updated: June 23, 2010
We saw the Phillies get completely embarrassed by two knuckleball pitchers last month. We see the terrible swings guys have at the ball. We see even the best of catchers look foolish trying to simply catch a knuckleball (see Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek).
We know it’s coming very slow and it doesn’t look like the ball moves that much, so why the heck is it so hard to hit?
To answer that question, I will explain it the best way I know how: with Wiffle Ball. Those of you who have been following Phils Baseball know by now how much I love Wiffle Ball. In fact, I probably enjoy Wiffle Ball a little too much for a 31-year-old. But in this case, Wiffle Ball actually is the perfect tool for learning about knucklers. I’ll show you why.
I played the other day with my brother and it was so cool to stand up there with a bat and swing at a Wiffle Ball with absolutely no spin. If you throw it right, the ball will have zero spin and will behave exactly like a real baseball.
So what makes the knuckleball so tough to hit?
The best way I could describe it is that the ball seems to bounce around kind of like Cookie Monster‘s eyes. The knuckler seems so good to hit at first because it is slow and appears to be just hanging up there and begging for you to hit it. Yet when you try to swing, the ball starts to bounce around slightly in all directions at once.
You can’t swing where it is like you would with a fastball. You can’t swing where it’s going to be like you would a breaking pitch. The fact is, you don’t know where it’s going because it could break down, cut in, or dive away. All you can do is pick a spot, swing, and hope you hit it.
It seems like such an easy pitch to hit, yet you JUST CAN’T HIT IT.
However, like most pitches, if you leave the knuckleball up it is a completely different story. Now I understand the saying, “If it’s high let it fly, if it’s low let it go.” High knuckleballs don’t like to dance much, and a knuckler with no movement is like a slow pitch softball and you can just hack away.
So back to real baseball. Hopefully now you can understand why knuckleball pitchers can be so hot and cold. If they keep the ball down and can get it over the plate, there’s almost nothing a player can do except swing three times and head back to the bench. But if they keep the ball up, it’s gonna be a quick shower for Mr. Knuckleballer.