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MLB

Watching R.A. Dickey’s Knuckleball In Slow Motion Proves How Difficult It Is To Hit


Due to the high velocity of MLB pitches, it’s often difficult to perceive the precise movement of the baseball. The knuckleball, for example, mostly looks like a slow (relative to a fastball), non-rotating pitch that slightly changes direction. Here’s how Scientific American describes the physics of the pitch:

“Air drags along the smooth parts of a baseball surface, but the seams produce little vortices that allow air to travel more quickly over them. A fastball rotates 16 or 17 times between the pitcher and batter, and the rapid rotation means that the airflow turbulence caused by the seams is pretty evenly spread over the whole ball and the entire trajectory of the throw, so it travels steadily. On the other hand, a knuckleball rotates only one half to one time on its way to the batter, so the airflow turbulence stays on one side of the ball for a while before slowly moving to the other. The ball drifts in the direction of the leading seam, which slowly moves from one side to the other.”

R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball is particularly famous, what with his Cy Young award and all. Still’s it’s hard to visually capture the erratic nature of the pitch. That’s where the internet comes in with this slow-mo GIF:

Just look at the sheer terror of catch Mike Nickeas.

[NotGraphs, via Eye On Baseball]



  • Anonymous

    Why doesn’t EVERY pitcher learn to throw this thing? Oh yeah, then baseball would be more BORING than it is now, what with guys standing there watching each pitch go by.

  • jojhn

    Hahaha Look at the batter’s face!

  • D3mon805

    you’re pretty stupid aren’t you?

  • Anonymous

    Glad I’m not the one who has to wash Nickeas’s underwear after he catches Dickey.

  • opi

    WHOLY FUCK!

  • Anonymous

    You probably haven’t given much thought to my comment. (Why am I not surprised). There are millions of athletic young men in America, and elsewhere too. If pitching the knuckleball is a learned skill, then out of that cohort, one would expect many young men could acquire this skill and profit from it. Maybe nobody has ever thought of having a knuckleball camp so there’s be more pitchers who could throw it. There may be a propensity of young men with baseball-playing ability to become a better hitter, fielder or fastball pitcher, that’s all.

  • Jordan

    This Bob Uecker quote on knuckleballs: The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up.

  • Anonymous

    Well I threw a knuckleball in college and let me tell you that it’s more innate talent than teachable trick. The guy who showed me said “I can’t teach you how to throw this pitch but I can show you how I do it.” Another thing is the ergonomics…your wrist and forearm are really fighting nature to get this thing off right and frankly that’s why so many guys don’t pitch this well or even at all in their careers.

  • Doug

    “Just look at the sheer terror of catcher Mike Nickeas.”

    Yeah, I was going to say, it looks like it’s just as hard to CATCH as it is to HIT!

  • Anonymous

    Why does it appear that knuckleballers have longer careers than some fastballers, or other more “mainstream” pitchers? I once saw a picture of tennis player Rod Laver’s left arm and it looked like Popeye’s. Many sporting activities really work against nature’s intended purposes for limbs. Some symphony orchestra violinists and violists (the viola is a string instrument slightly larger and tuned deeper than the violin; it’s also held up horizontal to the floor; cellos and basses rest ON the floor) sometimes suffer painful conditions from their playing.

  • http://twitter.com/KobesGameFace Kobe’s Game Face

    Even the catcher seemed like he didn’t know where it was going. The way it moves, it almost doesn’t look real!

  • GDI

    The stupidest comment ever written, right there ^^^¡. You obviously have no idea how difficult the knuckleball is to throw.

  • http://twitter.com/andiethewesti Andie

    SO EXCITING Toronto is getting Dickey!

  • Giant Fan

    Two reasons why every pitcher doesn’t learn to throw a knuckle. First, it’s hard as hell to throw the thing in a way that makes it corkscrew through the air like in the animation. Second, lots of coaches hate the knuckle ball because it reduces the reliability of the catcher.

  • AdamT

    The batter looks like he just found the answers to his toughest life questions.


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