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.