How To Throw Knuckleball
By Steven Ellis former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
So you want to throw a knuckleball? The whole idea is to make that ball come out of your hand taking the spin off of the ball. That's what a knuckleballer's intent is. Because the resistance of the air will handle the movement. Fingernails digging into the ball. I know Tom Candiotti used to get manicures all the time.
The thing I learned right away is it's more important to be in the right position. You have to be so precise. Which underscores pitching as a whole. It's the constant struggle for perfection with the realization that you'll never achieve it.
In order to prevent excessive spin, the last three fingertips that touch the ball (all at the same time) are the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. They push the ball out (kind of like flicking those three fingers to close a door) all at the same time to create a "triangle" of pressure, which prevents spin.
The ball rests against the palm and that's what allows the forward momentum of the arm to create speed on the ball (fingers are not strong enough to hold the ball away from the palm when throwing). Once the momentum starts going forward, the ball starts to fly away from the palm by inertia and gravity.
By pushing the fingers out at just the right time, the three fingertips keep the ball from spinning. Trying to release the ball with just two fingers always results in too much spin ... the thumb has to be there as well.
1. After a good warm up get about 30 ft away from your throwing partner and try to throw it perfect with no spin as much as possible, this will help to get a feel for the knuckler.
2. Throw up at the ceiling in your room and it will help the following of the ball, it's also fun to see how high you can get it with no spin.
3. 0 rotation hot potato, you get about 15 ft away and play hot potato with the knuckleball grip, it will help to get the release down just right, don't worry about seam orientation just throw it.
10 Tips For A Great Knuckleball
1. Make sure above all you have good fastball mechanics, this will allow you to always have velocity on the ball.
2. Find a comfortable grip for you, personally I throw 4 seam 3 fingered where as some people go 2 seam 2 fingered, it's all about preference and hand size. Some people even throw off their knuckles. The ball should be up against the palm to prevent any in hand rotation upon release.
3. Get a consistent release, do not push the ball you need to as they say fire and follow. Do this by extending fingertips out at release to follow the ball and kill spin.
4. Make sure you are getting velocity and don't shot put the ball, throw it with fastball mechanics, no velocity means no movement.
5. Get throwing off a mound so that you are used to the push off you need and all the differences of throwing it off flat ground and a mound.
6. Test it in practice on batters to see if it is moving ask them after practice, you can get tips on what's good and bad.
7. No spin is not necessary, it is actually ideal to have 1/4 or 1/2 a rotation so that the seams change and air can move the ball.
8. Throw different speeds so they aren't all lobs and they aren't all hard throws, timing can be everything to a batter against a k-ball.
9. Make sure you mix a few fastballs and other pitches there now and then to keep them off balance so they don't wait on everything.
10. It takes a long time to master this, I've been working on it 6 years now and finally it is good enough for a game.
Here are a few more knuckleball grips submitted by readers of The Complete Pitcher...
Knuckleball grip (front view)
Knuckleball grip (side view)
How do you throw your pitches? Post pictures of your pitching grips on my baseball pitching discussion forums.
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