A knuckleball is arguably the most unique pitch in baseball. There are only a few pitchers who throw knuckleballs and even fewer players can reliably throw a one for a strike. However, hitters will eventually face a pitcher that can throw a knuckleball and, if you’re not prepared for it, you will have a difficult time making contact. How do you hit a knuckleball in baseball?
To hit a knuckleball in baseball, hitters must recognize the pitch is a knuckleball, wait on the pitch to reach the plate, shorten their swing, and watch their bat make contact with the pitch.
Hitting a knuckleball is much easier said than done, but I know from experience that it can be done. Keep reading to learn about the 5 step approach I use on how to hit a knuckle ball in baseball.
Step 1: Recognize the Pitch is a Knuckleball
Hitters should be trying to recognize every pitch as soon as possible, especially when the pitch is a knuckleball. But in order to recognize a knuckleball, you first need to know what to look for. What does a knuckleball look like?
A knuckleball pitch looks like it travels to the strike zone with little spin and it looks like it moves radically from side to side. Knuckleball pitches also tend to be the slowest thrown pitch.
But if you’re like me, seeing an example is much better than reading about it. So below is a video that does a great job of showing what a knuckleball looks like, as well as how it can even be difficult to catch.
Step 2: Wait on the Pitch to Reach the Plate
Knuckleballs tend to be the slowest thrown pitch. If you watch any Major League baseball pitcher throw a knuckleball, you’ll notice the speed of a knuckleball is usually between 50 mph and 70 mph.
As a hitter, you need to be aware of how much slower the knuckleball is thrown than other pitches so you can adjust.
When you recognize the pitch is a knuckleball, take an extra second to re-set yourself in the batter’s box before you swing.
I struggle with slower pitches so this is always the hardest part for me. I can see the pitch is a strike and I want to swing, but the pitch hasn’t gotten to the plate yet.
So just keep in mind that knuckleballs are thrown slowly and it will be difficult for a pitcher to throw this ball past you for a strike. Be patient.
Step 3: Shorten Your Swing
After you’ve made up your mind you’re committing to a swing, the best way to make contact with a knuckleball is by shortening your swing, almost like you’re trying to snatch the ball out of the air with your bat.
Of course, you could try to take a full swing and crush the pitch, but a knuckleball pitch moves quite a bit and it will be difficult to hit the pitch with the barrel of your bat.
But if you’re simply looking to make contact with the pitch (especially when you have two strikes), shorten your swing and try to snatch the ball out of the air. You won’t hit the ball as far as a full swing, but you’ll have a better chance of making contact with the pitch.
Step 4: Watch the Ball Make Contact With Your Bat
Knuckleball pitches move all over the place and you will struggle with guessing where the ball will end up when it gets to the strike zone. So it’s crucial you take the extra effort to watch your bat make contact with the pitch.
If you can’t physically see your bat make contact with the pitch, there’s a good chance that knuckleball is going by you for a strike.
Step 5: Practice Hitting a Knuckleball With a Friend
The best way to get better at hitting a knuckleball is by practicing.
The bad news is there is no great way to practice this by yourself (or at least no way I’m aware of). It would be great if there was a machine that threw knuckleball pitches, but most batting practice machines I see only throw fastballs, curveballs, and sliders.
So the best way to practice hitting a knuckleball is to find a friend who knows how to throw a knuckleball and practice with them. They’ll be able to get more practice throwing a knuckleball pitch while you’ll get more practice swinging at knuckleballs.
Why is it Hard To Hit a Knuckleball?
Knuckleballs are difficult pitches to hit because they are slower than other pitches, they have very little spin, and they move in an unpredictable way toward the strike zone. Additionally, it is rare to see a knuckleball pitch so hitters don’t have much experience hitting that type of pitch.
Sometimes a knuckleball is thrown so well that even catchers can’t catch it!
Should I Swing at a Knuckleball Pitch?
If knuckleball pitches are rare, they are difficult to throw for a strike, and it’s difficult to even make contact with the pitch, should you even swing when a pitcher throws a knuckleball?
Hitters should always swing at a knuckleball pitch when there are two strikes and the pitch looks like it is heading into the strike zone. Additionally, hitters should not swing at a knuckleball if the pitch starts off low because the pitch will drop below the strike zone.
There is a saying in baseball when it comes to swinging at knuckleballs – “If it is low, let it go. If it is high, let it fly.”
The meaning of this baseball saying is quite simple. Don’t swing at knuckleballs that start off low in the strike zone. Knuckleballs don’t have a lot of speed. If the knuckleball starts off low in the strike zone, it will always end up below the strike zone for a ball.