Friday, June 27, 2014

The Knuckleball

knuckleball (or knuckler) is a baseball pitch with an erratic, unpredictable motion. The pitch is thrown slowly with a special finger grip to minimize the spin of the ball in flight. The slight rotation causes voritces over the stitched seams of the baseball during its trajectory, which in turn can cause the pitch to change direction making it very difficult to hit and catch. 

Knuckleball 101 - Blog
- Learn how to throw the knuckleball 

As used by Eddie Cicotte, the knuckleball was originally thrown by holding the ball with the knuckles, hence the name of the pitch. Now the knuckleball grip includes digging the fingernails into the surface of the ball or gripping the ball with the finger tips.

Is there an ambidextrous pitcher who can throw a knuckleball?

Watch Switch Pitcher Henry Knight throwing the knuckleball.

Great knuckleball pitchers:
Tom Candiotti, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, Joe Niekro, Hoyt Wilhelm, Wilbur Wood

Recent pro knuckleball pitchers:
R.A. Dickey, Tim Wakefield (retired)

Tim Wakefield's Knuckleball (video)
Wakefield talks about how he grips and throws the knuckleball.

Tim Wakefield throw knuckleball in game (slow motion video)
The batter swings and misses a knuckleball, while the catcher closes glove and misses the ball.

College knuckleball pitchers:
Andrew Kelley LHP - Grinnell College (watch video)

Little League knuckleball pitcher:

E:60 Chelsea Baker - ESPN Video July 20, 2010 - 10 min

In 2010, the best player on the Plant City Little League Team, was a 13-year-old girl named Chelsea Baker. The young knuckleball pitcher dominated the boys using a pitch she learned from Joe Niekro - a former major league pitcher who mastered the knuckler.

Quotes from pro players

"Trying to hit that thing is a miserable way to make a living." - Pete Rose

"Trying to hit Phil Niekro is like trying to eat jello with chopsticks. Sometimes you get a piece but most of the time you get hungry." - Bobby Murcer, on Phil Niekro

"You don't catch the knuckleball, you defend against it." - Joe Torre

"There are two theories on catching the knuckleball...
unfortunately, neither of the theories work." - Charlie Lau

Science behind the Knuckleball

When a pitcher throws a knuckleball, the ball has no rotation and appears to flutter. What makes it flutter?
Porter Johnson, a physics professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology and an avid baseball fan, supplies the answer here.

"For a knuckleball, the important thing is that the ball rotate about an axis so that the seams are on one side of the front of the ball at one instant, whereas a little later they are on the other side of the front of the ball. The ball will then drift in the direction of the leading seam, and then drift back when the seam becomes exposed on the other side.
The seams produce turbulence in the air flowing around the ball, disturbing the air layer traveling with the ball and thereby producing a force on the ball. As the ball slowly rotates, this force changes, causing the ball to "flutter" and slowly drift. The knuckleball is very difficult to throw well and is sensitive to wind, temperature and, of course, atmospheric pressure."
The break on the knuckleball
One of the most interesting statistics measured is the break of a much up-and-down and side-to-side motion a pitched ball goes through after leaving the pitcher's hand. The break demonstrates why the knuckleball is such a difficult pitch to hit, particularly when used in conjunction with other pitch types.

The Physics of Baseball 2: "The Seven Per Cent Knuckleball"
The knuckleball is a different creature altogether. It is, first of all, a misnomer: the knuckleball is actually propelled by the fingertips, or the ends of the fingers if the pitcher has accidentally lost his fingertips. The knuckler is thrown without spin, causing asymmetric stitch configurations and trajectoral turbulence relative to the ball's flight. The wind resistance is directed from the smooth side of the ball to the rougher, stitched side. Therefore the balance of Magnus forces is thrown into imbalance, and the ball's flight is given over to chaos theory.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Switch pitcher throwing the Cutter

Videos of an ambidextrous pitcher throwing the cut fastball.

Switch pitcher Henry Knight throwing the cut fastball (cutter) in a bullpen session. Knight throws the cutter both right- and left-handed to induce swings and weak contact for easy outs.

When in high school, Knight learned how to throw the cutter from UW pitcher Tyler Davis, then practiced using the grip throughout the off-season. Below are videos of him testing out the cutter on a left-handed teammate.

Henry Knight throws a cutter to Aiden at the K Center in Seattle. Note how the pitch moves into the left-handed batter.

Knight tries out his cutter on a lefty hitter. Aiden yells and slams his bat on the ground -- after fouling the ball off. Then he describes the cutting movement of the ball toward his hands.

Learn to Throw a Cutter like Mariano Rivera

Tyler Davis Shows How to Throw a Cutter

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Aubrey McCarty - Switch Pitcher, Vanderbilt University

Congrats to Vanderbilt Baseball for winning
the 2014 College World Series!

It will be fun to see Aubrey McCarty in the pitching rotation

Source: Vanderbilt Baseball

Aubrey McCarty is a Switch Pitcher and Switch Hitter

Aubrey McCarty
photo: Vandy Baseball

Aubrey McCarty  
Coquitt County High School, Moultrie, GA  (Class of 2013)
Hometown: Doerun, Georgia

College: Vanderbilt (Class of 2017)

2013 MLB Draft: Selected by the SF Giants in the 35th round (#1062 overall)

Positions: BHP, 1B
Throws: Switch pitcher (ambidextrous)
Bats: Switch hitter
Ht/Wt: 6-3"/210 lbs

Aubrey McCarty Bio - Vanderbilt

Read More about Aubrey McCarty


BHP = Both-Handed Pitcher

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Learn about pitching by catching

Tip for young pitchers:

You can learn a lot about how to pitch by catching bullpen sessions or catching a game.

Catching helps you learn the strike zone and how umpires call balls and strikes. Catching gives you a perspective on the movement of different pitches and the strategy for calling a game.

Make sure to talk to the pitchers about their grips and approach to pitching to batters.

Have fun catching.

For tips on catching, follow

Jerry Weinstein


Thursday, June 19, 2014

UW Pitcher Tyler Davis mentors a switch pitcher

Henry Knight with Tyler Davis (UW) at Husky Ballpark

University of Washington All-American pitcher, Tyler Davis, serves as a mentor for switch pitcher Henry Knight of Seattle. Davis had a stellar year for the Huskies, posting a 11-2 record with a 1.60 ERA.

Contrats to Tyler Davis for pitching a complete game shutout 
against powerhouse Georgia Tech in the NCAA Regionals.
Dawgs won 8-0

Tyler Davis was on the list for the 2014 Golden Spikes Award!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Switch pitchers recruited to play in college

Do ambidextrous pitchers get recruited to play in college?

Yes, a few ambidextrous pitchers played in college up to the Division I level. 

Two switch pitchers played for Harvard University in the Ivy League.

Switch pitcher Pat Venditte initially was a walk-on at Creighton University, but was later offered a scholarship to play college ball. Alex Trautner is the latest college recruit as a switch pitcher for the Blue Jays.

A few ambidextrous pitchers have been recruited to play for the top college teams in the country...

Recent college recruits

Alex Trautner, a switch pitcher from San Ramon Valley HS in Danville, CA will be pitching  for the Creighton University Bluejays in 2015.  

Aubrey McCarty, a switch pitcher from Georgia is playing for Vanderbilt University under coach Tim Corbin. Vanderbilt plays in the SEC and won the College World Series in 2014.

Ryan Perez, an ambidextrous player from Illinois, can throw 90 mph with both arms. Perez switch pitches for Judson University. In high school he was also a switch hitter with power. 

Andrew Pullin from Washington, was recruited to play baseball for the University of Oregon, but in 2012 he was drafted in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Phillies. Pullin now plays in the minor leagues.

Drew Vettleson, a top prospect from Washington, was recruited to play for Oregon State University, but opted to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010. Vettleson is moving up the ranks as an outfielder in the minor leagues.

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See a list of switch pitchers who played in college >>

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The Recruiting Timeline

This is a general layout of the schedule or "time line" that a high school baseball player can follow, in an effort to play baseball at the college level. 

College Baseball Recruiting Tips

It's important to start early if you are thinking about playing in college. Attend college games and camps to get exposure to college baseball. Top baseball players are selected by colleges during their junior year of high school. Focus on academics, developing skills, training hard and being a good teammate. 

Evaluating the Potential College Pitcher

By Rob Smith

When evaluating the potential college pitcher you have to consider several different factors in determining what it is you are looking for. How does the hitter react to the ball? Is he able to command the baseball? Has he showed a legitimate second or third pitch? What is his future in regards to health and injury? What is his velocity? All of these types of questions are raised when evaluating a pitching prospect for your program. When I am recruiting a pitcher I will break him down in five different areas; Mechanics, Stuff, Command, Velocity, and Intangibles. 


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pitchers selected in the MLB Draft 2014

Draft opens with selections of high school pitchers

Aiken taken No. 1 overall by Astros; one pick later, Kolek goes to Marlins

A pair of high school arms were picked at the top of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft for the first time in history on Thursday night, with the Astros and Marlins both banking on youth and projectability.

Read more

MLB Draft Tracker >>
12 RHP and 8 LHP were selected in the first round, along with 2 switch hitters

119 RHP (70%) and 50 LHP (30%) were selected through the 10th round

MLB Mock Draft: Brady Aiken emerges as No. 1 pick

In the first round of the 2014 MLB draft, which takes place tonight, teams will be forced to make a crucial decision: Should they go with a project or a safe pick?
The difference is a matter of how long a team is willing to wait to see their potential star of the future contribute. Will they go with a raw, talented player who will take time to progress through the minors? Or will they gravitate toward a mature player who is relatively close to the majors?

Read More:

Will a Switch Pitcher be selected in the MLB  draft? 

It is very unlikely that a switch pitcher will be drafted in 2014. There was an ambidextrous pitcher selected last year by the Giants named Aubrey McCarty, who decided to play for Vanderbilt University.

Followup: no switch pitchers were selected in the 2014 MLB draft, but there is a good change that an ambidextrous pitcher will be selected in the 2015 MLB Draft - stay tuned.