clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Science Behind The Knuckleball With Eddie Gamboa

New, comments

Few pitchers can say they throw a knuckleball, but Baltimore Orioles farmhand Eddie Gamboa is one of the select few that throw the unpredictable pitch.

Gamboa and his Knuckleball
Gamboa and his Knuckleball
Kevin C. Cox

The knuckleball fell into his lap last year in AA Bowie. Gamboa explained how the highly unpredictable pitch found him, "I saw it as an opportunity to expand my career because I hit a wall in the minors with the Orioles. I wanted to expand my career and that helped me to get over the hump."

Perhaps there is a science to throwing the knuckleball as Eddie explained, "When you throw the knuckleball, you kill the spin and it allows the ball to hit the walls of gravity and that's what makes it bounce around. So when I'm throwing against the wind, it's going to bounce even more. When I'm throwing with the wind, it's going to be a little tougher. The process of trying to kill the spin is one of the toughest things to do with it," said the 29-year-old.

The knuckleball is one of the toughest pitches to master and throw at the pro level. As Gamboa put it, "It's like throwing a fastball with your opposite hand to home plate. It's something you throw and you can't really command. It's a pitch that only God can control."

Every pitcher's style is unique no matter if they throw the knuckler or not. Gamboa painted a picture of how he grips the ball and throws the pitch, "I put my nails against it. You're using your knuckles to push, but my nails are against the ball. If I have a ball and I use it in the game, you'll see my nail marks in the ball. I'm throwing and pushing at the same time. I'm letting it go with all four fingers on the ball and my pinky is the only one that's off the ball. If you think East, West, North, South I have all those covered and I'm releasing all those at the same time."

With the unpredictable nature of the knuckleball it makes the pitch hard to handle for the catcher as the Oak Grove, California native shared, "It's a big challenge for them. They have to use a different glove which is something very rare. They have to be up to the challenge as well and the guys I have here, they excite me and that's something that excites me."

More often than not the hurler just throws the knuckler and hopes it stays in the strike zone. If you're the Manager or the Pitching Coach you have no control of the pitch whatsoever so it may cause a few grey hairs for skippers. "If I throw it for a strike they're going to like it. If I can't throw it for a strike, I'm going to give R.J. and Griff some more grey hairs because I'm going to be walking a whole lot of people. But that's the reason why I have the three other pitches to keep me in the counts and get me ahead in the counts so I can attack them with the knuckleball," stated Gamboa.

Norfolk's Skipper Ron Johnson put his stamp on the sixth-year pro and his knuckleball saying, "It's a pitch he developed last year. He took his conventional pitches as far as he was going to take them at the professional level. He came up with the knuckleball last year and he's had some success throwing it and to be at this level and throwing it in such a short period of time is very commendable."

Johnson also went on to say, "You hope it's unpredictable because if it's predictable they'll hit it, but you have to command it enough within the strike zone to get hitters to swing."

While Gamboa's signature pitch is unpredictable, his dedication and hard work to better his Knuckleball is anything but unpredictable.

Follow Ted on Twitter- @bauerhockeydude