Mark Lemke is an interesting story that goes along these lines.... he was a very good 2nd baseman and team leader for the Braves during their big run in the early 90's when they finally got good. Then he was out of baseball, having been supplanted by younger guys that had more pop in their bat as teams looked for more production out of 2nd basemen than just being amazing fielders like the Lemmer was. They wanted guys that could hit too (unless they were the Mariners, who still think loading a team with great fielders with no bat is a-ok). But I digress. Anyway, Lemke went back to the minors to keep playing and extend his career in hopes that he'd get back to the majors with somebody, even as an extra guy off the bench and started messing around with the knuckleball and became a knuckleball pitcher in his late 30's.
I remember reading a series of articles about how he was actually doing quite well and was getting looks from teams and there was a possibility that he was going to get back to the majors as a long reliever with his knuckler. Many scouts felt that if he had been throwing it all along instead of just picking it up later that he'd have had a career as a major league pitcher.
I know for a fact that the knuckleball is absolutely brutal to hit. I played slowpitch for a lot of years after high school and college, and I learned to throw a slowpitch softball knuckler and in a pretty high level game I actually threw a shutout 2 hitter. In slowpitch that's pretty impressive since you typically score 10-40 runs in a game. If it's on, then it is darn near impossible to hit.
I could hit balls in the high 90's without issue, had no real issue with the curve, or the slider as I could pick up motion on the ball very well. But throw me a knuckleball and I was dead. I had no idea where the thing was. The lack of spin made it impossible for my brain to process where it was. The spin on the ball helps you to gain a point of reference on where it is in space. Without spin it literally looks like a puppeteer is working strings on it and speeding it up and slowing it down and right as it gets near to you he gives the string a final yank to drop it to a dead stop. Half the time the catcher can't even catch the thing.
They are fun to throw, and it's good they move slow, because with the lack of ability to judge the ball they end up going off of the heel of the glove and bonking guys in the head. That's ok with a 40 mph ball. Not so good when it's traveling 90.
R.I.P. Dad. I miss you. You will never be forgotten
1/12/39 - 8/7/08