There are many different types of pitches in baseball. From a straight fastball, to a breaking pitch, to a change-up, they can all be effective. However, pitchers will need to learn how to grip each of these pitches to get the desired result.
One of the most popular and effective pitch for players at any level is the four-seam fastball. The pitch has also been referred as a rising fastball or cross-seam fastball. This pitch is especially important for youth pitchers to learn, especially those who have not experimented all that much with curveballs or sliders.
The goal of the four-seam fastball is velocity. It will travel from the pitcher’s hand to the batter’s box with very little or no break to it. It travels in a straight line and gets on the batter quickly, limiting their reaction time.
A good four-seam fastball can overpower a batter with velocity, normally getting through the strike zone before the batter can commit to swing. The more velocity the pitch is thrown with will dictate the effectiveness of a four-seam fastball. It can be very difficult for a batter to get “around on” the pitch—to quickly swing the bat around to meet the ball—because he/she must swing very early to “catch up” to the speedy pitch.
To baseball players, pitching or throwing a fastball is a pretty natural thing to most athletes who throw baseballs. It is usually always the first pitch taught to young pitchers. A fastball requires very little unnatural motion of the arm, elbow or shoulders, and the ball comes off the fingers easily when the pitch is completed as it is intended to be thrown. The fastball is the most common of pitches, as almost all pitchers throw a fastball as part of their standard repertoire.
Four-Seam Fastball Grip
Let’s begin with how to grip the baseball properly to throw a four seam fastball. To grip the four seam fastball, place your index and middle fingertips directly on the perpendicular seam of the baseball. The “horseshoe seam” should face into the ring finger of your throwing hand. It is referred to as the horseshoe seam simply because the seam itself looks like the shape of a horseshoe.
Next, place your thumb directly beneath the baseball, resting on the smooth leather and not on the seam. It is best to rest your thumb in the center of the horseshoe seam on the bottom part of the baseball. When you are gripping it correctly, there will be a space between the baseball and palm of the hand, and the baseball should be held loosely with the fingers. This grip will cause the baseball to spin in a fashion that limits movement and generates the best velocity compared to other pitches.
The four-seam fastball is normally thrown with a straight overhead swing of the throwing arm. The ball leaves the thumb at the top of the throwing motion as the index and middle fingers use their grip on the “top” seam to roll it down the “back” of the ball, which imparts backspin to the ball that lasts the distance of the pitch.
The backspin can create a lifting force that can offset the downward pull of gravity on the ball; therefore a hard-thrown fastball doesn’t drop as much as other types of pitches and may even appear to rise as it approaches the plate. In addition, the backspin on the baseball as well as the steady rotation of four seams in alignment with the direction of the pitch stabilizes the ball’s flight-path.
The four seam fastball is pretty much a straight pitch. There should be very little horizontal or vertical movement on the ball as it approaches home plate. This lack of movement can make it somewhat easier to hit as a hitter can anticipate the location of the baseball as it approaches the plate. But remember that you are going for velocity here, and with the added velocity of a good four-seam fastball, it can be extremely hard to hit, even if you are anticipating it.
As you get older and face tougher competition, the hitters who can hit a fastball will increase and it will be more difficult to throw a good fastball past a good hitter. This doesn’t mean the four seam fastball becomes less effective, but instead means that the pitcher needs to learn when to throw that pitch for it to be most effective. A well located four-seam fastball is still one of the best pitches in baseball, even at the professional level.