As baseball pitchers move up to higher levels, they usually need to expand their repertoire of baseball pitches to keep quality hitters off balance. At younger levels, pitchers normally can get most hitters out with just a good fastball. Even at the highest levels, a well-located quality fastball is probably still the best pitch in the game. But as hitters get better at adjusting to the speed of a fastball, pitchers need to work in some other pitch types to keep them guessing.
In this article, we’ll cover a variety of different baseball pitch types, provide a definition of what they are and what they do, and review how they are typically thrown.
The fastball is the most basic pitch in baseball and is the first pitch players will learn to throw. There are different ways to throw a fastball which can produce slightly different results depending on what you are looking to do. Below is a breakdown of each of the different types of fastballs.
This is the basic go-to pitch for most pitchers. It’s designed for velocity and usually has very little movement. The grip involves holding the ball with the index and middle fingers across the “horseshoe” seams at the balls widest point. Fingers should be about a ½ inch apart with your thumb resting under the ball. The ball should not be gripped too tightly, more like holding an egg, and is normally thrown with an overhand swing of the arm. The fingers should roll off the ball when it’s thrown providing backspin.
A two-seam fastball is similar to a four-seamer but is gripped a bit differently and is intended to provide some movement on the ball which can make it a little more difficult to control. The grip is made along the seams, on the part of the ball where the seams come closest together. Your index and middle fingers will grip the seams while your thumb will rest under the ball. When throwing the two-seamer, more movement can be provided by gripping tighter when releasing.
Cut Fastball (Cutter)
This is a pitch used more in the major leagues now and can be very effective. The grip is similar to the four-seam grip but is placed a bit more off center. The thumb will usually come slightly up the inside of the ball and the index and middle fingers slightly to the outside. With this pitch, you are looking for some sidespin that will make the pitch move a few inches.
The “splitter”, formerly referred to as the forkball, is thrown with the middle and index fingers split along the seam at the widest point of the ball. Young pitcher’s hands are normally not large enough to throw this pitch. It is thrown with a fastball motion and will dive directly down if thrown correctly.
A pitch that breaks with a slower speed is normally referred to as a breaking ball. Here are a few breaking balls pitchers can use.
The standard curveball is probably the second pitch learned by most players. The grip usually involves the pitchers middle finger placed up against the inside of the seam or on the seam. The index finger can either be placed next to the middle finger or lifted off the ball. Pitchers will want to use the middle finger to spin the ball on release for the curve action.
A good slider is one of the popular pitches to get hitters out with. The grip is similar to a two-seam fastball except held slightly off center. Grip the outer-third of the baseball and cock your wrist slightly. The slider has less break than a curveball but with a tighter spin.
The changeup can be a make or break pitch for a lot of pitchers. It’s thrown with a fastball arm speed but the grip will slow it down and make it drop. Circle change grip has index finger and thumb forming a circle, and the top two fingers are placed across the baseball seams like a four-seamer. The two-seam changeup has the middle and ring fingers inside the two baseball seams, and throw just like a fastball. A three-finger changeup is best for young players. Throw just like a fastball, loose grip, ball a little deeper in the hand compared to the fastball.