It may seem like baseball is a simple sport—one guy throws a ball, and another guy hits it with a stick—but to avid fans, baseball is high science.
For instance, there are different types of pitches in baseball, including fastballs, breaking balls, the cut fastball, and changeups. In fact, a baseball game features hundreds of pitches.
Plus, many factors affect how you throw, including your arm speed, arm angles, and hip rotation. Little details, such as where you place your index finger and if you use split fingers, can make a big difference.
Aside from the usual baseball pitches that you see in a game, there are quite a few other pitches (illegal ones) that you’re unlikely to ever see – unless emotions are running high. For example, there’s one called the beanball, where the thrower tries to hit a member of the opposing team with the ball.
Hilarious as that may be, it’s not okay, especially for big league pitchers. I’m going to focus on the baseball pitches that are legal.
So, brace yourselves for a crash course on pitching.
The fastball is the throw that I do most often, and I’m not alone. It’s the most popular kind of pitch in major league baseball (MLB games), mainly because it’s the simplest.
Although most pitchers can throw a good combination of pitches, they usually have three quality pitches in their arsenal. Many relief pitchers, who step in when someone is injured or to close, have two.
I use fastball throws to strengthen my throwing arm. There are a few different ones in the fastball family.
1. The 4-Seam Fastball
The 4-seam fastball is the most basic fastball. All I do is throw the ball as hard as I can – making sure to aim for the strike zone.
This type of throw can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, so this is the fastest fastball!
When I throw a four-seam fastball, I don’t have to worry about giving the ball movement. I just have to make the pitch as fast as I can.
2. The Two-Seam Fastball
The two-seam fastball is a bit harder to master. When I throw a two-seam, the ball moves like a four-seam throw, except it’s an off-speed pitch, in other words, it slows its speed just before reaching the batter.
This last-second deceleration makes it harder to hit, and it’s great at prompting ground balls.
3. The Cutter
When I throw a cut fastball, the ball heads towards the batter just like a normal fastball. But at the last second, it swerves to the left.
The last-second movement makes it more likely that the ball gets past the batter. When I throw a cutter, I hold the ball like I do for a four-seam pitch (with the middle finger and index finger perpendicular to the seam), but I keep it slightly tilted in my hand.
Sometimes I like to use breaking ball throws, like sliders and curveballs, to confuse the batter. What happens in these pitches is that the ball moves or spins which makes it hard for the batter to judge its trajectory.
If the ball is hard to follow, the batter is more likely to miss when he swings.
The target here is not to beat the opponent by throwing the ball fast but by confusing them. These pitches are difficult to master but well worth the effort.
These are breaking ball pitches that I’ve used successfully:
When thrown properly, a curveball moves in a downwards direction just before it reaches the home plate. This dive is particularly hard for batters to hit and is considered a strikeout pitch.
To throw a curveball, make sure the ball has a forward spin when it leaves the hand.
What I do is I hold the ball like I would hold a glass, using my thumb and two fingers. My hand makes a C-shape around the ball.
Now when I throw, the ball has a forward-spinning momentum that makes it dive when it reaches the plate.
A pitch called a slurve is a combination of both a slider and a curveball; it’s not as quick as a fastball.
When a screwball pitch is thrown correctly, the ball swerves towards the batter’s right. The grip I use is the same one I use for one of the changeups.
The difference is that I only grip the ball lightly with my ring and little finger.
One thing I like to do sometimes is to swing my arm down from the 2 o’clock position instead of bringing it straight down. When I do that with the screwball pitch, the ball dips as well, swinging to the right.
Baseball is all about deceiving your opponent. If I can fool the batter when I pitch, then I can beat him.
I hold the ball like I’m going to pitch a fastball, but then I throw the ball much more slowly but with the same arm motion. Because it’s slower, it influences the bat speed too.
The batter is prepared for a fastball, but the ball spins and moves slower than he thought it would. So, he mistimes the swing, and it’s two strikes before you even know it!
Here are a few basic changeup throws that I like to use:
1. Circle Changeup
When I throw this pitch, I hold the ball in my palm with my thumb and all my fingers clutching it tightly, including the middle finger. This is the same grip I often use for fastballs.
The only difference in the circle changeup grip is that I don’t flex my wrist. Keeping my wrist straight makes the ball travel slower than a fastball pitch.
2. The Forkball
The grip for the forkball is similar to the grip I use for throwing a split-finger fastball, but it’s thrown hard. I hold the ball between my index and middle fingers and flex my wrist hard as I throw.
The difference is that in the fastball, the ball is held deeper between the middle and index fingers, giving it extra momentum.
When I throw a forkball, the batter thinks it’s another split-fingered fastball coming, and it’s a devastating pitch. But I’ve got the ball held lightly between my fingers, so the ball travels much slower than he’s expecting.
I’ve seen a lot of good batters bamboozled by this particular pitching motion.
Left-Handed Batters vs. Right-Handed Pitchers
Arm-side movement is when a pitcher throws towards the batter on the pitcher’s arm side as opposed to away from the batter.
Whether you’re a left-handed pitcher or a right-handed pitcher can affect how you play the game. If left-handed pitchers throw a curveball to right-handed batters, it’s harder to hit.
As a result, left-handed pitchers and right-handed batters are sought after in the major league.
On the other hand, most right-handed professional baseball players throw much harder than left-handed pitchers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the easiest baseball pitch to master?
The easiest pitch of all is the fastball, but just because it’s an easy one to throw doesn’t mean that it’s easy to master. The thing to remember with throwing fastballs is that you’re not doing anything fancy.
You don’t want the ball to bank left or dip suddenly. You just need to make the ball move fast.
The most important characteristic is the pitcher’s throwing arm strength and arm angle. It doesn’t matter how flexible your wrist is.
If you’re throwing fastballs, then you’re going to need muscle. For young pitchers, the best way to build arm strength is to practice often.
If you want to see some baseball pitches illustrated, there are many online sites you can visit.
What are the best types of pitches to throw?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one right answer to this question. It all depends on the batter you’re pitching to, for example, it helps if you know whether he’s a right-handed hitter or not.
You need to learn to identify pitches that will cause the batter to strike out. You can’t throw the same pitch to all batters.
I try to get a read on the batter beforehand. After enough experience, you can tell if a batter is an impulsive whacker or a cold calculator.
I’ve found that it’s better to pitch impulsive whackers changeups or breaking balls. Usually, they follow their instincts when they see a pitch coming, swing, and miss!
With calmer players, it’s better to throw a hard pitch, such as an aggressive fastball so I can rattle their composure. The calm batters try to think before they swing, but thinking takes time.
And if my fastball is good enough, by the time they’ve finished thinking about the next pitch, the ball is already in the catcher’s mitt!