Pitchers are a unique type of athlete that need to pay an incredible amount of attention to the detail and intricacies of their skills. Likewise, recruiters and scouts are extremely interested in a pitcher who can strike out batters using multiple pitches. Simply blowing away hitters with a fastball might work at some levels of the game, but professionals are adapt at hitting everything thrown at them.
So, don’t be that guy out there with the game on the line, only confident in his fastball because that might bring on an unmitigated disaster. In order to avoid blowing the game or season, take CoachUp’s handy grip tips with you the next time you’re on the mound. If you’re not getting enough one-on-one time with your coach, consider hiring a pitching trainer from CoachUp and watch the improvement before your own eyes.
One of the fastballs a pitcher can throw is the four-seam fastball. Rotate the ball in your hand until you find the horseshoe seam. This is the seam that looks like a horseshoe or the letter C. Place the tips of your index finger and middle finger on the top of the C and your thumb on the bottom seam. Your ring and pinkie fingers should be used on the side of the ball for support. Don’t grip the ball too tightly and keep your first two fingers about half an inch apart. This is an extremely important pitch for baseball pitchers to have, as it’s the easiest to locate for a strike. As we’ve outlined before , it’s just as important to change your sequence of pitching as it is to have an overpowering heater. Elite pitchers like Kershaw, Fernandez, and Harvey use the fastball to do a number of things: from getting ahead to finishing off a batter, effectively making hitters as uncomfortable as possible is key.
One of the variations of the changeup is called the circle changeup. Start by making the OK sign with your hand. Your index finger and thumb will form a circle. Hold the ball with your other three fingers and tuck it next to the circle. This pitch is meant to be much slower than your fastball, but doesn’t change your arm speed — that’ll be what throws the hitter off. Throw it like you would throw a fastball, nearly identically. But removing your index finger from direct contact with the ball reduces the strength of the pitch and should slow it down without being obvious. It’s a deceptive pitch used to fool hitters, so practice this pitch during your baseball drills to make it look like your fastball.
In fact, the more it looks like a fastball, the better — they’ll be out in the front of the pitch, or hesitate just long enough that they’ll miss their opportunity to strike. It’s an absolute gift to watch a pitcher get ahead of the count and then take ten to fifteen miles per hour off their pitch to make the hitter look silly. They’ll stretch, whiff, or even fall down at times — the changeup is one of the cruelest tricks a pitcher can pull. Everything looks like a fastball until it just simply isn’t and by then it’s too late. Then, the next time they’re expecting a changeup, feed them a fastball and keep the never-ending carousel spinning!
Grip the ball with your middle finger on the bottom seam and place your index finger directly next to it. Keep your thumb on the back seam. Your other two fingers stay at the side of the ball. When you throw, snap your middle finger down and your thumb up, so the ball will have forward rotation — or, the opposite rotation of your fastball.
Unlike the fastball or changeup, the curveball is a true pitch of illusion and movement. One of the most popular types of curveballs is the 12-6 curve. 12-6 refers to the time on a clock — as you might say, *there’s a car, 3 o’clock*, and somebody would look to their immediate right, just like the hands of a clock. The 12-6 curve works the same way as it starts high and drops down out of the zone, as if it were jumping from noon to 6PM on a clock. This particular pitch can be lethal, how do you hit something that isn’t there anymore? You can’t.
Grip this pitch with the middle and index fingers held together across the two widest seams on the ball. In order to get the desired spin for this pitch, hold your fingers on the outside third of the ball. Your goal is to get a good spin by releasing the pitch off your index finger. Unlike the curveball, don’t snap your wrist at all. The slider should be faster than your curveball but slower than your fastball. Your arm speed should remain the same as your fastball throw and, if done correctly, the ball should break down and to the side.
As evidenced in the gif above, one of the MLB’s best slider pitchers is Chicago’s Chris Sale. For hitters, their only advantage at the plate, aside from good habits and practices, is successfully guessing the pitch type and location. If they’re certain a pitch is coming high and inside, and it ends up closer to low and away, how fun can that be to hit? The answer? Not fun at all.
(Related: Read about strength training for pitchers here.)
These are four pitches that every pitcher should have in their arsenal. If you have good command of these pitches, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an excellent pitcher. Try to master as many pitches as you can and follow these baseball tips to become an invaluable member to your team. However, as we noted before, if you’re struggling with these pitches and don’t have tons of one-on-one time with your coach before or after practice, please, don’t hurt yourself.
Young athletes, especially those with undeveloped muscles and arms, can do serious damage to their arms by throwing these pitches too often. So if you’re intrigued by the pitches outlined in this article here, but want to be cautious before continuing, consider booking one of CoachUp’s private coaches to help you out. They’ll help you discover talents and abilities you didn’t know you had, all while keeping your arm safe and sound — what are you waiting for?
Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field.