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Different Types of Major League Pitches

300px-HoratioRamirezWindeupThere are a lot of different pitches in the game of baseball. This article will discuss many, if not all of the pitches used in major league baseball. These pitches have been developed over time and have been tried by every major league pitcher in the history of baseball.

Four Seam – The four seam is a good, hard fastball to throw. It is a great starter pitch for young pitchers. Generally thrown as a speed pitch, the four seam does not have much movement. Although, some pitches just have a natural movement on the ball to make it dip. This happens a lot in lefties who put some slight wrist action on the ball to make it drop. This wrist action is done unconsciously. The four seam gets its name for when the seams spin off the fingers and the batter can see the four seams spinning. The four seam is gripped by putting your middle and pointer finger on the top portion of the horse shoe seam, with the thumb tip just over the other horse shoe in the bottom side of the ball.

Two Seam – The two seam is another good fastball to throw. Generally, it is meant to be thrown hard, but in some instances, it can be thrown with less velocity. The two seam has somewhat more movement than the four seam and can either curve in and out, or drop. This movement is caused by either wrist action, grip, or natural movement of the pitcher. Curve, however, most often occurs in lefties also due to unconscious natural wrist movement. There are three different ways to grip a two seam. One way is to put your index and middle finger on top of or inside of the narrow seams of the ball. The second way is to grip the ball with the two fingers going perpendicular to the narrow seam. The final way is a hybrid of the first two. You hold the ball with the index and middle finger going across the ball in such a way that the fingers and seams form and X shape. The thumb placement is the same for every grip – place your thumb in the middle of the underside of the ball. Where if you put your thumb on the top of the ball, it would be between the two grip fingers.

Splitter – The splitter is very similar to the two seam, because of the fact that the grip hovers around the narrow seams. The only difference between the splitter and two seam, is that the splitter grip has the index and middle finger place in the outside of the narrow seam, instead of inside or on top of the seams. This ball has a lot of natural movement and requires no extra arm action from the pitcher for movement left or right handed. This pitch tends to break more and later than the two seam. A very common, and dangerous mistake made when throwing the splitter is placing the fingers to wide apart. This causes a lot of speed to be taken away, and also a knuckling action occurs. This pitch is known as a forkball. DO NOT THROW THIS PITCH UNTIL YOU ARE AT LEAST 15. Although the forkball has much more movement, it puts a lot of strain on the forearm, elbow, and wrist resulting in many injuries in young, immature pitchers. All you have to do for the splitter is place the fingers just outside of the narrow seam, no more, no less.

Cutter – The cutter is fastball with force applied to the outside of the ball rather than the middle as with other fastballs. Generally, the cutter is used with a warped two seam grip, although you can use the four seam grip with the horse shoe on the outside of the middle finger. But most often, the cutter is gripped like a two seam with the two fingers place just outside the middle of the ball. There is not as much speed on the ball, but should be thrown like a normal two seam, to deceive the batter. The grip creates a sidespin which causes the ball to cut away toward the glove side of the plate. This movement is commonly drastically increased by lefties whose natural wrist movement causes even more spin on the ball. The two seam can be made to look like a normal cutter because of wrist action.

Sinker – The sinker is a pitch similar to both the two seam. Directly opposite to the cutter, because you want to apply force to just the inside of the ball to create opposite spin. The two seam is essentially a sinker and can be thrown with almost as much drop on it. To get the sinking motion, you want to pronate your wrist and hand so that your hand is slightly on top of the ball which creates a downward movement along with the curve from the placement of the hand.

Change Up The change up is an essential pitch early on, because it is a pitch that allows you to mess up the batters without hurting your arm. The trick to throwing a change up is to throw it like a fastball. The only difference between the fastball and the change up is the grip. The change up can be thrown two ways. One way is the pitchfork grip. This grip is similar to a splitter because you have to split your fingers. The only difference is that you add in the ring finger and do not spread your fingers as wide. This pitch is generally gripped across the horse shoe, with the index finger near the narrow seam, middle finger in the middle of the seam, and the ring finger at the start, or curve of the horse shoe. This grip is generally used by younger pitchers as it is easier to control. The second type of change up is the circle change. The circle change is more common than the pitchfork change because it has more downward movement than the pitchfork grip. The grip is different from other grips because it utilizes the pinky finger. The circle change is more commonly gripped using the horse shoe seams. You grip by putting your ring finger close to the center of the horse shoe, you pinky finger on or outside of the beginning of the horse shoe, and your middle finger near the narrow seams. Your index finger and thumb should rest lightly on the ball forming a slight circle shape. The change up is only effective if you throw it with the same arm speed as the fastball. The grips slow the ball down just enough so that the batter will most likely swing out in front of the ball making weak or no contact. Be careful to keep the change up low in the strike zone, otherwise, good batters will tee off on the change up.

Curveball – The curveball is an excellent pitch to add to your repertoire. It has medium speed, and, obviously, has a lot of break to it. The curveball is a pitch that should not be used until at least fifteen years of age. This reason comes from the injury of many pitchers who have thrown the curveball and have put stress on the forearm and shoulder. The grip for the curveball is unlike almost any other pitch. First, you place the ball so that one narrow seam is running down your hand, with the other narrow seam on the outside of the thumb. Then you place your middle finger on the long seam that is attached to the narrow seam which is on your hand. Then you place your index finger right next to your middle finger with a little bend to it so that your first index knuckle is slightly higher than the middle finger’s. To throw the curveball you must be able to supinate, or turn your hand into a crude karate chop at the release of the ball. This creates spin and thus, curve on the pitch. The faster the pitcher can supinate their hand, the more spin and curve will occur.

Slider – The slider is essential for any serious pitcher’s arsenal. The slider is faster than the curveball, has a lot of break and curve, and can be thrown for strikes more often than the curveball. To grip the slider you must first grip the ball so the narrow seams are running away from the hand. Next, you must place your middle finger on the right long seam on the horse shoe, then place your index finger right next to the middle finger. Then, place your thumb on the left long seam on the horseshoe on the bottom of the ball. Throw the slider just like a fastball, and let the ball roll off your fingers, which creates spin and curve on the ball. This pitch is not recommended to throw until the age of fifteen, when the arm has had more time to mature and strengthen. A common mistake made by young pitchers is adding wrist action to the pitch. This is bad because it can hurt the arm and wrist badly. The natural finger position for the slider generates enough movement on the ball to render the wrist action obsolete.

There are many pitchers out there who include all of these amazing pitches in their arsenal. But for right now, as a young pitcher, try to completely command just three pitches, the two seam, four seam, and the change up. You will be able to dominate once you master these three pitches. Do not try to learn any fancy stuff yet until you are older. This causes you to have a higher chance of injury. Do not hurt yourself, just go out, and have fun.

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