By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
A pitcher has several baseball pitches to choose from. The following is a description of these pitches and their purposes.
The fastball is the first baseball pitch a pitcher must master. This is also the most frequently thrown pitch from Little League up to the Major League level.
The fastball pitch may be thrown in different ways. The two most common types of fastballs are the four-seam fastball and the two-seam fastball.
A four-seam fastball stays straighter, and is thrown with a higher degree of control than the two-seam fastball. A two-seam fastball relies more on movement to be effective. A good two-seamer will "run" and/or "sink".
The most important aspects of a fastball are its control and location. Any major league player will tell you that a pitch down the middle of the plate and waist high that is 95 miles per hour is easier to hit than a pitch that is 89 miles per hour but located down and away. Pitchers should be more concerned with the location of their fastball than with their velocity.
A breaking pitch that is commonly the second pitch in a pitcher's arsenal. This pitch should not be taught or practiced until the pitcher's arm has matured. This point in time is different for everybody, but a little league player should not be throwing curve balls.
The curveball pitch comes into the hitting zone a little slower than a fastball and with a downward rotation. This rotation causes the ball to move, hence the name curve. This pitch causes some hitters fits. You often hear the phrase, " He can't hit the breaking stuff."
This pitch is thrown with one of two purposes. The first is a "get ahead" mentality. The pitcher is not trying to throw a "nasty" curve ball (one with a lot of movement). This pitch would start a little higher and sort of "roll" into the strike zone. A hitter will often not swing at a curve ball. The pitcher is banking on this by throwing a hittable pitch that the umpire will call for a strike.
This pitch also has an entirely different purpose. When the pitcher is ahead in the count he will commonly throw a curve ball that starts a little lower and breaks out of the strike zone. The hitter sees a ball coming in for a low strike, but by the time the ball reaches home plate it is too low to hit. This pitch works off the fastball and deception is the key.
Another breaking pitch that is a lot like the curve ball. The major differences are that the slider is thrown with more velocity and the movement is more side-to-side versus downward. This pitch tends to look more like a fastball coming in to the hitter and at the last minute it "slides" either in or away.
This is the premier deception pitch. A change up is little more than a slower fastball. It will have more movement as the fastball is primarily straight. A hitter thinks that he is hitting a fastball, but the ball is not traveling as fast as he thinks it is. This pitch is very effective to aggressive hitters who try to pull everything. A pitcher may throw a change up just to show a hitter that he may throw one later. This pitch creates the illusion that the fastball is faster than it really is.
A pitcher with a good change up (example: Tom Glavine) will throw this pitch as his "out" pitch. When he is in a jam, this is the pitch he throws to get him out of it. To illustrate how this pitch creates this illusion consider this: A pitch 85 miles per hour is 3'9" behind a 90 mile per hour pitch at 60'6".
Fork ball, splitter, knuckle ball, etc
These are all advanced baseball pitches that may be good to have in your bag of tricks, but it is much more important to have a mastery of the basic pitches before you practice these. A pitcher that can throw a fastball and a change up with control is going to be more effective than a pitcher who has six baseball pitches and little control of them.
If you'd like to receive more of my best tips and techniques to throw harder with better control while reducing the risk of injury, I invite you to subscribe to my free baseball pitching tips here: www.pitchingtips.com/free
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