How To Throw A Filthy Change Up

If you want to learn how to throw a changeup, you're going to love this article. I'm going to share the most popular changeup grips, as well as what to do if your changeup isn't working.

But first, check out this off-speed pitch from Felix Hernandez...

King Felix has got one of the best change ups in baseball, and he literally puts on a clinic for how to throw a great changeup right here:

Felix Hernandez change up
Felix Hernandez has a great changeup.

I love how that pitch looks like a fastball but fades down and in to get the hitter swinging.

That's the key to a great change up, and it's easy to see how King Felix has remained so successful for so long in the Big Leagues.

In fact, he threw the more change up pitches in the majors than anybody else last year (1,076), enabling him to slow down and control hitters' bat speed to set up his fastball or other pitches.

How to grip a change up

  1. The ball is gripped deep in the hand, balanced and held loosely. The ball should rest up against the top ridge of the palm or at the base of the fingers.
  2. We prefer the 3 finger grip because we find it easier to control. For a RHP looking at the back of his hand, and the ball as a clock, place the thumb at 7 o’clock, the little finger at 5 o’clock and the first 3 fingers on top of the ball at 11, 12, 1 o’clock.
  3. The finger tips and pads are raised slightly and the finger pressure is between the first and second finger joints
  4. Don’t set the grip until the ball is hidden in the glove just before the hand break.

The mechanics of throwing a change up

Arm action:

  1. The arm action is just like the fast ball until the pitcher comes into the acceleration phase, then:
    • Bring the hand in closer to the head which causes the elbow to lead longer.
    • Start an early pronation of the wrist.

Release point:

  1. Upon release, the fingers are lifted off the ball, the ball rolls up the fingers.
  2. The wrist and hand are pronated a little early which stops the wrist from popping forward. This takes velocity off the ball and creates movement.
  3. On the follow through, collapse the body slightly. Don’t try to get too much backside drive and hip rotation into the pitch.
  4. Work for full arm extension to the plate on the follow through just like on the fastball.

Circle changeup

The changeup I threw was the circle changeup in which the thumb and forefinger touch to create a circle on the side of the ball.

The ball sits back close to the palm while the remaining fingers are spread around the ball.

Change up grip
Image source:
  1. Use your thumb and index fingers to create a circle or an "OK" on the ball.
  2. Center the baseball between your three other fingers (as shown in the middle picture above right). The baseball should be tucked comfortably against the circle.
  3. Throw this pitch with the same arm speed and body mechanics as a fastball. The one variation is to slightly turn the ball over by throwing the circle to the target. This is called pronating your hand. The gesture mimics giving someone a "thumbs down" sign with your throwing hand.
  4. The fading movement to your throwing-arm side of the plate reduces speed.

More images of change up grips

Changeup grip images
Changeup grip images
Changeup grip images
Image source:


The change up is the great impostor, meant to look like the fastball, but coming in slower to throw off the batter's timing.

The arm motion and release point are ideally the same as the fastball, but the difference is the grip.

Where the fastball uses leverage to impart force and spin using the first two fingers, the changeup spreads the force around the ball, concentrating it in the middle of the ball and taking speed off.

The most common grip is some form of the "circle change," in which the thumb and forefinger touch to create a circle on the side of the ball, which sits back close to the palm. The remaining fingers are spread around the ball.

Variations on the grip include the palm ball, where the ball is held all the way back in the palm, and the horseshoe or pitchfork change, in which fingers are spread evenly around the ball, without the thumb-and-forefinger circle.

Put it all together, and it looks like this...

Here's an 88 mph change up from Noah Syndergaard en route to a strike out:

Noah Syndergaard change up
Image source:

What a great pitch. That's some awesome stuff right there!

Kyle Hendricks changeup pitching gif
Kyle Hendricks changeup

Using a change up effectively

I don't view the change up as a strike out pitch, but a pitch that is miss timed causing weak contact.

Even change ups out of the strike zone can be effective because it effects a hitter's confidence that he can sit on the fastball.

The best times to change speeds are:

  • The next pitch after any fastball
  • To big swingers
  • To aggressive hitters
  • When the batter is ahead in count - 1-0, 2-1, or 2-0
  • When a hitter is trying to pull or is out in front of the pitches

If the pitcher can develop a good change up, his fastball will appear faster and the hitters will be less aggressive. The change up is more effective in college and pro baseball because the hitters are stronger, more aggressive and can handle a good fastball.

Game adjustments with the change up

Stephen Strasburg changeup pitching gif
Stephen Strasburg changeup

In the chart below, I am listing some common problems that many pitchers experience with the change up, some techniques which often cause the problem, and various adjustments which may be effective for a pitcher.

Problem Caused By Adjustment
Control problems high Slowed arm speed, lifts fingers too early, low cocked position, arm slot too wide Normal FB arm speed, relax fingers at release, get to normal high cocked position, stay on top of the ball
Control problems inside Arm slot too wide, poor hip and trunk rotation, early pronation of hand Stay on top of ball, square body off to plate, pronation upon release
Too much velocity too much backside drive, grip too firm, too much wrist flexion forward, arm slot too wide Collapse body upon release, don’t brace lead leg, loose grip, lift fingers, pronate hand or stiff wrist, move arm slot in towards head

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