If you want to learn how to throw a splitter, you're going to love this article.
In this step-by-step guide, I'll show you how to grip a splitter with pictures and descriptions from MLB pitchers.
I'll also share some of my favorite splitter tips, tricks and techniques that I picked up along the way in the Chicago Cubs organization.
What is a splitter?
Splitters are often referred to as "split-finger fastballs," but because of their break and lower velocity, they don't hold much in common with a typical fastball. They're generally thrown in the same situations that would see a pitcher throw his breaking and off-speed pitches. A splitter is generally only slightly faster than a changeup.
The splitter is known for its tight rotation and strong velocity. The surprise on the quick dive of the ball at home plate in the very last second creates missed swings from the opponent. The split-finger fastball’s grip is similar to the two-seam fastball, but, the fingers are spread farther apart to change the rotation and add breaks. If you have larger hands the pitch is most effective because it should be “choked” deep in the hand. This enforces the splitters downward movement. The split-finger fastball is strictly an out pitch.
Today, the splitter isn't as popular as it was in the late 1980’s and early 90’s.
In fact, according to Pitch F/X, just six pitchers throw the splitter at least 10% of the time. Hiroki Kuroda leads all pitchers, throwing his splitter on 23.4% of his offerings. Masahiro Tanaka and Ubaldo Jimenez both throw it at least 20% of the time, with Tim Hudson, Dan Haren and Jeff Samardzija ranging from 10.2% (Samardzija) to 16.4% (Hudson).
Average speed of a splitter
Average pitch speed for a splitter in Major League Baseball
MLB average velocity difference from fastball: 8.1 MPH
MLB average spin rate of splitter: 1524 rpm
MLB average strike percentage: 59.6%
What does a splitter look like?
How do you throw a splitter?
- Step 1: Place index and middle fingers on the outside of the horseshoe seam.
- Step 2: Position your thumb on the back seam and throw a fastball. This placement puts the ball out front, more than a forkball.
- Step 3: Grip firmly.
- Step 4: Throw the palm-side wrist of the throwing hand directly at the target. Keep your index and middle fingers extended upward; wrist should remain stiff.
8 keys to developing a great splitter
- The arm action should be just like the normal fastball. Think fastball - do not aim the ball.
- It is very important to use a long natural arc of deceleration during the follow-through.
- The wrist is positioned as on a fastball.
- On release, the wrist is flexed forward to the neutral position and may be pronated early to allow the ball to slip out. Finger pressure may vary from pitcher to pitcher.
- The pitcher should feel like he is pulling down through the ball with the fingers, pushing up through with the thumb.
- Maintain the same arm action and hand speed as on the fastball.
- Make sure the ball is released at the normal fastball release point. Work for full extension to plate after release.
- During acceleration phase, the hand maybe closer to the head than on a fastball.
How to practice throwing a splitter
- Throw fastballs, but keeping widening the fingers down the side of the ball until it feels comfortable and starts to decrease the rotation of the ball.
- Work at 1/2 or 3/4 speed at short distances until the pitcher has the feel for the pitch.
- Throw for the center of the plate and below the hitter’s crotch area.
- Experiment with the position of the thumb
- Under the ball as in throwing the fastball
- On the side near the bottom of the ball
- On the side near the index finger
- Experiment with rolling the ball back deeper in the hand
- Loosen the inside finger pressure of the index and middle fingers. Try to let the ball slip out which will slow the back spin.
What do you think?
Now it's time to hear from you:
How do you throw a splitter? Can you share a pic of your splitter grip?
Or maybe you have an idea of how I can make this article even better.
Either way, leave a comment below and let me know.