Baseball pitching is often a misunderstood art form. Whilst it can seem like the pitchers are simply hurling down lightning bolts with reckless abandon, there is actually a lot going on behind the scenes.
The catcher is typically communicating to the pitcher via a series of hand signals, hidden from the view of the batter and the opposing team. These signals are suggested types of pitches, based on a combination of the pitcher and batter’s respective strengths. The pitcher can manipulate the velocity and movement of a baseball by adjusting the grip and release action. So what exactly are the different types of baseball pitches that the catcher is signalling to the pitcher, and what do they mean in terms of trajectory and movement?
Let’s break it down into the most common types of pitches and see what a good pitcher has in their bag of tricks. (For the purpose of this article, all descriptions will be in reference to a right-handed batter facing the pitcher)
The 4-seam fastball
This is your standard fastball. The quickest of the lot, it tends to stay straight and is usually the first pitch that a pitcher learns.
The 2-seam fastball (The sinker)
A variation on the standard 4-seam, the pitcher holds the ball with their fingers running down the seams, not across. This causes the ball to drop significantly in trajectory and pull in towards the body of the batter. It runs a little slower than a typical fastball.
The ‘12-6’ Curveball
Curveballs really rely on the laws of physics to get results. The pitcher will release the ball with their hand turned out, looking like a C-shape. This puts top-spin on the ball, causing it to drop as it approaches the plate, as though it was falling from the 12 to the 6 on an analogue clock. The curveball usually starts out higher than the sinker, moving from around chest height and diving at the plate.
Check out the 12-6 Curveball technique here.
The slider is a lot slower than a standard 4-seam fastball, and the pitcher will really work some spin into the flight of this one. A good slider will move down and away from a right-handed batter, luring them into a swing. Sliders tend to move around 12-18cms in the air.
Check out the Slider technique here.
The Change Up
The change up is meant to be identical to the fastball in trajectory, movement, and appearance through the air. The only difference is it travels about 20km/hr slower, making it very confusing for the batter. If executed correctly, the pitcher maintains arm speed, replicating a fastball action but pushes the ball deep into their palm, reducing the velocity.
Check out the Change Up technique here
The knuckleball is a tough pitch to throw, as it requires the ball to have almost no movement or spin at all as it travels through the air. The desired effect is a kind of unpredictable wobbling and travels much slower than other pitches. The knuckleball is difficult to get right, but very effective if you can master it.
Check out the Knuckle Ball technique here
These are just a few examples of what baseball pitchers are capable of. Many players use combinations of the pitches above and apply different grips on the ball to achieve in air movement. Like any sporting technique, it will take some practice to get right, and that’s half the fun. If you or your family are thinking about getting started in baseball, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can get you equipped and ready with everything you need, and we can ship all of our products nationwide.
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