Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baseball Pitching Grips

By R. Nelson

Several kinds of pitches are appropriate for the young pitcher's repertoire, including the fastball, curveball, slider, and several types of change-ups. Knuckleballs, knuckle curves, slip pitches, and spitballs will not be discussed - these gimmick pitches are not good for young pitchers because they either injure the arm or do not help develop the arm.

First and foremost, a pitcher needs to develop his fastball. This is his staple, and he will throw 50 to 100 percent of the time. A pitcher also needs a pitch that changes speeds, such as a change-up or a curveball (the curveball also adds movement). When the pitcher masters the fastball and change-up, then - and only then-should he work on a breaking ball.

Once he has mastered the fastball, change-up, and curveball and can throw them with control; these should be all the pitches a young pitcher needs. He can add a slider at a later time, depending on the success of the curveball. It is very difficult to throw both the curveball and the slider because of the different mechanics, so a pitcher should choose one or the other.

The fastball is the first pitch learned and should be used more than any other pitch in the repertoire. Obviously velocity, control, and movement of the fastball dictate how often and in what situations the fastball will be used. When a pitcher is learning to throw the fastball, he should make a conscious effort to learn control and movement first, and then add velocity later. This principle applies even more for the higher-level baseball pitchers.

By slightly changing the basic fastball grips, a pitcher can get various results. Variations of the fastball are four seam, two seam, cut, and sinker. The first fastball to master is the four seam fastball. The pitcher should prove that he has good control of this pitch before he attempts to throw any others.

The two-seam fastball has more movement because of the grip and therefore is harder to control than the four-seam fastball. The pitcher should throw the four-seam fastball until he has proven that he has mastered the strike zone. The two-seam fastball becomes more important to the older pitcher who does not have an outstanding arm and must rely more on movement than on speed. The two-seam fastball moves to the pitching-arm side of the plate. Often it will also sink, producing a pitch that tails away and down.

Place your index and middle fingers directly on top of the ball's narrow seams. Then place your thumb directly on the bottom side of the ball on the white leather between the narrow seams. Grip this pitch slightly farther back in the hand, as this will lead the ball to "back up" and change direction. The additional drag created from the grip generates the change in direction.

The cut fastball moves away from the pitcher's throwing side. A right-handed pitcher's cut fastball moves from right to left with approximately 95 percent of the velocity of the ultimate fastball. In the cut fastball grip, the thumb slides to the outside of the center line of the baseball. With the thumb slid over, the baseball is held slightly off center and therefore does not have a regular top-to-botom fastball rotation. Instead, the ball has

slightly more sidespin and runs away from the pitcher's throwing side. It's a very effective pitch, just ask Mariano Rivera!

The cut fastball and the slider are similar in that both balls are held off center. The slider, however, is held more off center and therefore breaks down as well as away. The cut fastball is excellent training for the slider.

Learn more at Baseball Pitching Grips


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