In the sport of baseball, there is so much more to pitching than just throwing a ball to the batter. A lot of behind-the-scenes planning and practicing their craft must happen for a pitcher to become effective. In addition to learning and perfecting many different types of pitches, a pitcher must also work with the rest of his team to stop bases from being stolen and just be generally aware of where the other team’s base runners are at all times.
Each type of pitch the pitcher throws differs in velocity, trajectory, movement, hand position, wrist position, and possibly arm angle. These pitches are usually just very slight variations on how the pitcher grips the ball at the point of release, however a big difference is made in how the ball crosses the base for the batter.
Coaches are typically the ones who decide what pitch to use at any given time, they then relay the decision to the catcher via hand signals, and the catcher in turn relays the pitch choice to the pitcher. If the pitcher would rather use a pitch different than the one signaled, he has the opportunity to shake his head and get another pitch from the coach. Hand signals are the way in which the pitches are kept secret from the other team so a pitch is not given away to the batter beforehand.
Having multiple pitches in their arsenal is the sign of a talented pitcher, however learning the new pitches is not necessarily easy. It might be a good idea to master just two or three pitches instead of knowing five or six mediocre pitches.
Typically professional-level pitchers throw just three quality pitches; and relief pitchers and closers have mastered only two types of pitches. It’s not necessary to know a dozen different pitches as long as you have a few very effective ones.
The fastball is the most common type of baseball pitch, and there are several different kinds of fastballs. The most common type of fastball is the four-seam fastball pitch. This is where the pitcher throws the ball as hard as they can while still maintaining control. Some feel that this is the most important pitch a pitcher can master because every other pitch works off the mechanicals of this one.
Other types of fastball pitches include:
- Two-seam fastball; also called the sinker because it sinks and is a very good pitch for inducing ground balls
- Cut-fastball; a little slower than the four-seam, where the pitcher holds the ball slightly off-center, is a good pitch for jamming hitters.
- Split-finger fastball; dives down hard at home plate forcing missed swings; is strictly an out pitch.
Other popular pitches
Once a pitcher has the mechanics of their fastball pretty well learned, they can use those basics to beginning learning other techniques. Other pitches use similar techniques to fastball with variances in the speed of the pitch, angle of their arm, and how they hold the ball in their hand before releasing it.
- Screwball; breaks the opposite direction of a curveball and may also sink depending on the arm angle of the pitcher.
- Change-up; same technique as the four-seam, however is thrown slower, helping control bat speed.
- Curveball; slower than a traditional fastball, it dives down as it gets to home plate and is used as a strikeout pitch.
- Slider; harder than a curveball and doesn’t dive down, this is a pitch between the fastball and curveball.
- Knuckleball; has little to no spin on it and is very hard to control or catch. This is a very difficult pitch to throw, and very hard for a hitter to predict what it will do.
- Forkball; is thrown hard as held between the index and middle fingers and can be hard on a pitcher’s arm. Usually tumbles and drops violently, oftentimes diagonally.
Some pitches work better against batters depending on which hand the batter uses. Knowing the different types of pitches will help a pitcher expand his repertoire and be more effective in coming up against a variety of batters.