Baseball Pitching Styles, Grips, and Tips

The pitcher is your team's first, and foremost defense. A great pitch is pure magic for as they say, the hand is quicker than the eye. Done well, it can completely throw the batter off his or her game. It sets the pace for where, how fast, and how far the ball is hit. This information covers the most common pitching styles, grips, tips, and more, to start your season off on the right foot this year.

What is a baseball pitch?

Pitching is the act of throwing a baseball towards the batter. No-brainer right? Wrong! It's actually very technical. Doing it effectively involves a great deal of physics, which we won't get into. But years of experimenting by those who have come before us, have given us a number of ways to accomplish a good pitch. Each with a little different strategy for making it hard for the opponent to bat the ball. Every baseball pitch involves a similar, yet uniquely technical, bio-mechanic process of delivering the ball while maintaining a certain amount of control. There really is more to a baseball pitch than meets the eye!

The most common baseball pitching grips are four-seam (or two-seam) fastball, curveball, slider, and change-up. But before we get into the four styles, let's talk about the two main ways to grip the baseball.

Getting a grip

Properly throwing and gripping pitches are key. Fastball baseball pitching involves two main gripping styles: Four-seam, and two-seam.

The four-seam fastball pitch

Four-seam, or cross-seam fastball, is the most common baseball pitch. It's not only the fastest, it's the easiest to learn and control, therefore it's one of the first grips taught to kids. So-called, because as the ball spins, you can see all four seams. When pitched correctly, it's very natural and requires the least amount of movement, making the 'four-seamer' both fast, and accurate.

Tips for four-seam grips

  • Place the index and middle finger across the seams at the widest part of the baseball, or the "horseshoe"
  • Set your bent thumb and remaining fingers underneath the ball to create a triangle for support
  • Keep a loose grip, and allow a gap between the ball and the palm of the hand
  • On wind-up, hide the ball in the glove
  • On release, keep your fingers behind the ball for a straight shot

The two-seam fastball pitch

The 'two-seamer' allows the thrower to deliver a baseball pitch with a little more movement. It's like the four-seam, only you're placing your index and middle finger alongside the two parallel seams, or 'railroad tracks'. Both seams should appear on rotation in an hourglass pattern. Though this baseball pitch has the same velocity as the fastball, there's more drag resulting in movement to the right or to the left, depending on your pitching hand. Mastered, the two-seam baseball pitch can be very effective in throwing the batter off-guard.

Tips for two-seam grips

  • Place your index and middle finger alongside the two seams of the baseball
  • Fold your thumb and remaining fingers underneath, creating a triangle for support
  • Keep a loose grip, maintaining a gap between the baseball and your palm
  • On windup, hide the ball in the glove
  • Apply pressure with either your index or middle finger so as to move the ball to the right or left
  • Watch the magic, as your batter is completely caught off guard!

The Curveball

This is a popular baseball pitch involving a technique that when done correctly, puts a forward spin on the ball. That will cause it to break straight down on its trajectory, with no sideways movement.

Tips for curve-ball grips

  • Lightly grip the ball with the thumb and middle finger on opposite sides of the ball along the seams, at an angle
  • Point the index finger straight up at first, then rest it lightly on the ball
  • Don't wrap the ball. Throwing it with a clenched fist can lead to elbow injury
  • Keep a gap between your palm and the ball for better rotation
  • The motion should involve no twisting of the arm or body

Slider pitches

This is a throw that starts out like a fastball, but then veers off to the side, making it difficult for the batter to aim for it.

Tips for slider grips

  • Place your index and middle finger across the widest seams; tuck your thumb directly underneath; feel the pressure coming from your thumb and middle finger.
  • On wind-up, watch your target, and keep the ball hidden in your glove
  • Release the ball keeping a loose wrist, and fingers on top for better control

Change-up pitches

A controlled pitch is thrown like a fastball, but with a different grip. What results is a slower ball, fooling the hitter into thinking it's approaching faster than it is. You've got to love that!

Tips for change-up grips

  • Beginning with the four-seam position, place the ball against the palm
  • Make a circle between index finger and thumb
  • Place the middle and ring fingers across the top seams, spreading them far apart
  • Place the thumb and pinkie fingers alongside the ball
  • On windup, keep a grip on the ball, while you hide it in your glove
  • Throw it like a fastball, keeping your fingers on top for control as you release

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How to Throw a Baseball

There are about five basic steps, more or less, to baseball pitching: Set-up, grip, wind-up, release, and follow-through. Keys to a good baseball pitch are remembering to take small steps, and keeping good balance in the center of your body. Before you know, you'll be an expert on how to deliver perfect baseball pitches.

  • Set up - Find your proper footing on the rubber, standing with your feet slightly at an angle and not straight forward, while keeping your glove up about chest to chin level, closed, and pointed toward yourself.
  • Get a grip - As you set your feet position, find your grip on the baseball. For a four-seam fast-pitch, you'll place your index and middle finger across the widest part of the seam, thumb underneath, keeping a loose grip.
  • Wind up - Facing your target, take a small step out to the edge of the rubber, with your glove-side foot. Angle your pitch-side foot about 45 degrees, keeping it on the rubber. Bring your pitch-side leg up across your body at the same time you bring your pitching arm up, then after bringing both down, draw your arm back, and you're ready to throw!
  • Release - As you throw, think about extending your arm out in a straight line, keeping your fingertips behind the ball for better control. As you get better at throwing, you'll learn how to control the movement of the ball using various grips and techniques.
  • Follow-through - After release, allow your pitch-side leg to come down and across your body, still maintaining control.

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More Baseball Pitching Styles

  • Circle change - A change-up similar to a screwball, but differs in movement and speed. Done right, it should look like a slow, two-seam fastball is heading for home plate, but then veers off in a direction opposite what the batter might expect.
  • Cut fastball - Or "cutter"- a pitch that appears as a two-seamer, but moves in the opposite direction.
  • Eephus - What has also been called the "folly floater", and rarely used today, a very slow pitch with a high-arching trajectory, created in the 1930s.
  • Forkball - A throw that tumbles out of the strike zone when pitched. Looks like a fast dancing knuckle ball, going all over the place, then falling.
  • Gyroball - Created in Japan, a pitch with a trajectory lying somewhere between a fastball and a curve. Faster than a fastball, slower than a curve with little break; spins kind of like a bullet on an axis parallel to its trajectory.
  • Knuckleball - A very difficult pitch thrown by gripping the ball with the fingertips. Knuckles are high in the air, and on release the ball is literally pushed away from the hand. The resulting throw has no spin, but moves around in a way that confuses the batter. Try it!
  • Knuckle curveball - There are two kinds: A standard curveball with a tighter spin, and a breaking ball executed with the same knuckleball grip, but with a slower spin.
  • Palmball - A change-up pitch that begins with a tightly held ball, and then thrown as if pitching a fastball. Less velocity, and tricks the batter into swinging sooner.
  • Running fastball - A fast pitch that moves inside from a right-handed pitcher to a right-handed batter, or from a left-handed pitcher to left-handed batter.
  • Screwball - A reverse curveball, fools the batter by breaking opposite of the hand it was thrown by.
  • Shuuto - Also called "shootball", a right-hand pitch originating in Japan that is a combination screwball and two-seam fastball, thrown with intent to jam right-handed batters. Can also be thrown left-handed, to throw left-handed batters off.
  • Sidearm - Pitching a baseball with the arm perpendicular to the body at 3 o'clock or 9 o'clock for the right or left-handed thrower, respectively.
  • Sinker - A two-seam fastball pitched with a three-quarter arm angle instead of an overhand pitch. Causes the ball to lower and move from left to right, or right to left, depending on the pitching hand. Intended to appear as a strike prior to dropping out of the zone.
  • Slurve - What starts out looking like a slider, but turns out slower to reach the batter.
  • Splitter - Looks like the fastball but with more of a downward break. Fools the hitter into swinging too high.
  • Submarine - The pitcher drops the shoulder and whips the ball with the arm at a position lower than the sidearm pitch.
  • Three-quarter - A pitch thrown with the right arm at a 10 or 11 o'clock position, or left arm at a 1 or 2 o'clock position. Ball tends to tail and sink as it nears the batter.
  • Tornado - The pitcher spins his entire body before throwing a baseball toward the batter.

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Common Terms Used in Baseball Pitching

Overhand pitch - A pitch thrown from directly above the pitcher's shoulder.

Pitch - To throw the ball towards the batter.

Trajectory - Path of the ball thrown from pitcher to batter.

Underhand pitch - To release the ball from below the elbow, resulting in a slower ball speed. The only allowable form of pitch in softball, but may be used for baseball.

Velocity - Speed of the pitch, varying according to style and strength of the pitcher. A fastball pitch in the major leagues can reach up to more than 100 mph, but averages about 95 mph. Keep in mind that speed is not the determining factor for an effective pitch. Grip, proper mechanics of pitching, trajectory, and movement are other important considerations when it comes to executing a legendary pitch.

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