Many high school and college pitchers believe that success comes from throwing various pitches in order to confuse the hitter.
However, most successful pitchers have found that command of the fastball is the primary importance because of the number of other pitching variations that are thrown off the fastball.
That should be the primary focus of pitchers at all levels. The fastball has several different pitching grips depending on whether or not the pitcher wants the ball to move.
For example, a four-seam fastball is a pitch that must be controlled and thrown to spots.
When a pitcher wants to pitch an inside strike, he would throw a four-seam fastball because it would have less movement, on the other hand, a two-seam fastball is a pitch that is thrown with the purpose of having “late movement”, whether it moves laterally or sinks.
One of the most difficult baseball pitching grips to control is the two-seam fastball because of its greater demand for precision to achieve a specific type of movement.
Other baseball pitching grips that are used effectively besides the four-seam and two-seam fastballs are the change-up, curveball, slider, cutter, and split-fingered fastball.
For purposes of keeping this topic simple, only baseball pitching grips on the fastball, change-up, curveball, and slider will be discussed. The cut-fastball and split-fingered fastball are two pitches that pitchers may also want to consider for baseball pitching grips but ONLY after the pitches considered here have been mastered.
When using various baseball pitching grips, it is important for the pitcher to maintain deception on each pitch by throwing them from the same arm-ball release position, arm angle, or arm slot. This will prevent giving away a particular pitch because it is thrown from a different position to that for the fastball.
In addition, ensuring that the arm or any part of the body is not slowed will make reading the pitch more difficult for the batter.
Any change between pitches has to be minimal so that the type of pitch is not “telegraphed” to the hitter. Any tell-tale signal gives the batter an edge by allowing him to make last second hitting adjustments to improve his contact.
Early high school pitchers should be encouraged to focus on mastering control of the baseball pitching grips of the four-seam fastball, the change-up, and the two-seam fastball. Once a pitcher can throw these pitching grips with confidence, only then should he start thinking about throwing a breaking ball.
When high school pitchers are ready to begin learning how to throw a breaking ball, they will need to take extra time to learn how to throw a curveball rather than a slider, despite the slider being easier of the pitches to learn.
The slider, however, is also more stressful baseball pitching grip on a growing pitcher’s elbow and shoulder since it is thrown with much more velocity than the curveball.
An added benefit of throwing a curveball is that there are far fewer curveball pitchers than slider-type pitchers in today’s game.
Instead of fastball/curveball pitchers, there are more fastball/slider and fastball/splitter pitchers. Because of the downplay on the curveball, fewer hitters are able to react and recognize it because it is thrown 15-20 mph off the best fastball speed where the slider and splitter are usually thrown only 6-8 mph less than the fastball.
It is more difficult for a hitter to slow bat speed the large amount required to contact a curveball. So many more neuromuscular sequencing adjustments are required, that a different hitting skill has to be learned and executed to handle the curveball successfully.
Change-ups will also vary in speed from a low of 8 mph up to 20 mph off a pitcher’s fastball. Many pitchers who have mastered their change-up will deliberately vary the amount of slowing making it even more deceptive. (The change-up is one of my favorite baseball pitching grips)
This is similar to what a pitcher will do with his fastball. For example, a pitcher who throws a fastball 90 mph might also throw a two-seam fastball at 87 mph and another fastball, such as a batting practice fastball (BP) at 83-85 mph.
By not gripping the ball as tightly as normal or by putting the ball back deeper in the hand, velocity can be reduced easily without any alteration in fastball mechanics. By varying the speeds of the fastball, a pitcher actually adds more pitches to his repertoire making it more difficult for the hitter to maintain a constant bat speed or adjust his swing accurately.
That is a benefit of developing various speeds of pitches; the pitcher’s deception is increased.
Deception through velocity variation is extremely important on days when a pitcher may not have the feel of his breaking ball or even his change-up. By varying the speeds of his four-seam fastball and adding a two-seam fastball, a pitcher could possibly pitch an entire game using just fastballs.
Successful velocity variation and control must be built from much practice of pitch command.
Pitchers must remember a hitter may be using a 32-36” bat and yet only has eight good inches available for solid contact. By varying pitch location and speeds, the hitter will be required to adjust continually and usually will make less than good contact. That is a key to winning consistently as a pitcher at all levels.
Developing all the pitches requires trial and error while practicing with various baseball pitching grips. A baseball pitching grip that works for one pitcher may not work for another because of different hand and finger sizes and overall position of the body and arm at release.
Generally, pitchers with large hands and fingers have an easier time getting the ball to move because the fingers are in contact with the ball longer with greater leverage and therefore, create more spin.
When not pitching, a pitcher should spend considerable time just playing with the ball in his hand so he becomes more comfortable with the fingers working with and across the seams while experimenting with the various other baseball pitching grips using different pressure points.
Although most pitchers keep their fingers in contact with the seams, by placing their fingers in contact with the smooth part of the ball they may find they get extra movement with less stability.
For example, when pitching a two-fingered grip on a change-up, keeping both fingers and thumb on the smooth part of the ball, not the seams, often develops more movement. However, not everyone is going to feel comfortable with that grip. It requires more practice because there is less stability because the fingers are not in contact with the seams.
Another option when trying to develop movement is to have the middle finger in contact with the smooth part of the ball while the index finger is positioned along a seam using a two-seam fastball grip. By also varying the position of the thumb, the ball will move differently.
A good rule-of-thumb for grip pressure is to grip the ball firmly enough so that it will not come out of the hand easily but is sufficiently loose that if someone were to lightly tap the ball it would fall to the ground.
What ultimately determines the spin of the ball is the position of the hand in relation to the wrist - whether the wrist is cocked slightly to one side, the position of the fingers on the ball, and how the fingers leave the ball. These will vary from pitch to pitch.
The mechanical effect of the contacts with the ball, each of which applies a force, produces a resultant force. That resultant force affects the amount of impulse and rotation on the ball. The physics of that effect is explained in Topic 4 under the sub-heading “Controlling Torque”.
My Scientific Formula For Big League Pitching Mechanics Package not only show all the grips of all the pitches but also how to correctly throw them for more success and less risk of injury.
My Scientific Formula For Big League Pitching Mechanics Package is the only complete “pitching clinic” home study course available that is backed by real sports science research. It’s designed for parents, coaches, and players of all ages. Whether you’re a pitcher just starting out, or an advanced pitcher looking for answers, we make it simple to understand for both the parent and pitcher.
"Dick’s Scientific Formula For Big League Pitching Mechanics Package has given me the knowledge I need as a pitching coach to help young people succeed. I highly recommend it to any pitcher Little League through college. From mechanics to conditioning to the mental aspect, everything he does is top notch. His program helped our pitchers go 29-1, have a 0.80 ERA last season, and win a State Championship."
Banks Faulkner, Gilbert Indian Baseball, Gilbert, SC