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Pitch Types (for Dachsie) and Philosophy (for Big T)


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The other day, Dacshie asked for a little help understanding pitch types.

so I'll use this topic to do it the best I can.
NOTE:  I am not a pitcher by any stretch of the imagination.  You can count my career innings on one hand.

I'll attempt to give an explanation what each pitch does and what makes one elite vs just good.

but first a few definitions.

Arm Side - meaning the ball moves toward the "arm side" pitcher.  In other words if a right hander throws it, it moves to the right and vice versa for a lefty.

Glove Side - the exact opposite of arm side. it moves toward the glove side of a pitcher.

Action / Life / Run / Tail / Movement / Dart / Break / Bend / tumble /etc. - ball changing directions mid-flight. The harsher sounding the term, the harsher the change. In other words "dart" is a quick abrupt change while "tail" is where is gradually moves like changing lanes on an interstate.

12-6 / 3-9 / etc. - direction of movement.  the numbers are times on a clock. so 12-6 is a ball that breaks straight down. Like form the 12 on a clock to the 6. etc.  

Hanger - when a ball doesn't break like it's supposed to. it just "hangs" there. Typically these balls are deposited somewhere in the next parish.


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ok, so we're going to start with fastballs.

as discussed in chat the other day, there are different types of fast balls.

first one is the most common one.  Pretty much every kid's first true pitch they learn
This is typically the one thrown the hardest and moves the fastest, but it has very little (if any) movement.

4-Seam fastball.
So called because a batter watching the spin will see 4 seams as the ball rotates.


it's gripped with 2 fingers slightly spread across the widest part of the seam.
Want to hold it out away from the palm and closer to the fingertips.
To quote Crash Davis in Bull Durham "it's an egg. hold it like an egg"

you do this because you don't want your palm or fingers creating any extra resistance on the ball.  You want it coming out and moving at top velocity.

throw it basically straight over the top and flick your hand/wrist downward at the release to create backspin.
the harder it's thrown with more backspin, the more effective it will be.

the backspin helps it to buck gravity. so it doesn't fall as much between the mound and the plate as one without the great spin.

batters get accustomed to balls passing where they think it will pass, so pitchers that can fool them are the more successful ones.

Ma'Khaill Hilliard had a really good spin rate despite not throwing at elite speeds.  So the ball was higher in the zone than batters expected it to be. As a result, they swing under it.

The truly elite, like a Justin Verlander has great spin rate and top end velocity.  His fastball actually RISES on way to the plate.  But those guys are extremely rare that can pull that off.

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next up - the 2 seam fastball

called that because a batter watching the spin only sees 2 seams as it rotates toward him.
this was my favorite one to teach kids. Because you don't have to have as big of a hand, and you don't have to throw it nearly as hard to be effective.

If your name is not Paul Skenes, it doesn't travel near as fast, but it should have some arm side run.

you grip this one deeper into your palm with more surface of your fingers on the ball.
you put your two fingers along the seams at their narrowest point.  Your thumb on the underside should be slightly of center toward your pointer finger.
apply moderate pressure to the pointer finger and thumb, and throw over the top like the 4 seamer.
At the moment you flick your wrist, you "squeeze" your pointer and thumb together.

because of all that extra resistance, the ball won't reach top velocity like a 4 seamer, but is still a pretty fast pitch.

and again, the better the spin rate and speed, the more it will move.

Paul Skenes' 2 seamer is not human.
19" of run at 100mph is sorcery.  And his breaks harsher than almost anyone I've ever seen. 

A typical good one will be in the 92-94 range, and maybe move 8"-10"


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Cut fastball (also called a cutter)

similar type to a 2 seam, except everything is opposite.
Action is to the glove side, and usually harsher and later in the flight path.
It's also a LOT more difficult to throw a good one and not hang it.

grip it in same spot as the two seam.  except your fingers are together at the seam on your middle finger. 
thumb is crept toward that side of center underneath too.

at release point, you sorta almost snap your fingers with the ball in between them.

pitch will probably top out in the low 90s for a truly elite one (like Mariano Rivera).
but at the absolute last moment before reaching the plate, it will dart to the pitcher's glove side. 

pitchers that are good at it get a lot of jam shot grounders, a lot of broken bats in the wood bat leagues, and rarely give up hard contact.

the problem is that I've never seen an "OK" cutter.
it's either unhittable, or a hanger.

so only people that develop great ones use them.

again, I'm not a pitcher
I've only been able to make one do what it's supposed to a couple times. ever.  The rest just float waiting to be assaulted.

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Split finger, Forkball, Sinker, Drop Fastball

All basically the same pitch. Some guys put their own twist to them, but the end result is the same.

You need a big strong hand to throw these.  They're similar in velocity to a 2 seam, except the break downward. The later the better.

Roger Clemens and Derek Lowe in the major both had elite sinkers.

Your fingers are spread so far apart that the ball is basically between them.
I can't grip it, so never learned proper release technique.

But the idea is it breaks down very late causing batters to swing on top of it.
Theoretically this cause a lot of ground balls, so your infield can make the plays.

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Change-up or Palmball

Different grips, but same idea.

this is used as a change of pace. also called "off speed"

You want your motion and delivery to look exactly like your fastball.Except thanks to your grip and release, it will be significantly slower.
no matter what the ball is buried into your palm and all 5 fingers are on it creating a ton of drag.

And you want your fingers on it until the last nano-second before it leaves your hands.

the elite, like Tom Glavine and Johan Santana make it look like the ball is on a string and they pull it back right before it gets to the plate.
kinda like Bugs Bunny type stuff. The ball truly seems to damn near stop it slows down so much.

These are used to keep hitters off balance.

If your change is 10-15 mph slower than your fastball, then you got something cooking.

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Breaking pitches

mainly Curveball, Sliders, and Slurves

probably more than a dozen different ways to grip each of them, so this will be very basic.

a curveball will be slower with an almost arch to its break. It's break should be mostly downward, so you'll hear a lot of people call them 12-6 curve.
usually the distance of break is bigger in a curve than any other pitch, but like I said it's a slower arcing almost looping effect unless it's elite.

a slider is a lot harder and faster. It's break is more lateral (side to side).
from a batter's perspective, it looks a lot like a fastball right out of the hand.
then it breaks HARSHLY to the glove side of a pitcher, and also maybe somewhat downward.

Randy Johnson threw the best slider I ever saw. Sergio Romo also had a great one.

then there is the slurve (what I threw).

A slurve is what you get if a Curveball and a Slider had an illegitimate love child.
It's not nearly as hard as a slider, but not as slow and looping as a curve.
The break isn't in same ballpark as a slider, but way harsher than a curve.

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last but not least (i forgot about it until Hatcher's video)

the knuckleball.

the Knuckleball is also known as the Gallagher pitch.

Do you remember the comedian Gallagher?
He would do an hour long standup saying a bunch of shyte that wasn't really funny. Then the last 15 minutes or so, he'd start smashing shyte with a sledgehammer and finally about half the audience thinks it's funny?

That's your knuckleballer.
A pitcher who has tried every other pitch on the planet. None are successful, so he learns a knuckle.

A knuckle ball is stupid hard to throw.
And even harder to control.
So it's literally reserved for those guys who's elevator doesn't go all the way up and are just ballsy enough to try it.

Nobody in the ballpark has the slightest idea where it's going.

a great knuckle will not spin at all  (think Phil Neikro or Tim Wakefield).
And it will fly in like a butterfly. Very slow, a fluttery with no real predictability in its flight path.

as a hitter, remember the rhyme "If it's high, let it fly ;  if it's low, let it go"

meaning if that knuckle stays up in the zone….launch it into the stratosphere.  If it's in the bottom of the zone, do not even try to swing.

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23 minutes ago, Hatchertiger said:

Here are some visuals of what Nootch is pointing out:


ha! just watched the whole thing.
I'm actually semi proud of myself for my descriptions.

I taught a handful of these to kids over the years, but mostly base it off my view from the batter's box and not so much from camera angle in CF.

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10 hours ago, dachsie said:

Thanks Nootch!  That video helped a lot too Hatch!

you're welcome.

one thing to remember is that a pitcher's best weapon is almost always deception.
the ball crossing the plate somewhere other than where a batter thinks it will be.

here is a clip overlaying Skenes' fast ball and changeup.
everything looks the same. Windup, release point, flight path, etc.
Right up until the fastball starts its run and the changeup (honestly, that one looks more like his slider, but I'll take Rob Friedman's word over mine any day) starts its drop.



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8 minutes ago, Hatchertiger said:

A 92 MPH changeup!!!!! Many pitchers don't throw a fastball with that velocity.  You don't need to throw 102 MPH fastball to be effective, but it doesn't hurt!!!


yeah any time you can drop 10 mph, you 're going to be effective.

what that doesn't show is that in the middle innings he started mixing in an 84 mph curveball.

so he was tossing the following:
99-101 mph 2 seam with ridiculous arm side run
93-95 mph slider with a nasty glove side break
90-92 mph changeup with downward bite
84-87 mph bending curve.

that's how you give up only 2 hits and strike out 12 across 7 innings.


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2 hours ago, Nutriaitch said:


yeah any time you can drop 10 mph, you 're going to be effective.

what that doesn't show is that in the middle innings he started mixing in an 84 mph curveball.

so he was tossing the following:
99-101 mph 2 seam with ridiculous arm side run
93-95 mph slider with a nasty glove side break
90-92 mph changeup with downward bite
84-87 mph bending curve.

that's how you give up only 2 hits and strike out 12 across 7 innings.


As Ben McDonald would put it those pitches "will hurt your feelings"!

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Ok - we need to do a game chat and have you call the pitches for me so i can try to figure them out better, altho, i am starting to see the differences as i look at them.

Maybe Thursday nite?  Will Skenes pitch for that one?

Edited by dachsie
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if you listened to Big Ben and Peterson last night, they talked a good bit about pitching.
Both would obviously know a hell of a lot more about pitching than I would.

but they talked about how you want everything to look the same up until release point.

and Ben talked a lot about spin.
Especially late when Skenes' started using that curve.  
He explained how you want that top spin so the ball will "tumble".  

If you snap it off right, you can get a big harsh break on it (like Skenes was doing).
If not you can hang one (like Edward did, but got away with).

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1 hour ago, Nutriaitch said:

if you don't throw something offspeed with movement, then even High School batters will time you up and Tee-Off


I'm not saying to groove everything down the middle goofy. Maddux threw a 74 maybe 76 pitch complete game and never threw a single slider or any of that other foolishness.  These pitchers can't control that pitch and it bites them in the ass. Like I said, get to 0-2 and 45 sec later the count is full, then what?

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18 minutes ago, Big T said:

Maddux threw a 74 maybe 76 pitch complete game and never threw a single slider or any of that other foolishness. 

wanna bet? Maddux’s main 4 pitches was a 2 seamer, a ridiculous change, a curve/slider (call it a Slurve) and sometimes a cutter.  

but let say hypothetically speaking, possibly the smartest pitcher in the history of the game completely forgot to throw his breaking pitch for a full game.  

Maddux was also the very best i ever saw at changing speeds and putting the ball EXACTLY where he wanted to put it. 

Let me know if another human being like that even exists on this planet.  And if so, is he currently on LSU’s roster?

EVERY successful pitcher in the last 50+ years has a breaking pitch. 
Without it, 108 eventually looks like 68. 


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