Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Breaking down the types of pitches out there....

Pitches 101

Ever wonder why professional hitters sometimes look like they really don't know what's coming at them ? Have you ever stopped to really think about the potential arsenal a Pitcher takes with him to the mound ? Considering it takes about .44 sec for a 95mph fastball to travel 60'6", and even less when you factor in that the pitchers stride shortens the distance even more, giving a batter about .25 sec. to react, it's amazing that major league hitters can do what they do as often as they do it. Then again a failure rate of 70% is considered outstanding, so I guess it's all perspective.

Here are some of the pitches that a batter can face at any given time. The difference in speed between them can be up to, and greater than, 15mph, which means a hitter can be kept very off balance, especially if the arm action of the pitcher doesn't vary much from pitch to pitch.

4-seam fastball
---Grip and rip. This is typically the hardest thrown pitch and is thrown with the intention of little or no movement. This ball is gripped with fingers across the seams, the 4 perpendicular seams, added to the backspin created by throwing it, causes this ball to go as straight as possible with maximum velocity. This is typically thrown directly over the top.

2-seam fastball
---Hard with a bite at the end. This is typically not thrown quite as hard as a 4-seam, and will dart down and to the opposite side of the arm used by the pitcher. This is a very effective pitch if controllable, and can either saw off a batter or show a late break away depending on which side of the plate the hitter is on. Arm angle can influence how this ball moves.

Split Fingered
---Hard and down. This pitch has the appearance of a fastball to the batter, but has late movement straight downward making it extremely hard for a batter to compensate for and react too. Arm angle can influence how this ball moves

---Hard with a bite at the end. This pitch is very similar to the 2-seamer and Slider (which I feel are all variants of the same pitch). Usually not thrown as hard as a 2-seamer in order to have a bit more movement at the end. This pitch can really saw off a batter, or move hard away depending on which side you are on.

---Hard and down. This pitch is very similar to the Split Fingered Fastball (which I feel is essentially the same pitch). This pitch has the appearance of a fastball to the hitter, but has extreme late movement straight downward. I suppose one could argue that it's not throw as hard as a Splitter, but I believe that changing speeds of a pitch doesn't necessarily require a name change as well. Again arm angle can change how and what this pitch does.

Offspeed and Breaking Balls


---Medium Speed, large break. This pitch is exactly what it sounds like a ball that curves. It varies from pitcher to pitcher but essentially by placing the middle finger along a larger seem, then snapping off the wrist, a pitcher can actually get enough rotation on the ball to cause it to break one way or the other. There are variants of this pitch as well depending on arm angle, speed the pitcher chooses to throw the ball at etc., which can cause this pitch to move more or less.
One such pitch is the 12-6 Curveball, in which the pitcher is able to get the rotation to go right over the top of the ball causing it to break straight downward. This is a very tough pitch to hit as there is more vertical break. Most Curveball's come in more like 2-8 and slide across the strike zone more.

---Slow and unpredictable. An almost non-existent pitch now a days, this pitch was thrown by placing either knuckles or fingernails on the ball to try and stop all rotation. The result is a ball that has seams catching air currents in every direction causing this slow pitched ball to dart in an unpredictable manner. This is not only a problem for hitters, but for the Catcher as well since he really has no idea where the ball is going to go. Every time the pitcher throws this pitch is can react differently. Altering the grip, and changing speeds can cause this pitch to do different things as well. One such pitch is the Knuckle Curve. This is a pitch thrown like a fastball, but with a Knuckleball type of grip. The result is a very deceptive Curveball like pitch.

---Slow to Medium, can have movement. A very important pitch to just about every arsenal is a good off speed pitch. The Changeup is the most common. By placing the ball further back in the hand while using a fastball delivery, the ball actually comes out with less velocity. Batters can have a very hard time with a good Changeup since it looks and acts like a fastball. In that split second a batter has to react, the brain sees fastball, and the bat is put into motion. The problem is the ball is going so much slower that by the time the ball enters the strikezone the batter has finished his attack on the ball. This pitch can be varied many ways by arm angle, grip (circle and vulcan) and velocity adding great movement to the pitch and making it that much harder to hit.

Palm Ball
---Slow to Med with movement. This pitch is very similar to the Changeup ( which I feel is essentially the same pitch ). If you push the ball into the back of the hand, holding it with the ring finger and thumb, and throw it like a fastball the pitch will appear like a fastball coming out of the hand, but with far less velocity and can have tremendous movement as well.

---Very very slow. This pitch is thrown overhand but with a trajectory similar to soft toss softball, meaning a very very high arc. It's extremely rare to see this anymore since it can catch batters off guard, but if not then it's likely going to be deposited in the OF seats. Either way it's pretty fun to see this happen from time to time. Especially if it works !

---Medium speed, moderate break. This pitch is like a Curveball, but breaks in the opposite direction depending on the pitching arm. For instance if you are a right handed pitcher, your Curveball breaks from right to left, so your Screwball would break from left to right. It's a very difficult ball to throw well, and depending on the arm angle can have a bit of downward action to it as well.

There are many pitches out there we didn't cover, mostly because I feel they are just versions of what we just got done talking about. Also because as the decades pass different guys want to put their stamp on the game, and thus a new name for the same old pitch is given and adopted into baseball vernacular.

Here is an interesting test I've found while bouncing around the web to see if you even possess the reactions necessary to at least give yourself a chance to hit a fastball. Keep in mind this test doesn't mean you can hit one, just gives an idea of whether or not you have the ability to react quick enough to maybe hit one. Click here and enjoy

-Writer Planet Padres

Play Ball !!!

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