Baseball Pitches by Chance Liebau

Baseball is known as "America's Pastime". And our nation's pastime starts and ends on the pitchers mound. There are many ways to pitch in baseball, but not all ways are successful. I'm here to tell you, as a fellow pitcher, how to pitch.

Pitching is as much of a mental game as a physical game. Just because a pitcher has a 98 MPH heater, doesn't mean he is better than a pitcher than someone who tops out at 92. You have to be mentally prepared and mentally tough to be a great pitcher. Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader, was one of the toughest players mentally and was never fazed in the ninth inning. Arguably the best postseason pitcher in baseball history, Madison Bumgarner, is never fazed, even with the game-tying run of Game Seven just ninety feet away and the opponent's best power hitter, who already took him deep in Game One.

The pitchers mound is 60 feet 6 inches away from home plate and 10 inches from the ground. There has been debate about removing the pitchers mound and pitching from a flat surface, with the sudden increase of Tommy John surgeries.

Aroldis Chapman has the hardest fastball in baseball history, topping out at 106 MPH in 2016.

There are five different types of fastball, and all have different grips/movement; the four-seam fastball, the two-seam fastball, the cutter, the sinker, and a split-fingered fastball.

The four seamer grip

Four-seam fastball: the four-seam fastball is the fastest pitch in baseball, but has no horizontal movement. You grip the ball across the "horseshoe seams" with your index and middle finger. Place your thumb directly under the ball, but grip the ball like you would grip an egg. You can throw it overhand, sidearm, or "submarine".

Two-seamer grip

Two-seam fastball: the two-seam fastball is not as fast as a four-seamer, but has more horizontal movement. It is said that two inches of movement is equal to one MPH. So in that sense, a two-seam fastball with 3 inches of movement at 90 MPH is harder to hit than a 95 MPH heater with no movement. The two-seamer is thrown with the index and middle fingers riding the seams that are closer together. Your thumb must be placed under the ball. Grip the ball like an egg. You can throw it overhand, but it has more movement 3/4 or sidearm.

Zach Britton has arguably the best sinker in baseball in baseball at 94-97 MPH and drops from the belt of the batter to the dirt.

Sinker: A sinker does exactly what the name implies; it sinks. It is usually thrown 2-5 MPH slower than your four-seamer. The sinker is probably one of the hardest pitches to master because of the grip. You grip the ball exactly like a two-seamer, but you place your thumb on the side of the ball. Without the thumb on the bottom of the ball, it creates downward movement. You don't twist your wrist, but to create more movement on the ball, you should flick your wrist down, as if you were shooting a basketball with your two fingers. The best sinker in baseball right now, arguably, is by Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton (pictured above).

Mariano Rivera has one of the best cutters in baseball history

Cutter: A cutter has the same movement of a slider, but without the stress on your arm. So you're probably thinking, "Why wouldn't you just throw a cutter so you don't damage your arm?" The reason is because it is very hard to master. The grip is very tricky and you don't have great velocity or control on the ball. It is thrown by placing your index and middle on the right seam of the ball if you are right handed and vice versa if you are a lefty. You throw it exactly as you would a four seamer (do not twist your wrist) and a little slower than your normal fastball. All-time saves leader and former Yankee closer Mariano Rivera was famous for breaking bats with his cutter because of all the unexpected movement.

Masahiro Tanaka and many other Japanese pitchers are famous for their filthy splitters.

Split-fingered fastball: A split-fingered fastball (or splitter) is one of the nastiest pitches in baseball because of the unexpected drop at the end of the pitch, but if it is left up in the zone, watch out. It could be a bomb. The splitter was brought to the MLB from Japanese. Japanese pitchers are famous for throwing splitters and forkballs, like Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka. It is thrown by splitting your index and middle fingers around the baseball and taking your thumb on the bottom. You throw it like you would a sinker, with the basketball flick of the wrist. It will have a spin like a knuckleball, but will be 10-12 MPH slower than your normal fastball. It can also be thrown as a split-change but that requires the middle and ring finger to be spread out, not the index.

A changeup is best complimented with a hard fastball

Changeup: A changeup is a great way to get a batter out when he is "pulling the ball" foul. If he is pulling the ball foul, he is likely ahead of the ball. A changeup is a pitch that looks almost like a fastball in it's spin but is usually 10-15 MPH slower than your fastball. There are many types of changeup, but my personal favorite is the circle-change. That is pictured above and has downward movement on the ball. Without the thumb on the bottom of the ball, it causes the ball to drop. If you throw it with pressure on the middle finger, it causes the ball to run and drop more. If you control your fastball and change, you have a duo that can really confuse batters.

Wrist motion of a slider

Slider: A slider is one of the hardest pitches to hit in baseball, because it comes in at such high velocity that it looks like a fastball. But, right as the ball gets to the batter, it quickly moves away from them, or inside if you are facing an opposite handed pitcher. The problem with a slider is that it causes stress on the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and leads to the dreadful Tommy John Surgery. When you throw a slider, you twist your wrist which pulls on the UCL and can lead to strain or a full tear.

Location of Tommy John Surgery

Tommy John Surgery recovery can take from 12-18 months, or (in the rarest occasions) can not be recovered from. It is the worst of injuries for any player, pitcher or position player. Only six players have ever required surgery three times, but many have required the surgery twice. The surgery replaces the injured ligament with the ligament in your wrist, which is the same ligament. It can sometimes end the career of a pitcher, but a lot of teenagers have Tommy John even if it isn't needed. Many kids see a higher velocity after elective TJ, but studies show that the reason is that the rehab develops the arm to stronger. So if you are thinking about getting elective TJ, don't. Just do a better workout.

Now that you have learned some of the key pitches in baseball, you can start developing them. Just get yourself a baseball, a glove, and a throwing partner.

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