6 of the Top Baseball Pitches
Posted November 2, 2017
This weekend, we celebrate Veterans Day. If you’re a veteran, we thank you for your service and the sacrifices you have made for our country. We hope you spend a relaxing day with your loved ones.
With the MLB playoffs recently ending and our very own Houston Astros being crowned as champion, we’ll miss America’s pastime for a couple of months. In the meantime, have you ever been curious about all the different types of baseball pitches? How is a pitcher able to throw pitches that have such different trajectories and velocities? It’s all in the hand, wrist, arm, and shoulder! In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular pitches in baseball and learn how our wonderful hands make such a significant impact.
Part of what makes baseball so interesting is that many pitchers have their own unique style. Whether it’s their stance, pitching motion, or some other distinctive attribute, it is variety at its finest. Pro pitchers know many different pitches, but often only throw four or five varieties during an actual game. There are more pitches and variations to pitches than we could ever hope to cover here, but we’ll explore some of the heavy hitters (pun intended).
Let’s start out with the most famous pitch of them all—the fastball. Each pitch begins with finger placement around the ball. This is the core. With a fastball, the first two fingers rest on the seams and the pitcher releases with his palm basically facing the batter. This motion creates maximum velocity which makes the fastball the most important pitch in the game. There are several variations of the fastball including the four-seam fastball, split-finger fastball, and cut fastball. Regardless of the variation, the purpose of the pitch is to overpower the opponent. Professionally, pitchers can typically achieve 90-95 MPH with some breaking the 100 MPH mark. For example, Nolan Ryan was known for the speed of his fastball. In fact, it was legendary.
A good curveball can make quite the impression. The name says it all as this pitch has a horizontal arc as it approaches the plate. While the arc varies from pitcher to pitcher, the finger placement is the same. The pitcher’s palm is turned in so far that the hand looks like a letter “C.” Appropriate, right? A flick of the wrist upon release creates topspin. Sandy Koufax’s curveball was notorious.
The sinker is another pitch whose name says it all. By releasing with the palm facing away from the pitcher, the ball sinks as it reaches the plate. The dip’s purpose is to get the batter to swing over the ball or connect with the ball slightly, leading to an easy ground ball. Derek Lowe is one pitcher well-known for his sinker.
We’re starting to see a trend here. With the palm rotated towards the pitcher, the slider is thrown with less velocity than other pitches. The slower speed gives the ball extra time to move, or slide, from one side of the plate to the other.
A changeup takes the slider to the next level with the palm turned even further out. The changeup is an off-speed pitch that confuses batters as the arm speed is identical to the fastball. What slows down the velocity is the technique of pressing the palm deep into the ball. If the batter is expecting a fastball, but receives a changeup, he will swing early and miss as the ball is delivered with 15 MPH less velocity. Mission accomplished.
An in-depth look at baseball pitches wouldn’t be complete without a trick pitch. The screwball is an appropriate name as this pitch is a wild one. The palm is positioned at a more extreme angle than the sinker and changeup, and the pitcher twists the ball like a corkscrew upon release. A left-handed batter will see the ball break away from him while a right-handed batter will see the ball break in. Of course, the opposite is true if the pitcher is left-handed. For a description of additional trick pitches, including the gyroball (sounds delicious), Vulcan changeup, and the yellow hammer, here’s a list.
Now that we’ve covered six different pitches, we hope we’ve inspired you to grab your worn baseball mitt, dust off the cleats, and show off your sweet skills. At the very least, we hope you’ve gained an appreciation for the intricacies and difficulty involved in pitching. Who’s your favorite pitcher of all time?
If you’re dealing with a hand condition that causes pain or makes it difficult to use your hands, don’t hesitate to contact us. Your hand health is our priority—and it should be yours as well! We’ll work with you to find a personalized treatment plan so you can get back to doing the things you love most (like throwing a fastball that breaks triple digits). To stay up-to-date on everything happening at HSST, make sure to follow us on Facebook. Our hands heal yours!