Pitch Grips and Changing Speeds
This week I will be discussing pitch grips. When I do private lessons for young pitchers their first question is almost always “How do you throw a curve ball?”. The fact of the matter is almost every pitcher grips his curve ball differently. Pitchers need to understand how to influence the velocity and movement of the ball by using different grips. This post will discuss the keys to changing speeds and creating movement without putting the arm in jeopardy.
The first thing every pitcher should learn and master is changing speeds. Timing is everything in hitting and the old saying that “a pitcher is only as good as their changeup” certainly holds a lot of value. The golden rule for a changeup is that you must throw it AS HARD AS POSSIBLE! The main error people make while throwing a changeup is that they slow down their arm. Slowing down your arm to adjust speed will tip the hitter off that something different is coming and allow him to make adjustments. The pitch also loses its movement and sharpness if the arm is slowed down. Instead, we want to allow our grip to influence the velocity.
We can influence a pitch’s velocity by how we hold it in our hand. The more fingers contacting the ball and the deeper the ball sits in our hand the slower it will be. A fast ball grip consists of holding the ball out in your first two fingers with the thumb underneath the ball. By adding more fingers and putting the ball deeper in your hand you can increase the amount of friction at release thus slowing the pitch and creating movement. By using grip to influence velocity a pitcher can maintain maximum effectiveness as he throws. This will result in more movement, sharper movement, and much more deception in the delivery. The effort used to throw a pitch as hard as possible will be noticeable during delivery. That effort combined with the change in speed and movement is what causes deception and disrupts the hitter’s timing.
Pitchers can manipulate movement in many ways. Adding or subtracting fingers to the ball and adjusting finger location can influence movement. Movement is primarily determined by the rotation of the baseball. A pitcher must experiment with his grips to determine how he can create maximum rotation. Breaking balls with a tighter/faster rotation will result in a sharper and larger amount of break.Quite simply, the faster the ball rotates the nastier the pitch will be.
In my opinion, there is no need for players to learn a breaking ball early on. Pitchers need to master the command and effectiveness of their fastball and changeup before moving on to a breaking ball. That doesn’t me their change up is usually where they want it and it usually moves, it means they have mastered the grip and it is as reliable or more than their fastball. Every pitcher, regardless of the level they play at, must be able to use their fastball and changeup to create outs. I consider a pitcher a master of their pitches when the can throw it effectively in the strike zone more than 85% of the time. Remember it is better to be a master of a few trades than a jack of all trades.