Here’s another post like my change-up thread. Hopefully it’s works just as good. Here goes:
- The Four-Seamer[/size]
The four-seam fastball is the center of all pitches – the basic straight pitch. It is also the most important pitch, as it is the center of every pitcher's arsenal – its speed and movement (or lack of) sets up every other pitch the pitcher throws. The object of the pitch is to have the maximum speed (the four-seamer is the pitch with the highest velocity) while throwing a straight fastball right by the batter. The ball should rotate backwards perfectly with the C of the horseshoe rotating around perfectly. The fastball is the easiest pitch on the pitcher’s arm because it takes no pronation (change, sinker), snap (curve), or roll (slider) of the arm or wrist to make the pitch have the desired result. Because of this the four-seamer is usually the first pitch taught to young pitchers.
The Basic Grip: The four-seam fastball is gripped with the index and middle fingers gripping the top curve of the horseshoes’s C.
Notice the spacing of the index and middle fingers: Santana and Lincecum have spaced their two fingers say a centimeter apart, while Hamels’s fingers are more like an inch apart at the top. The upside to gripping the fastball with the fingers spaced closer together is that it creates tighter spin and therefore a straighter and faster ball, while the wider grip doesn’t sacrifice too much velocity or straightness and adds a better hold on the ball. Whatever suits the pitcher is what works best – there is no right answer.
The two-seam fastball is a pitch that sacrifices speed for movement. Although still a fastball (and generally the second-hardest pitch in a pitcher’s cache), the two-seamer will move around, not in the way a curveball or even a cutter would, but more erratically and not sharply in one direction.
The two seam fastball is gripped with the fingers aligned with the | | part of the seams where the seams are almost parallel to each other. The ball is thrown straight and without any supination or pronation of the wrist, forearm, or elbow.
Adam Miller, a top prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization, shows the rotation of the two-seamer (scary-lookin' guy, ain't he). You can see the U shape of the horseshoe frozen while it rotates backwards after release.
Ted Lilly was also kind enough to show FOX his pitching grips – I cut out his two-seamer grip
Lilly seems to grip his two-seamer more diagonally across the seams than the others. Although it's not from experience, I'm guessing that this creates more spin but lets up velocity compared to the typical grip.
The cut fastball, otherwise known as the cutter, is a fastball that looks straight and true like a four-seamer until a very late break in the pitch cuts away from a righty batter from a RHP. The pitch can fool batters very easily as they are lead to believe that the pitch is a four-seamer before the late break. The pitch is similar to a slider if not for the higher velocity and more side-to-side break than the slider.
Mariano Rivera has basically modeled and lived his career off this single pitch – and here’s why:
The late break is fatal to a left-handed batter who, thinking the pitch is outside takes it only to watch the ball break over the outside corner at the last moment. To the right-handed batter the ball appears to be coming towards them, but suddenly it breaks away and towards the inside part of the plate.
Rivera shows Roy Halladay his grip
The index and middle fingers are gripping the ball like a four-seamer but instead of being centered the fingers are offset towards the thin and open part of the C of the seams. The ball is thrown straight – when released the ball is being pushed from the outer 1/3 and therefore the ball has some side-to-side spin on it, but not like the side-to-side spin on a curve that the wrist supinated with, creating the late and sharp break.
The split-fingered fastball, or splitter, is often used as an off-speed pitch or strikeout pitch rather than a true fastball like the four-seamer. It's gripped with the fingers split wide apart, straddling the ball.
The basic grip
The splitter is thrown in the same way as a fastball would – as Steven put it, “same arm action, same arm speed. The difference, of course, is the grip.” With the fingers spread wide across the ball, the friction and force that you put behind the ball that is actually carried into the ball's motion (you still put as much force behind it as you would a four-seamer) is decreased and limited, creating less spin and less velocity behind the ball. The outcome of the pitch, if executed correctly, is a sharp drop at the end of the 55'6" the ball travels from the pitcher’s hand to the plate.
Clemens was one of the most prolific and successful users of the splitter (steroids or not, the bottom dropped outta that ball).
After forever of searching for Clemens's grip, I found this picture. It isn't the best view to see, but by my eye it's too wide to be his four-seamer and too wrongly positioned to be a slider.
Here's a GIF file of his splitter
You’d be amazed to see how hard it is to find a picture of a MLB pitcher gripping his splitter as there aren’t many users of the hard-to-master but great pitch. Jose Contreras is known to grip a softball between innings to keep his fingers nice and loose for his splitter/forkball.
- The Four-Seamer[/size]
The main purpose of the four-seam fastball is to throw an accurate pitch for strikes when behind in the count or placing the pitch on the corners. Other pitches, from the two-seamer to the curveball, give more movement but much less accuracy and are typically used as strikeout pitches while the four-seamer is used to get ahead in the count or rebound from a hitter’s count.
The two-seamer is used between a strikeout pitch and a four-seamer. Although it doesn’t have the movement or speed differential as say a curveball, it moves around – more than the four-seamer, at least – and can be used as a set-up pitch for counts like 0-1, 1-1. If it works, and the batter is fooled by the movement, you’re in a position with a 0-2 or 1-2 count where the curve or change-up can be used.
The cutter can be – and is – used as a strikeout pitch because of its deceptive looks. Because of the look of the straight fastball out of the zone, a batter is most likely to take the pitch thinking it’s a ball. However, the ball darts back to one of the corners of the plate for a strike. The gif clip of Mariano Rivera illustrates this more.
When the splitter is used, it is almost like a change-up or curveball. It moves so sharply and so much that the pitch has a curve-like sense to it. The split-fingered fastball drops out of the strike zone quickly and is used as a pitch the pitcher goes to in a pitcher’s count or a 2-strike situation.