Baseball pitches can be broken down into three broad categories: fastballs, curveballs, and changeups.
Each of these types of pitches can be further divided into several specialized varieties.
Here is a quick rundown.
In general terms the fastball is a pitcher’s hardest, fastest pitch. It tends to move in a relatively straight line, and the standard fastball is also known as a cross-seamer of four-seamer. Int eh big leagues, fastballs tend to range from 85 to 100 mph.
Fastball Pitch Grip
The four-seam fastball is held such that the index and middle finger are placed across the seams of the ball. The thumb is placed below the gap between the center and the second finger to support the bottom of the ball.
This is a modified version of the four-seam fastball. It has a different grip — the two-seamer is held along the seam not across the ball. Its average speed lies between 80 t0 90 mph and tends to have a downward arc. Beyond that movement, the two-seamer looks remarkably similar to the four-seamer because they both come in hard and fast.
Two-Seam Fastball Pitch Grips
The two-seam fastball is held with the first and center finger along the narrow portion of the seams, at the top of the “horseshoe.” The two leading two seams generate more run and downward movement than the four-seamer, giving the two-seamer its movement and slower velocity.
The cutter is different from the two- and four seam-fastballs largely in the “cutting” movment it makes. From a right-handed pitcher, the ball cuts from right to left, and from a left-handed pitcher, it cuts from left to right. The cutter moves at an average speed between 85 to 95 mph, slower than four-seam fastballs.
The baseball is held just like four seamers or two seamers, but moving both fingers a little off center towards the seams.
Split-Finger Fastball / Splitter
The split finger fastball can be a devastating pitch when the batter suspects a straight fastball. It has a sharp movement where the ball breaks downwards before reaching the plate. This pitch can be unpredictable because of this extreme movement.
Split-Finger Fastball Pitch Grip
The fingers are split on opposite sides of the seams. The two-seam and the split finger fastball have a similar grip, with the splitter grip coming in wide.
The forkball has a less dramatic movement than the splitter but still produces a gradual downward movement. The average speed is between 75 and 85 mph, making it the slowest fastball. This pitch is one of the rarest pitches in baseball, thanks to its taxing nature for pitchers’ arms.
Forkball Pitch Grip
In the forkball grip, the ball is held deeper in the hand than in the splitter, and the fingers are positioned farther apart. When the ball is released, the pitcher will snap the ball downward, similar to the motion used for the splitter.
Unlike fastballs, but as denoted by the name, curveballs are designed to change path on their way to plate, “curving” instead of coming in straight.
12-6 Curveball Pitch Grip
Throwing a curveball, you position the ball in your palm that the seams are parallel with your middle finger and your index finger placed on the leather next to the middle finger. Some pitchers have a variation where they keep the index finger pointed and not touching the ball.
The eephus pitch has a high arc and a slow speed. The pitcher throws the baseball high and lets gravity impart the familiar arc that is so enticing to hitters but that is notoriously hard to hit. The eephus pitch does not have a standard grip,
The slider is usually thrown faster and with less overall movement the standard curveball, with an average speed is between 80 and 90 mph. The ball spins faster, helping it cut across the strike zone, in addition to dropping. Pitchers often try to disguise the slider as a fastball.
Slider Pitch Grip
To throw the slider, the pitcher places the middle finger on the seam while the first finger is on the leather. The thumb is placed just off the bottom seam. The middle finger and the index finger are used to impart spin to the ball.
Sometimes is referred to as a reverse curveball. The screwball moves in an opposite direction than that of a slider or curve. It is rare in today’s game as it is also taxing on the pitcher.
Screwball Pitch Grip
A pitcher can use a two-seamer or a circle change grip and pronate upon release of the ball.
Changeups are pitches thrown at slow speeds but with the intention of mimicking other pitches in order to disrupt the batter’s timing.
The traditional change has an average speed of 70-85 mph, making it among the slowest pitches in baseball.
Traditional Changeup Pitch Grip
The ball rests between all the fingers. The center and ring finger are placed on top of the ball. On the left and right side of the ball, we have the index and pinky fingers. It creates the intended deception when the ball is placed deeper in the hand and thrown with a near identical motion to a fastball.
Palmball Pitch Grip
It has a different grip and is sometimes referred to as four-finger changeups. The ball is held just like that of changeup but deeper in the palm of your hand. The motion is like that of a fastball.
While you may not see all these pitches in a game very often, you’re likely to encounter most of them if you keep your eye on the bullpen, where pitchers often work on new “surprises” in addition to their old standbys.
And, every once in awhile, if you’re really lucky, you might even bear witness to the elusive knuckleball.