Alterations of the Fastball

One of the most common pitches in baseball is called a fastball. Ranging from 90 to 104 mph, pitchers use this pitch to try and overpower the batter and prevent the ball from being hit. While some pitchers don’t have the power to throw one too hard, they use some movement on the ball to confuse the batter. Because the ball reaches the plate so fast, the batter has the least amount of time to react to the location of the pitch. There are a couple ways that pitchers can grip the ball in order to have different characteristics. The index finger and middle finger can be critical when putting movement on the ball.

One of the variations of the fastball is called the four-seam. This is used when the pitcher needs to get a strike, so can be used early in the count to get ahead of the batter. There is little to no lateral movement. This is the fasted pitch a pitcher can throw.

Another variation of the fastball is the two-seamer. This is also called a sinker or a tailing fastball. This is because it has more movement. This pitch is much harder to have control over, but makes it hard for the batter to hit due to the combination of speed and change of direction.

Third, a sinker is a pitcher that is thrown in the same manner. However, the thumb is shifted underneath the ball, so the ball will result in being slower than a two-seamer. Greg Maddux, Derek Lowe, and Pedro Martinez are mainly known for their dominant use of the two-seam fastball. Because sinkers tend to sink, the result from throwing this pitch will be an increase in groundballs.

On the other end, a rising fastball has the opposite traits. While this is considered a baseball myth, some batters have stated they saw a fastball rising. Players that faced Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden reported they saw this. However, scientifically, this pitch is near impossible. This is because the amount of backspin needed to overcome gravity is very large. A more definitive explanation is that a pitcher threw a fastball, then threw another fastball in the same manner but more explosive. Therefore, a batter expects the ball to arrive slower than it actually does. Plus, tall pitchers have encourage this perception, as they will throw higher fastballs than a batter will normally see.

A cutter is similar to a slider, but uses the same grip as a four-seamer. This will create more spin on the ball. This will cause an unexpected motion to fool batters. Mariano Rivera is most known for throwing a lethal cutter.

Finally, a splitter is thrown with an adjusted grip. This ball does not have the tight spin like a fastball. This will have more characteristics of a knuckleball, but will be faster.

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