Fastball

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During pregame bullpen warmup Chris Young warms up with a four-seam fastball. 20070616 Chris Young visits Wrigley (4)-edit3.jpg
During pregame bullpen warmup Chris Young warms up with a four-seam fastball.

The fastball is the most common type of pitch thrown by pitchers in baseball and softball. "Power pitchers," such as former American major leaguers Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, rely on speed to prevent the ball from being hit, and have thrown fastballs at speeds of 95–105 miles per hour (153–169 km/h) (officially) and up to 108.1 miles per hour (174.0 km/h) (unofficially). [1] Pitchers who throw more slowly can put movement on the ball, or throw it on the outside of home plate where batters can't easily reach it.

Contents

Fastballs are usually thrown with backspin, so that the Magnus effect creates an upward force on the ball. This causes it to fall less rapidly than expected, and sometimes causes an optical illusion often called a rising fastball. Although it is impossible for a human to throw a baseball fast enough and with enough backspin for the ball to actually rise, to the batter the pitch seems to rise due to the unexpected lack of natural drop on the pitch.

A straight pitch is achieved by gripping the ball with the fingers across the wide part of the seam (called a "four-seam fastball") so that both the index and middle fingers are touching two seams perpendicularly. A sinking fastball is thrown by gripping it across the narrow part (a "two-seam fastball") so that both the index and middle fingers are along a seam. Lateral motion is achieved by holding a four-seam fastball off-center (a "cut fastball"), and sinking action with a lateral break is thrown by splitting the fingers along the seams (a "split-finger fastball").

Colloquially, a fastball pitcher "throws heat" or "puts steam on it", among many other variants.

Pitches

An animated diagram of a four-seam fastball Four-Seem Fastball.gif
An animated diagram of a four-seam fastball

Four-seam fastball

The four-seam fastball is the most common variant of the fastball. The pitch is used often by the pitcher to get ahead in the count or when he needs to throw a strike. This type of fastball is intended to have minimal lateral movement, relying more on its velocity. It is often perceived as the fastest pitch a pitcher throws, with recorded top speeds above 100 mph. The fastest pitch recognized by MLB was on September 25, 2010, at Petco Park in San Diego by then Cincinnati Reds left-handed relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman. It was clocked at 105.1 miles per hour. [2] April 19, 2011 Chapman lit up the stadium radar gun at 106 MPH (the TV-reading had his pitch at 105 MPH, and the pitchF/X reading was actually 102.4 MPH). [3] Two general methods are used to throw a four-seam fastball. The first and most traditional way is to find the horseshoe seam area, or the area where the seams are the farthest apart. Keeping those seams parallel to the body, the pitcher places his index and middle fingers perpendicular to them with the pads on the farthest seam from him. The thumb then rests underneath the ball about in the middle of the two fingers. With this grip, the thumb will generally have no seam on which to rest.

The four seam fastball is widely regarded as the main key to advancing to the next level of play. One of a baseball scout's main criteria when scouting a prospect is how fast he throws a four seam fastball. The game of baseball keeps on progressing, and as research on the physics of throwing is published and recognized, fastball velocity training has become more effective. This can be shown by looking at the average fastball velocity in the major leagues as time progresses. In 2008 the average fastball thrown in the MLB was 90.9 mph. 5 years later it had risen to 92.0. To show the effect that this increase in velocity has had on hitters in the big leagues, we can look at the runs scored stat. In 2008, the average number of runs a team scored a game was 4.6; 5 years later as the velocity increased, the average dropped by half a run a game, to 4.0.

The pitch velocity gone up so much mostly by the development of better training and clearer communication within the baseball community that velocity is so valued. People like Tom House, Eric Cressey, Kyle Boddy, and Ron Wolforth have all pushed the edge and dedicated careers to research on what makes the ultimate pitcher. Pitchers are getting bigger, faster and stronger, and pushing their bodies in the weight room as well as with weighted ball throwing. All of this has created a faster, more powerful game for pitchers on the mound today. [4] [5]

Higher pitch velocities have resulted in fewer hits and other imbalances. A more distant pitcher's mound and other changes have been proposed to restore balance. [6]

Two-seam fastball

A two-seam fastball, sometimes called a two-seamer, tailing fastball, running fastball, or sinker is another variant of the straight fastball. It is designed to have more movement than a four-seam fastball, so the batter cannot hit it hard, but it can be more difficult to master and control. Because of the deviation from the straight trajectory, the two-seam fastball is sometimes called a moving fastball.

The pitcher grabs a baseball and finds the area on it where the seams are the closest together, and puts his index and middle fingers on each of those seams. A sinker is a similar pitch that drops 3 to 6 inches more than a typical two-seam fastball; this causes batters to hit ground balls more often, mostly due to the tilted sidespin on the ball. [7]

Each finger should be touching the seam from the pads or tips to almost the ball of each finger. The thumb should rest underneath the ball in the middle of those two fingers, finding the apex of the horseshoe part of the seam. The thumb needs to rest on that seam from the side to the middle of its pad. If the middle finger is used, more whipping action occurs, making the pitch go around 10 mph faster. This ball tends to move for the pitcher a little bit depending on velocity, arm slot angle, and pressure points of the fingers. Retired pitchers Greg Maddux and Pedro Martínez were known for their effective two-seamers.

Depending on the grip and pressure applied with the fingers, sometimes the two-seam fastball features more sink than lateral movement. Sinkerballers tend to induce a lot of ground ball outs because hitters tend to swing over the ball due to the late downward movement, thus often end up beating the ball into the ground. Roberto Hernández of the Philadelphia Phillies, Justin Masterson of the St. Louis Cardinals, Derek Lowe of the New York Yankees, Tim Hudson of the San Francisco Giants, Aaron Cook of the Colorado Rockies, Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, Chris Volstad of the Chicago White Sox, Trevor Cahill of the Chicago Cubs, and Bronson Arroyo of the Arizona Diamondbacks are or were well known for their sinkers, consistently ranking high in the league in ground ball-to-fly ball ratio.

Rising fastball

The rising fastball is an effect perceived by some batters, but is a baseball myth. Some batters are under the impression that they have seen a "rising" fastball, which starts with the trajectory of a normal fastball, but which as it approaches the plate rises several inches and gains a burst of speed. Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Sandy Koufax, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan and Chan Ho Park have been described as paramount pitchers with this kind of ball action.

Such a pitch is known to be beyond the physical capabilities of pitchers, due to the very high backspin required to overcome gravity with the Magnus effect. While not physically impossible (conservation of momentum is maintained through imparting the required opposing momentum to air, as an airplane does at takeoff), the amount of spin required is beyond the capabilities of a human arm. It has been explained as an optical illusion.

What is likely happening is that the pitcher first throws a fastball at one speed, and then, using an identical arm motion, throws another fastball at a higher speed. The higher-speed fastball arrives faster and sinks less due to its high speed. The added back-spin from the higher speed further decreases the amount of sink. When the pitch is thrown, the batter expects a fastball at the same speed, yet it arrives more quickly and at a higher level. The batter perceives it as a fastball which has risen and increased in speed. A switch from a two-seam to a fastball can enhance this effect.

This perception may also be created by a tall, hard-throwing pitcher who throws the ball from a higher release point on an elevated mound (the pitcher's rubber is 10 inches above the field level). Factoring in the element of depth perception when the hitter watches the pitcher from 60 ft 6 in away from the pitcher's mound, and the hitter perceives the pitcher's size and positioning on the mound to be less elevated than it actually is. Hence, to the hitter, an overhand pitch will appear to be thrown at a hitter's shoulder level (or even belt level), as opposed to several inches above the hitter's head, from where the pitch is actually released from the pitcher's hand. This perception enhances the apparent "rising" motion of the fastball when the pitch passes the hitter at a higher level than where the hitter perceived the pitch to have left the pitcher's hand.

It is possible for a rising fastball to be thrown by a submarine pitcher because of the technique with which they throw the ball. Because they throw almost underhanded with their knuckles near the field surface, the batter perceives the sensation of the ball going upward because of its low starting point and flight trajectory. This is not the traditional rising fastball batters believe they see. This type of movement is similar to a rising fastball in fast-pitch softball. Left-hander Sid Fernandez was known for throwing a rising fastball from a slightly "submarine" motion.

An animated diagram of a cutter Cut Fastball.gif
An animated diagram of a cutter

Cutter

A cut fastball, or "cutter", is similar to a slider, but the pitcher tends to use a four-seam grip. The pitcher shifts the grip on a four-seamer (often by slightly rotating the thumb inwards and the two top fingers to the outside) to create more spin. This usually causes the pitch to shift inwards or outwards by a few inches, less than a typical slider, and often late. A cutter is effective for pitchers with a strong four-seamer since the grip and delivery look virtually identical. The unexpected motion will often fool batters into hitting the ball off-center, or missing it altogether.

Mariano Rivera, a now retired reliever for the New York Yankees, was known for throwing a cutter. In his prime, Rivera could deliver late motion while throwing the ball around 96 mph. Al Leiter rode his cutter to 162 career wins and a no-hitter. Roy Halladay threw a cut fastball, but claimed that overusing it had given him forearm trouble.[ citation needed ] This may have prematurely ended Halladay's 2006 season due to forearm stiffness,[ citation needed ] since the grip causes more stress than a standard four-seamer. Yankee Andy Pettitte is another pitcher who throws the cutter. On a June 3, 2007, game against the Red Sox, announcer Joe Morgan estimated that of Pettitte's 87 pitches, 83 of them were cutters. Jamie Moyer used a cutter that became an important pitch due to his relatively low velocity late in his career. Many other major league pitchers have added the cut fastball, as well.

Split-finger fastball

The split-finger fastball, or "splitter", is truly an off-speed pitch rather than a type of fastball. Like the changeup, to which it is a close relative, it is thrown with the same arm motion as a normal fastball, but the adjusted grip causes it to behave quite differently. The ball does not have the characteristically tight spin of a fastball. The ball appears to tumble in a knuckleball-like fashion; but it is much faster than a knuckleball. The ball is gripped tightly with the index and middle fingers "split" along the outside of the horseshoe seam. It is important that at least one finger is touching the seam, as the ability to control the release of the ball is derived from this contact. The release is the same as a fastball. A splitter usually drops as it approaches the plate, and breaks to either the right or left. The forkball is a similar pitch, though it is slower and gripped with a more exaggerated split of the fingers. A pitcher generally needs long, flexible fingers to effectively throw this pitch. Due to similarities in speed and movement, some pitchers' split-finger fastballs are misidentified as changeups.

It helps to have larger hands to throw this pitch. Because the fingers are spread wider than normal on the baseball, this pitch produces more stress from the hand up through the arm. While the mechanics are the same as a normal fastball, the stress it places on the hand and arm is different. Over time it is possible to damage the arm. It is therefore not recommended for younger pitchers to learn this pitch. Older pitchers should feel comfortable deploying this pitch, but to use it in moderation. The splitter is an effective pitch because the hitter generally picks up the movement later and either swings over the ball or produces a weakly hit ground ball.

The split-finger is used currently by pitchers such as Jonathan Papelbon, and Masahiro Tanaka. Former players noted for use of the split-finger fastball include Bruce Sutter, Mike Scott, John Smoltz, Jack Morris, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Bryan Harvey, Roger Clemens, Dan Haren, and Fred Breining.

Incurve

The incurve was a term used until about 1930 used to describe a simple fastball. As a curveball was often called an "outcurve", one might assume that an incurve is the opposite of a curveball, in other words, the modern screwball. However, this does not appear to be so, as cited by John McGraw.

All balls that are twisted out of their natural course are called curves. The outcurve, the drop, down shoot, and so on, are simply a curve ball to the professional player. To us there is no such thing as an incurve. That is what we call a fastball. Of course, I am assuming the pitcher is right-handed. A so-called incurve is nothing more than a ball thrown in a natural way with great force. A ball thus thrown will naturally curve inward, to a certain extent. [8]

Side-arm fastball

A side-arm fast ball is thrown from an angle different from the normal one. It is at a lower angle and is thrown from the side, hence the name "side"-arm. It will have a sinking motion to the right if the pitcher is right-handed, or to the left if the pitcher is left-handed. It is usually slower than a normal four-seam fastball.

Related Research Articles

Pitcher The player responsible for throwing ("pitching") the ball to the batters in a game of baseball or softball

In baseball, the pitcher is the player who pitches the baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the pitcher is assigned the number 1. The pitcher is often considered the most important player on the defensive side of the game, and as such is situated at the right end of the defensive spectrum. There are many different types of pitchers, such as the starting pitcher, relief pitcher, middle reliever, lefty specialist, setup man, and the closer.

Slider (baseball) Baseball pitch

In baseball, a slider is a breaking ball pitch that tails laterally and down through the batter's hitting zone; it is thrown with less speed than a fastball but greater than the pitcher's curveball.

Curveball Type of pitch in baseball

In baseball and softball, the curveball is a type of pitch thrown with a characteristic grip and hand movement that imparts forward spin to the ball, causing it to dive as it approaches the plate. Varieties of curveball include the 12–6 curveball, power curveball, and the knuckle curve. Its close relatives are the slider and the slurve. The "curve" of the ball varies from pitcher to pitcher.

Changeup Baseball and Softball pitch

A changeup is a type of pitch in baseball and fastpitch softball. The changeup is the staple off-speed pitch, usually thrown to look like a fastball but arriving much more slowly to the plate. Its reduced speed coupled with its deceptive delivery is meant to confuse the batter's timing. It is meant to be thrown the same as a fastball, but farther back in the hand, which makes it release from the hand slower while still retaining the look of a fastball. A changeup is generally thrown to be 8–15 miles per hour slower than a fastball. If thrown correctly, the changeup will confuse the batter because the human eye cannot discern that the ball is coming significantly slower until it is around 30 feet from the plate. For example, a batter swings at the oncoming ball as if it were a 90 mph fastball, but instead the ball is coming in at 75 mph—this means they will be swinging too early to hit the ball well.

Split-finger fastball Baseball pitch

A split-finger fastball or splitter is an off-speed pitch in baseball that looks to the batter like a fastball until it drops suddenly. Derived from the forkball, it is so named because the pitcher puts the index and middle finger on different sides of the ball.

Starting pitcher

In baseball, a starting pitcher or starter is the first pitcher in the game for each team. A pitcher is credited with a game started if they throw the first pitch to the opponent's first batter of a game. Starting pitchers are expected to pitch for a significant portion of the game, although their ability to do this depends on many factors, including effectiveness, stamina, health, and strategy.

Pitch (baseball)

In baseball, a pitch is the act of throwing a baseball toward home plate to start a play. The term comes from the Knickerbocker Rules. Originally, the ball had to be literally "pitched" underhand, as with pitching horseshoes. Overhand throwing was not allowed until 1884.

Two-seam fastball Baseball and Softball pitch

A two-seam fastball is a pitch in baseball and softball. It is a variant of the straight fastball. The pitch has the speed of a fastball and can also include late-breaking action caused by varying the pressure of the index and middle fingers on the ball.

Four-seam fastball Baseball pitch

A four-seam fastball, also called a rising fastball, a four-seamer, or a cross-seam fastball, is a pitch in baseball. It is a member of the fastball family of pitches and is usually the hardest ball thrown by a pitcher. It is called what it is because with every rotation of the ball as it is thrown, four seams come into view. A few pitchers at the major league level can sometimes reach a pitch speed of up to 100 mph. It is often compared with the two-seam fastball.

Circle changeup Baseball pitch

In baseball, a circle changeup is a pitch thrown with a grip that includes a circle formation, hence the name circle changeup. The circle is formed by making a circle with the index finger, holding the thumb at the bottom of the ball parallel to the middle finger and holding the ball far out in the hand. The ball is thrown turning the palm out.

Cut fastball Baseball pitch

In baseball, a cut fastball or cutter is a type of fastball that breaks toward the pitcher's glove-hand side, as it reaches home plate. This pitch is somewhere between a slider and a four-seam fastball, as it is usually thrown faster than a slider but with more movement than a typical fastball. Some pitchers use a cutter to prevent hitters from expecting their regular fastballs. A common technique for throwing a cutter is to use a four-seam fastball grip with the baseball set slightly off center in the hand. A batter hitting a cutter pitch often achieves only soft contact and an easy out due to the pitch's movement keeping the ball away from the bat's sweet spot. The cutter is typically 2–5 mph slower than a pitcher's four-seam fastball. In 2010, the average pitch classified as a cutter by PITCHf/x thrown by a right-handed pitcher was 88.6 mph; the average two-seamer was 90.97 mph.

In baseball, an off-speed pitch is a pitch thrown at a slower speed than a fastball. Breaking balls and changeups are the two most common types of off-speed pitches. Very slow pitches which require the batter to provide most of the power on contact through bat speed are known as "junk" and include the knuckleball and the Eephus pitch, a sort of extreme changeup. The specific goals of off-speed pitches may vary, but in general they are used to disrupt the batter's timing, thereby lessening his chances of hitting the ball solidly or at all. Virtually all professional pitchers have at least one off-speed pitch in their repertoire. Despite the fact that most of these pitches break in some way, batters are sometimes able to anticipate them due to hints that the pitcher gives, such as changes in arm angle, arm speed, or placement of fingers.

In the sport of cricket, a slower ball is a slower-than-usual delivery from a fast bowler. The bowler's intention is to deceive the batsman into playing too early so that he either misses the ball completely or hits it high up in the air to offer an easy catch. It is analogous to a changeup in baseball.

A gyroball is a type of baseball pitch used primarily by players in Japan. It is thrown with a spiral-like spin, so that there is no Magnus force on the ball as it arrives at home plate. The gyroball is sometimes confused with the shuuto, another pitch used in Japan.

In baseball, a sinker or sinking fastball is a type of fastball which has significant downward and horizontal movement and is known for inducing ground balls. Pitchers capable of utilizing the sinker are able to throw the pitch almost exclusively, as it forces weak contact and ground balls, allowing them to rely less on secondary pitches in order to change speeds. While coaches agree that this pitch is very similar to the two-seam fastball, a two-seamer tends to have more lateral movement than a sinker.

The shuuto (シュート) or shootball is a baseball pitch. It is commonly thrown by right-handed Japanese pitchers such as Hiroki Kuroda, Noboru Akiyama, Kenjiro Kawasaki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish and Masumi Kuwata. The most renowned shuuto pitcher in history was Masaji Hiramatsu, whose famous pitch was dubbed the razorshuuto because it seemed to "cut the air" when thrown.

Shunsuke Watanabe Japanese baseball player

Shunsuke Watanabe is a Japanese former professional baseball pitcher.

Sidearm (baseball)

In baseball, sidearm is a motion for throwing a ball along a low, approximately horizontal plane rather than a high, mostly vertical plane (overhand).

Fastpitch softball Form of softball

Fastpitch softball, also known as fastpitch or fastball, is a form of softball played by both women and men. While the teams are most often segregated by sex, coed fast-pitch leagues also exist. The International Softball Federation (ISF) is the international governing body of softball. The ISF recognizes three pitching styles: medium pitch, "modified" fast pitch, and slow pitch. Fast pitch is considered the most competitive form of softball. It is the form of softball that was played at the Olympic Games in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008. The fast pitch style is also used in college softball and international competition.

12–6 curveball Baseball pitch

The 12–6 curveball is one of the types of pitches thrown in baseball. It is categorized as a breaking ball because of its downward break. The 12–6 curveball, unlike the normal curveball, breaks in a downward motion in a straight line. This explains the name "12–6", because the break of the pitch refers to the ball breaking from the number 12 to the number 6 on a clock. While the 11–5 and 2–8 variations are very effective pitches, they are less effective than a true 12–6, because the ball will break into the heart of the bat more readily.

References

  1. "The Fastest Pitcher in Baseball History". Baseball Almanac, Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-08-12. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  2. Brandon McClintock. "Aroldis Chapman and the 15 Fastest Pitches Ever Recorded". Bleacher Report. Archived from the original on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  3. "Aroldis Chapman Throws A 106 MPH Fastball, Or Was It 105? (Video)". totalprosports.com. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  4. "Running Down the Velocity Upswing - Redleg Nation". redlegnation.com. 19 February 2015. Archived from the original on 4 April 2016.
  5. Sawchik, Travis. "MLB pitchers setting velocity records, altering balance of power". TribLIVE.com. Archived from the original on 2014-10-24.
  6. Sheinin, Dave (21 May 2019). "Velocity is strangling baseball — and its grip keeps tightening". The Washington Post . Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  7. John Walsh. "In Search of the Sinker". The Hardball Times. Archived from the original on 2007-07-09.
  8. Mcgraw, John (1995). My Thirty Years in Baseball. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN   0-8032-8139-0.