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Baseball Pitching Grips: How To Master Your Pitch Game



Spring is already upon us, and that means the professional hockey and basketball seasons are in their post-season battles. It also means baseball is back. We’ve shown you how to throw faster, now we thought we’d give everyone a nice primer on the basic baseball pitching grips associated with big league throwers.

There are four different types of pitches in baseball: fastballs, breaking balls, change ups and the more idiosyncratic and un-categorizable pitches (like a knuckleball or a “spitball”). In this guide, we’ll be focusing on five different pitches, the grip associated with them, the arm movement to deliver them to the plate and the trajectory the ball should take to fool or surprise the batter.

The Fastball

The fastball is the most popular pitch in baseball, with most players using the pitch to overwhelm batters with their incredible speed. Within the fastball category, however, there are a number of different ways to grip and throw the pitch: the four-seam, the two-seam, the split-finger, the rising fastball, the cutter and the sidearm. We’ll only be focusing on two of these pitching grips today: the split-finger and the four-seam.

Baseball Pitching Grips - Four-seam FastballPhoto Credit: Toto-artist / Wikimedia Commons

Four-Seam Fastball

The four-seam fastball is the most popular variation of the pitch, generally employed when a pitcher wants to throw a hard, straight strike in order to get ahead in the count against the batter. This is also the fastball that power pitchers use because it increases velocity without decreasing accuracy.

The name, four-seam, is self-explanatory for the grip since you’ll be holding the ball with two fingers across both seams, and throwing it along a straight overhead line. To grip, first find the horseshoe-shaped area on the ball, and – keeping the seams parallel to your body – place your index- and middle-fingers across the gap perpendicular with the pads on the farthest seam. The thumb should rest in-between the two fingers on the underside of the ball, generally without touching a seam. You should also hold the ball like an egg, so avoid squeezing.

When throwing the ball, keep your fingers and hand behind the ball, not to the side. A four-seam fastball is designed to have as little lateral movement as possible and should be the pitch that travels the closest to a straight line, but you have to keep your hand behind the ball to make sure.

Baseball Pitching Grips - Split-finger FastballPhoto Credit: Toto-artist / Wikimedia Commons

Split-Finger Fastball

The split-finger fastball, or “splitter,” is actually an off-speed pitch, rather than a traditional fastball. Because it’s thrown with the same arm motion as a fastball, however, it’s included within this subgroup. Unlike the four-seam above, the different pitching grip on the splitter provides movement to baffle a hitter expecting a straight, four-seam.

This baseball pitching grip is a tight one, unlike the four-seam, and the index-and middle-finger are “split” behind the horseshoe seam, so both fingers line up with the seam on opposite sides of the horseshoe. At least one of these fingers should be touching the seam since this is how you control your delivery. You throw the pitch the exact same way you would with the four-seam, so keep your fingers behind the ball and throw normally.

The ball’s rotation when it comes out of your hand will have less spin than other fastballs, and it has a tendency to dip down or to either side as it approaches the plate. Some batters may confuse the splitter with a knuckleball because it appears to tumble towards the plate instead of spinning.

When you’re throwing the splitter, do so exactly as if you were throwing the four-seam or two-seam fastball. This means there’s less stress on the arm, like some of the breaking balls we’ll discuss below.

The Breaking Ball

The next two pitches featured are in the breaking ball category. These pitches do not travel in a straight line, but instead “breaks” either down or to the side. There are two types of breaking balls: curveballs and sliders. Within these pitching categories there are a lot of differentiations, but for the purposes of this piece, we’re going to focus on the straight, overhand curveball, and the traditional slider.

Baseball Pitching Grips - CurveballPhoto Credit: Toto-artist / Wikimedia Commons

Straight (Overhand) Curveball

The curveball is thrown with a downward spin, so the ball appears to drop as it approaches its mark. The best analogy used for the pitching grip associated with an overhand curveball, is holding a cup or a glass of water. Place the middle finger on, and parallel, to one of the long seams, and then place the thumb just behind the opposite seam so that if you’re looking down at the grip, it should form the letter “C” with the horseshoe shape extending from the thumb towards the pitcher’s body. The index-finger rests beside the middle-finger and the pinkie and ring-finger are nestled underneath the ball with the ring finger’s knuckle touching the leather. Some pitchers will splay out their ring and pinkie-finger so it doesn’t interfere with the pitch, but do whatever is most comfortable.

The delivery of a curveball is what really separates it from all the other pitches. At the top of the pitching arc, snap the arm and wrist in a downward motion. The ball first leaves contact with the thumb, then falls over the index-finger, which is where the recognizable “topspin” comes on a curveball. All four seams should be rotating in the direction of the flight path, but with the axis of rotation perpendicular, like a bowling ball’s topspin.

The actual break of the ball depends on how hard the throwing can snap the topspin from the ball. The speed of a curveball is slower than a fastball, since the ball tends to break more the slower it’s traveling. But the break itself is usually down or sometimes towards the pitcher’s off-hand. Again, the actual break depends on how hard you can snap the throw to increase the topspin. Unlike a fastball, where the pitches height reaches its zenith at the pitcher’s release point, the curveball often reaches its apogee shortly after it’s released.

Generally speaking, because it takes a while to master and can be screwy on shoulders and elbows, most players below the collegiate level avoid the curveball. It has a tendency to produce wild pitches and as noted, it’s an unnatural throwing motion because you’re delivering it with topspin, rather than the usual backspin of a fastball. Don’t try the curveball until you’re fully matured physically, and have spent time practicing the mechanics.

Baseball Pitching Grips - SliderPhoto Credit: Toto-artist / Wikimedia Commons


Our next breaking ball is quite similar to the curveball, especially with regard to the grip. So when describing the grip and throwing motion, we’ll do so in comparison to the pitch grip and throwing motion of the curveball; they’re both the most used breaking balls, after-all. The slider usually breaks laterally and down, similar to a curveball, but with increased velocity and a shorter break than a curveball.

As far as the pitching grip, first, place the long seam of the baseball between the index-and middle-fingers, and the thumb on the opposite seam underneath the baseball. Some pitchers will place their index-finger along the seam of the ball, since you want to release the ball off the index-finger and not the middle-finger like for a curveball. The key with the slider is to hold the ball slightly off-center, on the outer third of the ball, like the grip pictured above.

Your wrist should be slightly cocked to the throwing hand’s thumb side, and with a solid wrist snap the ball should come off the index finger on the thumb side. See the other graphic and the arrow for where the pitch will head. But remember that you’re not casting your hand and arm downward like with the topspin needed on a curveball.

With the curveball, you want to release the ball off your middle finger, as explained above, but as mentioned, with a slider it should come off your index finger. Also, you’re not throwing the ball with a downward twist to the arm, like the curveball, you’re throwing like you would a four-seam fastball, so don’t make the mistake of throwing “around” the ball.

When a pitcher throws “around” the ball, he’s putting extra pressure on his pitching arm, and this is a great way to muck up your elbow and shoulder. You want to throw the ball normally, and the hand placement, and slightly cocked wrist, allows the spin which provides movement without sacrificing as much velocity; only the four-seam and two-seam fastballs generally travel faster than a good slider. This means a little less movement than a curveball, but more speed on the pitch without it being a straight fastball.

The Changeup

The changeup is an off-speed pitch that tricks the batter into swinging too soon. It’s designed to resemble a fastball, but with a lot less velocity. Whereas with a fastball, you want the ball to zoom past the batter before he can get his swing around, with the changeup, you want the batter swinging ahead of the ball’s arrival. First, we’ll start with the basic circle changeup grip, which the majority of pitchers use. Then, we’ll move on to the three-finger changeup for those with smaller hands.

Baseball Pitching Grips - ChangeupsPhoto Credit: Toto-artist / Wikimedia Commons

Circle Changeup / Three-Finger Changeup

With the circle change-up, make an OK sign with your thumb and index-finger, so it resembles a small circle. Then center the baseball in your other three fingers (index, ring and pinkie) deep in your palm so it rests snugly against the circle you’ve created with the thumb and index-finger. For a three-finger changeup, center your ring-, index- and middle-fingers on top of the baseball, and place your thumb and pinkie under the baseball so the ball is against your palm. Some pitchers will have their pinkie and thumb touching under the ball, but you should practice whatever feels most comfortable because the changeup – perhaps more than any other pitch described – is a finesse pitch, so you want to be at ease holding the ball.

You should throw both these pitches with the same arm speed as a fastball, but the difference is the ball rests further back on the hand with a changeup. When you’re doing either your circle or your three-finger pitch grip, you want to make sure it’s snugly against your palm, to create more friction and slow down the velocity despite using the same arm speed as when you throw a fastball.

The best “mechanics” for a changeup involve what’s called “pronating” your hand, which is almost like giving a thumb’s down to someone standing directly in front of you. For those throwing the circle changeup, you’ll want the circle (or some beginners just use a “c”) to be pointed at the catcher after pronating during your normal pitching motion. For the three-finger changeup, your thumb should be pointed at the ground as you’re pronating during your normal pitching motion. Pronating during your delivery slows the ball down even on top of the speed lost after the increased friction of the grip. Plus, it can sometimes give the pitch a slight fade to the pitching hand side of the plate.

A lot of beginners will throw the changeup with the same motion as the fastball, but they’ll slow down their arm speed. This isn’t going to fool anyone. You need to throw it just like a fastball – —with the same arm speed. The circle or three-finger grip increases the friction on the ball, and pronating at the end of the throwing motion slows it down even further. For both the three-finger and the circle changeup, you need to remember to pronate as you’re finishing the pitch; so the circle should be pointed towards the catcher, or in the case of three-finger changeup, the thumb should be pointed down towards the ground.

If you grip the ball right, and throw it just like you would a fastball, except pronating the arm at the end, you’ll have an off-speed pitch sure to have batters hitting nothing but air. Simply gripping the ball correctly and pronating doesn’t matter if you’re just lightly tossing it to the catcher; you have to appear to be throwing a fastball with the same arm speed, but you’re actually throwing a changeup. Trust in the mechanics you’ve practiced.

There were many different pitches we weren’t able to cover, but we’ll leave those to another time. Use these baseball pitching grips to bring your game to the next level this season, and let us know in the comments or @DegreeMen on Twitter if you have any questions.

Cover Photo Credit: koocbor /

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