There’s a lot more to a baseball pitch than simply throwing a ball over the plate. Pitchers can manipulate the ball rise, turn or sink at the last second to challenge the batters.
Unlike 50 Cent…
The movement of a baseball through the air is due to three things: The pitcher’s arm (moving it forward), gravity (moving it down), and air resistance from the spinning seams (which causes side-to-side, sinking and “rising” motion).
Pitches differ depending on the hand’s placement on the ball. Check out this breakdown:
This basic pitch in baseball reaches speeds of over 90 mph in the major leagues. The first two fingers rest just on the seams and the pitcher releases the pitch with the palm pretty much facing the batter, producing maximum velocity. This two-seam fastball and produces a sidespin that causes the ball to cut in as it approaches the batter. Despite the movement, the basic idea of a fastball is to overpower the batter, so he swings late and misses.
A pitcher can create movement and variation in speed depending on how he releases the ball. Off-speed pitches like the sinker are released with the palm of the hand facing away from the pitcher. This causes the ball to sink as it approaches the batter. Many times with this pitch, the batter swings over the ball and misses or hit a ground ball rather than a line drive.
Like a sinker, a changeup is an off-speed pitch, but now the palm is turned even further out. Although the pitcher throws with the same arm speed for all pitches, off-speed pitches are thrown with less velocity by pressing the baseball deep into his palm. Less finger contact means less torque and less velocity.
*Full Disclaimer: This Gif is actually from Pitch Perfect, but hey, we wanted to make sure you were still paying attention.
This is another off-speed pitch that not only sinks, but moves from the pitcher’s left side to the right as it approaches the batter. The palm is again pronated away from the pitcher, even further than the sinker and changeup. As the pitcher releases the ball, he twists the ball like a corkscrew. A batter will see the ball break away or break in depending on if they are batting righty or lefty.
Turning the palm in the opposite direction produces a series of pitches known as breaking pitches. The further the palm is rotated toward the pitcher, the more movement. The first stop over from the fastball is the cutter, which is like a fastball, only it breaks in ever so slightly and is generally thrown a little slower than a fastball.
Basically the same thing as a cutter, but a slider is thrown with less velocity and the palm is rotated further toward the pitcher. The slower speed means there’s more time for the ball to move from one side of the plate to the other.
These are the pitches that appear to arc up toward the batter’s chest before dropping into the strike zone. For this pitch, the pitcher turns his palm in so far that his hand looks like the letter “C.” He then flicks his wrist as he releases the ball creating topspin. The more topspin, the greater the air pressure difference between the top and bottom of the ball, and the greater the break.
So the next time your favorite hitter has a big swing and miss, cut him some slack. These pitches are no joke!