[LEARNING IN 6 MINUTES] Quick understanding of fast ball, breaking ball and change-up ball.


<<The estimated reading time : 6 mins>>

Dear baseball lovers, when you’re watching baseball games, anchor may frequently mentioned about various types of balls during the game, such as sinker ball , slider ball, curve ball and even magic ball. Do you feel confused sometimes? Will you have less fun when you are lack of the knowledge about those common facts.

There are many kinds of baseball pitching, and the following is organized by STRIKE: 9 of common baseball pitches.

This article is divided into three sections for the fast ball, breaking ball, and change-up ball.

We hope that everyone can have a better understanding of baseball pitches after reading reading this article.



  • Why fastball matters?
  • The interesting facts between pitcher and batter.
  • The display of most types of pitches.
    1. Fast ball
      1. Four Seam Fastball
      2. Two Seam Fastball
      3. Cutter
      4. Sinking Fastball
      5. Split-Finger Fastball
    2. Breaking ball
      1. Slider ball
      2. Curve ball
    3. Change-up ball
      1. Circle Change-up ball
      2. Forkball


The grip of four-seam-fastball


Why Fastball matters?

It is well-known that the most common type of baseball pitches is four-seam-fastball. For the four-seam-fastball, a pitcher is normally hold the stitching of the baseball by the index finger and the middle finger. With a coordinated sequence of body movements and muscular forces, he/she throws the baseball in the most natural mechanism.  It is also the most basic type for a pitcher.


Therefore, the hitter has pretty much high chance to deal with fastball either during daily training or the match. So when we talk to the fastball, there are only a few significant issues would affect the quality of the fastball. Speed and Spin Rates. If you can throw a fastball with a different flight path at this time, it will be more difficult for the hitter to hit your ball.


It is popularly said that “A good pitcher should have a high-quality fastball, in this way, your change-up ball will be more powerful”.


The main reason is that when a pitcher is facing to a batter, the pitcher usually pitches fastball. In the other words, the batter is really familiar with the flight path of fastball. If a pitcher could applied other type of pitches, like change-up ball, at the right timing, it could make a different flight path. In this way, it usually makes a batter “swing and miss”.


The interesting facts between pitcher and batter

"When you expect a 90 mph fastball, it usually comes a 75 mph slider ball"

Such interaction usually comes up between pitcher and batter. If a pitcher can pitch many different types of baseball, it can bring more fun for a match. Why does it always have fun between pitcher and batter? We can discuss it from the batter’s view.


Theoretically, it takes 0.7 secs to swing a bat to the hit zone. And for a 95 mph high fastball, the flight time is only 0.4 secs. Therefore, a batter has to guess what type of this pitch after quickly observing the movement of the pitcher, and deciding whether to hit this ball at the same time.



The pitcher’s released movement when throwing a high fastball 



The pitcher is hiding the ball when releasing a pitch


But if a pitcher can hide the ball when starting a pitch? The batter would have more difficulties to judge the flight path of this pitch, and it is more difficult to hit the ball well. However, this statement only applied for a pitcher who can pitch a  95 mph fastball. When your fastball drops to 60 mph, the flight time simply takes 0.7 secs. It is easier for a batter to decide how and when to hit this ball. No wonder, my fastball is easily to be hit (hahaha)!


The display of most types of pitches


Speed, spin rate and trajectory of nine common baseball types.


 Grips of seven common baseball types 



MLB usually called the pitch which is over  87 mph as fastball, which including four-seam-fastball, two-seam-fastball, cutter, sinker, splitter, and etc.


Four-seam-fastball, which is also called straight ball. It is the most popular pitch type for the baseball player. Its power is dominated by velocity. Its backspin rotation yields the direction opposite to that of the ball travel. Due to Magnus force, the movement when flying into the strike zone is little to none.


STRIKE APP display when pitching a four-seam-fastball.


The four-seam-fastball flight path for a 93 mph speed with 2460 rpm rotation speed.


  • For a speed of 90 mph four-seam-fastball without rotation, it will drop about 23.6 inches when flying into the plate.
  • For a speed of 90 mph four-seam-fastball with 2100 rpm rotation speed, it will drop only 7.8 inches when flying into the plate.

Take Aroldis Chapman as an example, who is the record holder for the fastest fastball in the MLB. His average pitch speed is 105 kph, and average spin rate is 2546 rpm.

And you know what? In the 2015-2017 statcast analysis system,  there is a “Chapman filter” to filter out the Champman’s data. Because his data is too good to make other players’ data not easy to be studied.

The below figure shows that top 30 fastest pitches in 2015 MLB are all come from Aroldis Chapman!



The great record of the fastest pitches made by Aroldis Chapman


Two-seam-fastball, is also belong to a type of fastball. The only difference is that it moves on a two-seamer. It has more movement than a four-seam-fastball.


STRIKE APP display when pitching a two-seam-fastball.


Many pitchers, when they become professional, will adopt two-seam-fastball as his straight ball. One of the reason is that the grip of two-seam-fastball is similar to to the sinker and cutter. Hitters usually guess the type of the pitch from the seamer. Because the seamer of four-seam-fastball is obviously different from that of  sinker and cutter, it is easy for a batter to tell from the fastball and breaking ball. However, when it goes to a two-seam-fastball, it becomes more difficult to guess the pitch type for a batter.




The batter view of a four-seam-fastball



The batter view of a two-seam-fastball, cutter and sinker



The flight path for a two-seam-fastball



Cutter is pretty similar to fastball. It is a common type of fastball. For a RHP, it will shift to left side when it goes to the plate. MLB statcast classifies the cutter as a fastball, and even some MLB players would adopt the cutter ball as straight ball. The grip of a cutter ball is a two-seamer. It takes spin mainly by the hook of middle finger.

STRIKE APP display when pitching a cutter ball.



The flight path for a cutter ball



Sinker ball is a type of fastball which has significant downward and horizontal movement. If you throw a two-seamer that has significant sinking action, it will call as a sinker. To pitch a sinker, hook index finger along over the closest seam. If the ball spins in a way of topspin, the Magnus force would make almost completely downward.

STRIKE APP display when pitching a sinker ball.


The flight path for a sinker ball

 Split-Finger Fastball

It is firstly pithed by Roger Craig in 1950-1960. Its speed could be as fast as straight ball, but with less spin rate. Therefore, it can make a small movement when flying into plate. The split-finger-fastball is called by the way of grip. The pitcher puts the index and middle finger on different sides of the ball.

A fastball is usually having a speed of 90 mph with 2300 rpm rotation speed. As for split-finger-fastball, it usually has a speed of 87 mph with 1700 rpm. Therefore, it will yield a 6 inches dropping. In this way, a batter is more easily swing and miss.


STRIKE APP display when pitching a split-finger fastball.



The flight path for a split-finger-fastball



Breaking ball

The breaking ball is referred to a pitch where flight path is prominently different from that of four-seam-fastball.  The major weapon is the change of flight path and speed variation. For a MLB baseball player, it can be up to 5-8 mph speed variation from a same pitcher. The speed variation could yield to a different movement. One can see that player A’s breaking ball is sometimes faster than B’s fast ball from the MLB statcast.

Common breaking ball types are slider, curve and etc.



STRIKE APP display when pitching a slider ball.



The flight path of a slider ball


 Curve ball

STRIKE APP display when pitching a curve ball.



The flight path of curve ball


Change-up ball

The change-up ball is pretty similar to a fastball. The main difference lies in the dropping step when the ball fly into the strike zone. The prominent dropping range is resulted from the speed and spin rate of the ball and the effect from Magnus force.


Circle Change-Up

STRIKE APP display when pitching a circle change-up ball.


Fork ball

STRIKE APP display when pitching a fork ball.

The flight path of a change-up ball


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