Getting a grip

We all watch pitchers throw the ball, making it dart down or away from hitters, keeping batters off balance and maybe striking them out but what are we seeing?

The pitcher has a different grip for each pitch and the grips differ slightly but are generally the same, though how an individual throws a change-up or breaking ball may vary from hurler to hurler.

Let us take a look at a few pitching grips and discuss what is happening with each ball thrown during a game.

Four-seam fastball

4seamThe most common pitch used by pitchers at every level is held with the index and middle fingertips directly on the “horseshoe”  seam of the baseball.

The thumb should be directly beneath the baseball, resting on the smooth leather.

This pitch should be held gently in the fingertips so it can generate more speed once it leaves the hand.

The four seamer is a straight fastball with the least amount of movement of any pitch.

Two-seam fastball

2seamA two seam fastball is gripped slightly tighter and deeper in the throwing-hand than the four-seam fastball and moves more than a four-seam fastball.

The  index and middle fingers are placed directly on top of the narrow seams of the baseball, though as you can see in the picture the pitcher can grip it slightly off center to increase movement.

A firmer grip causes the ball to change direction, running in  to the throwing hand side of the plate.

Two seamers are generally slightly slower pitches than four seamers because they are being held tighter and moving more.


changeChange-ups are thrown with the same mechanics as a fastball, confusing the hitter as the pitch speed does not match the arm speed.

There are two types of change-ups generally thrown though “palm balls” are sometimes used but I doubt very much in high school.

The first type of change, shown here, is a circle change and requires bigger hands to properly grip.

The pitcher literally makes a circle with his  hand and then centers the ball between the three other fingers.

This pitch is thrown with the same arm speed and body mechanics as a fastball, only slightly turning the ball over by throwing the circle to the target which  reduces speed and gives the pitch a fading movement.

The second type of change-up is the three finger change and is generally the first non-fastball learned by young pitchers.

To throw a three-finger changeup, center the ring, middle, and index fingers on top of the baseball  with the thumb and pinky finger placed on the smooth leather directly underneath the baseball.


sliderA slider is gripped like a two-seam fastball, but held slightly off-center and with the fingers closer together.

Pitchers want  to manipulate the pitch to come off of the thumb-side of the index finger.

Most good slider pitchers grip the outer-third of the baseball and cock their wrist slightly, to their throwing hand’s thumb-side upon release of the pitch.

The key with the slider is to hold the ball slightly off-center and the pitcher wants to snap their wrist when releasing the ball, creating spin on the ball.

  • The other main pitch used by high school pitchers is the curveball which is generally slower than the slider but is designed to break down and away.

A few pitchers also use a knuckle-curve that moves even more than a tradtional curveball.




Scott Ericson