Pitching Easy Pointer #1 — Jan 31, 2024
Finding the right grip on your off-speed pitches is a personal issue. Everyone has a favorite.
Pitching, as much as coaches will lead you to believe otherwise, is about ruining hitters timing and making it difficult to square up a pitch.
The best way to disrupt timing is to change speeds, another is to alter your pitching motion. The second is not recommended without a lot of practice. After all it is hard enough trying to perfect one repeatable delivery.
Let's talk more about changing speeds - throwing a changeup, curveball, slider, splitter, or some other "invented" pitch. I have seen some unique grips that are hard to copy. If it is hard to teach, it must be just as hard to hit! To those guys, I say use that pitch, be known for that pitch, and challenge guys with that pitch - but - it has to be consistently good. A 75% strike frequency is a good goal to shoot for in order to use it effectively.
How do you grip it? There is no single best way. Bodies, hands, and fingers are different. What you need to remember is to:
- Keep the same arm speed on fastball and off-speed. It is the most common mistake made by pitchers - slowing the arm down. This is an easy read for a hitter. If you relax your legs on the off speed stuff while maintaining arm speed, velocity will more easily be down. Think like you are pitching on thin ice and you don't want fall through.
- Strong fingers on the ball, plus a relaxed arm and body, will give the optimum spin on your breakers. This is why some pitchers have been (illegally) known to sneak pine tar in their glove - to make the ball spin tighter. The ball should come out "on its own". In other words, hold on to it and let your body throw it.
- Wrist movement should be minimal on your off-speed pitches. Think like you are throwing with a stiff wrist and you will notice that it is easier to control the break and movement on your pitches. It is a feel thing, so give yourself some flat ground time as you get used to effectively rotating your torso in one piece. The arm is "going for the ride".
- Finger pressure is a personal feel. Some feel the pointer finger helps on a curve, others say middle finger, and others say it is equal pressure. Same idea with the slider. On a changeup, some pitchers "grip and rip" with a tight squeeze, others are loosely holding the ball and thinking about "light and quick" arm action to deceive the hitter. Let trial and error be your coach.
In the end, you need to listen and trust yourself when developing your arsenal of pitches. Have a coach or teammate work with you and share feedback but you know best what works and what gives you confidence.
You want to feel like "you can't wait" to put this guy away with a good change or breaker. It takes repetition and adjustments. These adjustments can change from year to year, depending on how your body changes, if at all. Don't worry if you have to make an adjustment to a grip that was successful for you the previous season. Be open to try new grips and keep reinventing yourself. It will help give you a long successful pitching career.