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The Best Pitches for Beginning Pitchers

March 9, 2013

Many beginning pitchers believe that they need to be able to throw a lot of pitches, or at least a curve ball, in order to be effective.   That is simply not the case.  It is possible to be very effective with just knowing 2 or 3 pitches, even without a curve ball.  In fact, throwing a curve ball at a young age can be damaging to the arm.  All you need to throw are fastballs (2-seam and/or 4-seam) and a change-up.  The key is to change speeds and locations.  If a pitcher can keep the hitter off balance, that pitcher will be successful.

The first pitch that should be learned is a fastball.  There are two common types of fastballs: a 2-seam fastball and a 4-seam fastball.  The 4-seam fastball is usually taught first because it has a straight trajectory.  The pitcher holds the ball with the index finger, middle finger, and thumb.  The index finger and middle finger are perpendicular to the seams where the seams are the closest.  This causes both of the fingers to touch two of the seams, so there are four places where the fingers connect with the seams.  That is why it is called a 4-seam fastball.  It is thrown hard and straight.

Once the pitcher can throw the 4-seamer, it is time to learn the 2-seamer.  It is held in a similar fashion, except that the fingers are parallel to the seams.  This means that one finger is on one seam and the other is on another seam.  Therefore, there are two contact lines, giving it the name 2-seam fastball.  This gives the ball a different spin which causes it to move a little bit from left to right.  It does not have very much motion compared to a curve ball, but it is different than the 4-seam fastball.  That difference is something that the batter has to consider when swinging.

The third pitch is a change-up.  This pitch is thrown with the same arm movement and arm speed, but the ball speed is significantly slower.  This disrupts the hitter’s timing, causing them to swing early.  There are many ways to hold the ball to get this effect.  The most effective way for a young pitcher or one with small hands is to use three fingers instead of two.  A good change-up will look like a fastball coming out of the pitcher’s hand, only to arrive at the plate a split second later than expected.

You may be asking, “Why not a curve ball?”  Well, at this point, it is more important for a pitcher to learn how to pitch and how to throw strikes.  They will need to improve their mechanics and build their strength and velocity.  Also, for younger pitchers, it can wreak havoc on their arms, causing injuries that could otherwise be avoided and may even be permanent.  Once a pitcher has mastered the fastball and change-up, curve balls can be added.  But for now, these three pitches should be sufficient.

The pitcher will need to be able to throw all three of these pitches where they want to.  Being able to pitch inside, outside, high, and low at any time will keep the hitter guessing.  Mixing all three pitches without becoming predictable will also make it hard for the hitter.  The secret of pitching is not letting the batter know where the ball will be next or how fast it is coming.  These three pitches, along with practice, will help any pitcher be successful.

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  1. How to Coach Youth Pitchers « DJ's Baseball Blog

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