Different Types Of Baseball Pitches And How To Identify Them

Mastering the art of throwing the perfect pitch is the secret weapon of every good baseball pitcher. But winning the game isn’t always about throwing the same baseball pitch with impeccable accuracy and speed. Most of the time, it’s about identifying the most suitable type of pitch to throw at that moment, as it is all part of a player’s strategy. 

That said, it’s beneficial for pitchers to learn more than one type of baseball pitch if they want to gain a competitive advantage against their opponents. But as anyone would expect, adding another technique to one’s repertoire isn’t so easy. And so, the key is to go back to the basics if you want to improve your gameplay. 

Discover the different types of baseball pitches and learn how each of them can help you plan a strategy and ultimately, help you win the game. If you’re a baseball pitcher who’s looking for more ways to level up your game, this article is a definite must-read. 

The Different Baseball Pitches And How To Identify Them

How Many Different Baseball Pitches Are There? 

The short answer is, there’s possibly an unlimited number of pitch variations out there. Although there’s a list of standard baseball pitches in the rule book, it’s also important to note that a pitcher can modify each type. An experienced baseball pitcher can change up the movement or velocity of his pitch, allowing him more control over his game strategy. 

But before you can go and add a personal touch to your pitch of choice, you have to learn the standard types of baseball pitches first. To do this, you must have a skilled eye to help you identify the different types. But don’t worry, it’s not that difficult to start training even as a beginner. Here’s a guide on how to identify basic baseball pitches: 

How To Identify Baseball Pitches 

The different types of baseball pitches can overwhelm anyone, especially for those who are just starting. But don’t let the long list keep you from improving your skills just yet. Allow us to let you in on a secret: even a professional MLB player will only use a selection of those pitches. 

With that in mind, perhaps one of the best ways to learn how to identify baseball pitches is to study your favorite pitchers. Professional MLB pitchers are most likely to have a type of pitch attached to their reputation. So the next question is, where do you begin, and where should you direct your attention? 

For starters, here are three main factors to keep an eye on:

  1. Speed – refers to how fast the ball is moving
  2. Movement – identifies the general direction of the ball
  3. Break – describes the sudden shift in the ball’s direction

You can learn a lot about baseball pitches with these three factors alone. But if you’re willing to get more technical, you may also want to pay attention to grip, ball rotation, and even the ball’s point of release, to name a few. As you advance your skills, you’ll gain more knowledge about how baseball players execute each type of pitch. 

So now you’ve learned what makes each pitch type different from one another, let’s move on and talk about terminologies.

Standard Baseball Pitches And Their Variations 

As mentioned earlier, there’s a handful of standard baseball pitches out there. To help get you acquainted with the characteristics of each pitch type and their proper names, we’ve made a comprehensive list below: 

Fastball

The fastball is the most common type of baseball pitch, and it is often the first type that pitchers master before moving on to learn a different kind of pitch. In a nutshell, a fastball is a hard direct pitch targeted towards the plate. 

And contrary to what most people think, fastballs do not require a specific speed for a baseball pitch to be considered a fastball – it’s simply the hardest and fastest pitch a player can throw. 

However, as competition between professional players becomes more brutal, the standards that qualify for a fastball have also changed. As of this writing, the ideal speed of a fastball in the MLB marks 100 miles per hour (mph). Now, apart from speed, fastballs also come in a couple of variations such as: 

Four-Seam Fastball (FS)

The Four-Seam Fastball is the most commonly used pitch type among all the different fastballs. It is possibly the straightest and fastest pitch a player can throw and is considered one of the easiest to place as it does not require a lot of movement. 

The main goal of the Four-Seam Fastball is to overpower the hitter at a speed that aims to reach the strike zone as fast as possible. When done correctly, the hitter would then end up missing the ball because of a late swing. 

Two-Seam Fastball (FT)

Another frequently used pitch in baseball is the Two-Seam Fastball. Like the Four-Seam Fastball, the Two-Seam pitch variation is one of the fastest pitches on the list. The differences between the two boil down to two factors: velocity and movement. 

Compared to the Four-Seam Fastball, Two-Seam Fastballs are a tad bit slower, and they also require more movement than the former. Another essential thing to note is that the direction of a Two-Seamer’s movement also depends on which side of the arm the pitcher uses. With that said, a right-handed baseball pitcher will most likely throw a two-seamer with a rightward movement. With that in mind, this loophole could be a disadvantage as the hitter can almost always anticipate the direction of your Two-Seamer. 

Cutter (FC)

Another version of a fastball is the Cutter. There aren’t a lot of MLB pitchers who use this pitch type, the ones who do often use this move as their primary move. This fastball variation moves away from the pitcher’s arm-side upon reaching the home plate. And just as its name suggests, this fastball is known to break bats when done effectively. 

To better illustrate how this works, imagine a right-handed pitcher and a left-handed hitter or vice versa. If the pitcher throws an effective cutter, the ball will move very quickly towards the hitter’s hands. And if the hitter swings, the ball will most likely hit the handle of his bat, causing it to potentially break. 

Splitter (FS)

The Splitter, also known as the “split-finger fastball,” takes its name after the way a pitcher holds his grip when executing this move. At a closer inspection, you’ll see that a pitcher’s fingers are “split” on opposite sides of the ball when throwing a Splitter hence, its name. 

Many think that calling a Splitter a variation of a fastball is a misnomer, especially when thinking about how little it resembles all the other fastball types. Not only does it have a lower velocity, but the Splitter is also known to drop as it reaches the home plate. This break makes it very different from the linear and direct approach of the Four-Seamer and the Two-Seamer. 

So why is it on this list? Well, one intriguing thing about the Splitter is that it looks like a regular fastball until it makes that sudden shift. Although it sounds like the kind of pitch that could catch a hitter off guard, we don’t see many Splitters in the big games. 

Despite being a relatively strategic move, the Splitter is unfortunately known to be quite harmful to a pitcher’s arms. Apart from health reasons, many baseball experts also believe that throwing too many Splitters can reduce a pitcher’s regular fastball velocity. 

Forkball (FO)

Like the Splitter, the Forkball is another fastball that makes a surprising break as it reaches the home plate. It is one of the rarest pitches in baseball; it is even more uncommon than the Splitter. But it deserves to be on this list because of its distinctive and dramatic downward break. The Forkball is a perfect example of how pitchers can modify a fastball to their advantage. 

Did you know that the Forkball was first an alternative to a curveball? The pitcher who invented this pitch, Bullet Joe Bush, developed the Forkball to replace his curveball due to arm fatigue. Instead of putting pressure on the arm, the key to executing an effective Forkball is through the wrists. And although this move is an excellent variation to relieve tension in the arms, it’s important to note that it is still one of the more strenuous pitches to throw. 

Breaking Balls

Another standard baseball pitch is called the breaking ball. In a nutshell, a breaking ball is a type of baseball pitch that changes direction as it reaches the batter. A breaking ball could either have a downward or sideways motion and sometimes, even a combination of both. Read on below to find out more about the different variations of breaking balls. 

Curveball (CU)

Curveball is easily one of the most popular among all baseball pitches. If you’ve ever watched a movie with a baseball game in it, you might have come across a scene where the catcher puts down his two fingers as a signal for the pitcher to throw a curveball. 

Apart from this, have you also ever heard of the idiom “to throw a curve”? Well, as you might have guessed, this well-known phrase came from the concept of Curveball. True to its meaning, Curveball’s goal is to trick the other person with an unexpected move or a change of direction in particular. That said, if you want to throw off a hitter, a Curveball should be one of your go-to options. 

So how does a Curveball work? Simply put, a Curveball is a commonly used breaking pitch, and it is most effective when the batter is expecting a fastball. Because Curveballs are slower than a fastball, the hitter will prep himself to swing earlier than needed resulting in a miss. With that in mind, this move is often regarded as a must-have weapon for a pitcher. 

Slider (SL)

Another type of breaking ball designed to trick the hitter is the Slider. Much like the Curveball, the sudden shift of a Slider’s direction keeps the hitter off-balance. 

Many people often mistake a Slider for a Curveball; even a trained eye might mistake one for the other. However, there are a couple of significant differences between the two. For example, Curveballs tend to be slower, while Sliders are thrown faster with more velocity. And although Sliders have more speed than Curveballs, they do not have as much movement as the latter. 

Another critical thing to note is that Sliders are slightly more deceptive than Curveballs. As mentioned earlier, a Curveball works best when the opponent is expecting a fastball. But there is absolutely no guarantee that they are prepping for a fastball in the first place. On the other hand, a Slider closely resembles a fastball making this move capable of fooling even the most instinctive hitters. 

Screwball (SC)

The Screwball is one pitch type you would not often see in a game compared to the other breaking ball variations. It is because this breaking ball is one of the most damaging to a pitcher’s arms. But despite the dangers that this move entails, the Screwball is undoubtedly one of the more impressive breaking balls out there. 

One of the most notable characteristics of a Screwball is its ability to move in the opposite direction. No matter what type of breaking ball pitch it may resemble, a Screwball is guaranteed to move the opposite way making it one of the trickier moves for a hitter to anticipate. 

Changeups (CH)

The Changeup is another standard baseball pitch designed for those who want to master the art of deception. Like the breaking ball, a Changeup’s goal is to make the hitter miss or cause a weak contact. Interestingly, there was a time in baseball history when breaking balls were considered unfair thus, making them an illegal move – and that’s how Changeups came to be. 

Now, you might be wondering, what is then the significant difference between a breaking ball and a Changeup if their ultimate goal is to trick the opponent anyway? The only difference between the two is that the Changeup does not focus on the direction of the ball’s movement but rather on its speed. 

To put it briefly, a Changeup is one of the slowest pitch types out there. At first, it may look like a fastball but without the trademark accelerated velocity. When executed correctly, the Changeup would cause a hitter to swing his bat earlier than required, thinking they are about to face a fastball’s quick and direct movements. 

Now, a Changeup may seem like another perfect move – and it is, depending on your strategy. But like any other pitch type out there, the Changeup also has its cons. The only downside to this move is that if and when a hitter has identified a Changeup coming his way, it won’t make him a lot of effort to hit because it is the slowest among other types of pitches. 

What Pitches Are Illegal In Baseball? 

Now that you’ve learned some of the most common baseball pitches out there, you might be wondering, what makes a pitch illegal? As you might have noticed from the information above, some types of pitches are detrimental to a pitcher’s arm. 

One might expect these types of pitches to be illegal for the sake of the pitcher’s health. But for this section, we will focus on the qualifiers set by the game’s rule book. 

Two common scenarios would result in an illegal pitch. First, the pitcher delivered the pitch without his pivot foot contacting the pitcher’s plate. And secondly, when the runners are on base, also termed as a quick return pitch. 

Let’s Recap: What Are The Different Baseball Pitches? 

There are unlimited possibilities when it comes to baseball pitch types. It’s because each type can be easily modified by the pitcher, resulting in a vast number of variations. But don’t get overwhelmed, thinking that you need to master all of them to become a successful pitcher. Even the pros only have a handful of pitches in their bag of tricks. 

If you’re a beginner deciding which pitches to master, it may be challenging to differentiate one type from the other. However, three central components can help you identify a pitch type: speed, direction, movement, and break. Speed refers to how fast a ball moves. The movement talks about the general direction of the ball’s movements, while the break is the sudden shift in the ball’s direction if any. 

It’s important to note that it can be challenging to learn new baseball pitches, especially if you’ve accustomed yourself to a particular technique. Some types of pitches may even affect the way you throw the pitches you’ve learned in the past. 

However, all hope is not lost. As long as you familiarize yourself with the different types of pitches and discover which ones can help you advance your gameplay, you are sure to develop a sound strategy. The key is to study up and choose wisely. 

Scroll to Top