According to major league baseball rules, the top of the pitching rubber is to be no higher than 10 inches above home plate.
In baseball, a pitch is the act of throwing a baseball toward home plate to start a play. The term comes from the Knickerbocker Rules. Originally, the ball had to be literally "pitched" underhand, as with pitching horseshoes. Overhand throwing was not allowed until 1884.
The biomechanics of pitching have been studied extensively. The phases of throwing include windup, early cocking, late cocking, early acceleration, late acceleration, deceleration, and follow-through.
Pitchers throw a variety of pitches, each of which has a slightly different velocity, trajectory, movement, hand position, wrist position and/or arm angle. These variations are introduced to confuse the batter in various ways, and ultimately aid the defensive team in getting the batter or baserunners out. To obtain variety, and therefore enhance defensive baseball strategy, the pitcher manipulates the grip on the ball at the point of release. Variations in the grip cause the seams to "catch" the air differently, thereby changing the trajectory of the ball, making it harder for the batter to hit.
The selection of which pitch to use can depend on a wide variety of factors including, but not limited to, the type of hitter who is being faced; whether there are any base runners; how many outs have been made in the inning; and the current score.
The responsibility for selecting the type of pitch was traditionally made by the catcher by relaying hand signals to the pitcher with the fingers, usually 1 finger for fastball and/or the pitcher's best pitch, with the pitcher having the option to ask for another selection by shaking his head. However, current form is to have the manager or a coach relay the pitch selection to the catcher, via secret hand signals to prevent the opposing team from having the advantage of knowing what the next pitch will be. Starting pitchers typically throw more pitches than relievers.
The fastball is the most common pitch in baseball, and most pitchers have some form of a fastball in their arsenal. Most pitchers throw four-seam fastballs. It is basically a pitch thrown very fast, generally as hard as a given pitcher can throw while maintaining control. Some variations involve movement or breaking action, some do not and are simply straight, high-speed pitches. While throwing the fastball it is very important to have proper mechanics, because this increases the chance of getting the ball to its highest velocity, making it difficult for the opposing player to hit the pitch. The cut fastball, split-finger fastball, and forkball are variations on the fastball with extra movement, and are sometimes called sinking-fastballs because of the trajectories. The most common fastball pitches are:
Well-thrown breaking balls have movement, usually sideways or downward. The notion of a pitched ball's trajectory moving is actually incorrect; a ball "moves" due to the changes in the pressure of the air surrounding the ball as a result of the kind of pitch thrown. Therefore, the ball keeps "moving" in the path of least resistance, which constantly changes. For example, the spin from a properly thrown slider (thrown by a right-handed pitcher) results in lower air pressure on the pitcher's left side, resulting in the ball "sliding" to the left (from the pitcher's perspective). The goal is usually to make the ball difficult to hit or confusing to batters. Most breaking balls are considered off-speed pitches. The most common breaking pitches are:
The changeup is the staple off-speed pitch, usually thrown to look like a fastball but arriving much slower to the plate. Its reduced speed coupled with its deceptive delivery is meant to confuse the batter's timing. It is meant to be thrown the same as a fastball, but simply farther back in the hand, which makes it release from the hand slower but still retaining the look of a fastball. A changeup is generally thrown 8–15 miles per hour slower than a fastball. If thrown correctly, the changeup will confuse the batter because the human eye cannot discern that the ball is coming significantly slower until it is around 30 feet from the plate. For example, a batter swings at the ball as if it was a 90 mph fastball but it is coming at 75 mph which means he is swinging too early to hit the ball well, making the changeup very effective. The most common changeups are:
Other pitches which are or have been used in baseball are:
In baseball, hit by pitch (HBP), or hit batsman (HB), is a batter or his equipment (other than his bat) being hit in some part of his body by a pitch from the pitcher. A hit batsman is awarded first base, provided that (in the plate umpire's judgment) he made an honest effort to avoid the pitch.
Per baseball official rule 6.08(b), a batter becomes a baserunner and is awarded first base when he or his equipment (except for his bat):
If all these conditions are met, the ball is dead, and other baserunners advance if they are forced to vacate their base by the batter taking first. Rule 5.09(a) further clarifies that a hit by pitch is also called when a pitch touches a batter's clothing.
In the case where a batter swings and the pitch hits him anyway, the ball is dead and a strike is called. If the batter does not attempt to avoid the pitch, he is not awarded first base, and the pitch is ruled either a strike if in the strike zone or a ball if out of the strike zone. In practice, umpires rarely make this call. Perhaps the most famous instance of a non-hit by pitch was on May 31, 1968, when Don Drysdale hit Dick Dietz with a pitch that would have forced in a run and ended Drysdale's scoreless innings streak at 44. Umpire Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Dietz made no effort to avoid the pitch; Dietz proceeded to fly out, and Drysdale's scoreless streak continued to a then-record 58 innings.
A hit by pitch can also be called on a pitch that has touched the ground. Such a bouncing pitch is like any other, and if a batter is hit by such a pitch, he will be awarded first unless he made no attempt to avoid it.
A batter hit by a pitch is not credited with a hit or at bat, but is credited with a time on base and a plate appearance; therefore, being hit by a pitch does not increase or decrease a player's batting average but does increase his on-base percentage. A batter hit by a pitch with the bases loaded is also credited with an RBI per MLB rule 10.04(a)(2). A pitch ruled a hit by pitch is recorded as a ball in the pitcher's pitch count, since by definition the ball must be outside the strike zone and not have been swung at.
The rule awarding first base to a batter hit by a pitch was instituted in 1887.
Inside pitching is a common and legal tactic in baseball, and many players make use of brushback pitches, or pitches aimed underneath the chin, commonly referred to as 'chin music', to keep players away from the plate. "Headhunter" is a common term for pitchers who have a reputation for throwing these kinds of pitches. However, throwing at a batter intentionally is illegal, and can be very dangerous. When an umpire suspects that a pitcher has thrown at a batter intentionally, but is not certain, a warning is issued to the pitcher and the managers of both teams. From that point on, any pitch thrown at a batter can cause the pitcher and the manager (if believed to have ordered the pitch) of the offending team to be ejected immediately from the game. Serious offenses such as a ball thrown at the head (called a beanball) can result in the immediate ejection of the pitcher, and the manager if he ordered the beanball, even without a warning. If the umpire is certain that the pitcher intentionally hit the batter with the pitch, the pitcher is ejected from the game with no warning.
Often, if a player is acting rude or unsportsmanlike, or having an extraordinarily good day, the pitcher may intentionally hit the batter, disguising it as a pitch that accidentally slipped his control. Managers may also order a pitcher to throw such a pitch (sometimes called a "plunking"). These pitches are often aimed at the lower back and slower than normal, designed to send a message more than anything else. The opposing team usually hits a batter in retaliation for this act. The plunkings generally end there because of umpire warnings, but in some cases things can get out of hand, and sometimes they lead to the batter charging the mound, bench-clearing brawls, and several ejections. Such plunking duels are more common in the American League than in the National League,][ because in the NL the pitchers must bat for themselves and open themselves up to direct retaliation (although hitting a fellow pitcher is a serious breach of baseball etiquette).
The all-time record for a player being hit by a pitch is held by Hughie Jennings, who was hit by 287 pitches between 1891 and 1903. The modern-day record is held by Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, who had 285 as of the end of the 2007 season when he retired. Prior to Biggio, the modern-day record belonged to Don Baylor, who was hit 267 times.
The all-time single-season record also belongs to Jennings, who was hit 51 times during the 1896 season. Ron Hunt of the 1971 Montreal Expos was hit 50 times during that year, the modern-day record. The single-game record is three, held by numerous players.
The career pitching record for most hit batsmen is 205 by Hall-of-Famer Walter Johnson. The season record is 54 by Phil Knell in 1891, and the game record is six, held by Ed Knouff and John Grimes.
Brady Anderson was the first, and currently only, player to be hit by a pitch two times in the same inning in an American League game. Five players have accomplished the feat in National League games.
To date, one Major League player has died as a result of being struck by a pitch: Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was hit in the head by Carl Mays on August 16, 1920, and died the next morning.
It is possible, however, to suffer serious injuries as a result of being hit by a pitch, even when wearing a helmet. On August 18, 1967, Red Sox batter Tony Conigliaro was hit almost directly in the left eye by a fastball thrown by Jack Hamilton of the California Angels. His cheekbone was shattered, he nearly lost the sight of the eye, was unable to play for over a year, and never regained his earlier batting ability. (Batting helmets at that time were not required to have an "ear flap"; indeed, it was not until 2002 that all major league batters were required to wear helmets with side protection.) On September 28, 1995, Kirby Puckett, of the Minnesota Twins, was struck in the cheek by a Dennis Martínez fastball, breaking his jaw and loosening two teeth. It would be his last game; during spring training the following year he developed glaucoma, which ended his career. Most recently, Mike Piazza, then of the New York Mets, was hit in the head by a pitch from Julián Tavárez of the St. Louis Cardinals on September 10, 2005. His helmet shattered, and he suffered a concussion. Other relatively minor injuries that are possible include broken fingers or hands, broken feet, broken ribs, injuries to the knee, or groin injuries.
Since inside pitching is a legitimate tactic in baseball, courts have recognized that being hit by a pitch is an inherent risk of the game, so that players cannot sue for any resulting injuries. On April 6, 2006, in a case arising from a game involving community college baseball teams, the Supreme Court of California ruled that baseball players in California assume the risk of being hit by baseballs even if the balls were intentionally thrown so as to cause injury. In the court's words: "For better or worse, being intentionally thrown at is a fundamental part and inherent risk of the sport of baseball. It is not the function of tort law to police such conduct." [this needs clarification. The case seems to state that the public authority is not liable here. However, the pitcher intending to cause injury most certainly would be liable because intentionally hitting and injuring batters is well outside the rules of the game and therefore the 'consent-to-sport' does not protect the pitcher. I imagine in this case the pitcher was 'judgement-proof' (i.e. few or no assets) and therefore the injured party went after the public authority]
A changeup is a type of pitch in baseball. The changeup is the staple off-speed pitch, usually thrown to look like a fastball but arriving much slower to the plate. Its reduced speed coupled with its deceptive delivery is meant to confuse the batter's timing. It is meant to be thrown the same as a fastball, but simply farther back in the hand, which makes it release from the hand slower but still retaining the look of a fastball. A changeup is generally thrown 8–15 miles per hour slower than a fastball. If thrown correctly, the changeup will confuse the batter because the human eye cannot discern that the ball is coming significantly slower until it is around 30 feet from the plate. For example, a batter swings at the ball as if it was a 90 mph fastball but it is coming at 75 mph which means he is swinging too early to hit the ball well, making the changeup very effective.
Other names include change-of-pace, Bugs Bunny change-up, the dreaded equalizer, and simply change. The changeup is sometimes called an off-speed pitch, although that term can also be used simply to mean any pitch that is slower than a fastball. In addition, before at least the second half of the twentieth century, the term slow-ball was used to denote pitches not a fastball or breaking ball, which almost always meant a type of changeup. Therefore, the terms slow-ball and changeup could be used interchangeably.
The changeup is thrown with the same arm action as a fastball, but at a lower velocity due to the pitcher holding the ball in a special grip. Leo Mazzone states: "When a pitcher throws his best fastball, he puts more in it; the changeup is such that one throws something other than his best fastball. By having this mindset, the pitch will have less velocity on it in addition to the change in grips. This difference from what is expected by the arm action and the velocity can confuse the batter into swinging the bat far too early and thus receiving a strike, or not swinging at all. Should a batter be fooled on the timing of the pitch and still make contact, it will cause a foul ball or the ball being put into play weakly, usually resulting in an out. In addition to the unexpectedly slow velocity, the changeup can also possess a significant amount of movement, which can bewilder the batter even further. The very best changeups utilize both deception and movement."
Since the rise of Pedro Martínez, a Dominican pitcher whose changeup was one of the tools that led to his three Cy Young awards, the changeup has become increasingly popular in the Dominican Republic. Dominican pitchers including Edinson Volquez, Michael Ynoa, and Ervin Santana are all known to have developed effective changeups in the Dominican Republic after Martinez’s success with the pitch.][ Volquez threw changeups 31.9% of the time in 2008, more than any other starter, and James Shields threw it 26.3% of the time, tops in the AL.
The changeup is analogous to the slower ball in cricket.
There are several variations of changeups, which are generated by using different grips on the ball during the pitch.
The circle changeup is the most commonly used grip. The pitcher forms a circle with his index finger and thumb and lays his middle and index fingers across the seams of the ball. By pronating his wrist upon release, the pitcher can make the pitch break in the same direction as a screwball. More or less break will result from the pitcher's arm slot. Pedro Martínez used this pitch throughout his career to great effect, and many considered it to be his best pitch.
The most common type is the straight change. The ball is held with three fingers (instead of the usual two) and closer to the palm, to kill some of the speed generated by the wrist and fingers. This pitch generally breaks downward slightly, though its motion does not differ greatly from a two-seam fastball.
Other variations include the palmball, vulcan changeup and fosh. The split-finger fastball is used by many pitchers as a type of changeup.
In baseball, batting is the act of facing the opposing pitcher and trying to produce offense for one's team. A batter or hitter is a person whose turn it is to face the pitcher. The three main goals of batters are to become a baserunner, drive runners home, or advance runners along the bases for others to drive home, but the techniques and strategies they use to do so vary. Hitting is one of the more unique motions in baseball that is rarely mimicked in other sports. Hitting is unique because unlike most sports movements in the vertical plane of movement hitting involves rotating in the horizontal plane.
In general, batters try to get hits. However, their primary objective is to avoid making an out, and helping their team to score runs. They may draw a walk if they receive four pitches located outside the strike zone. In cases when there is a runner on third and fewer than two outs, they can attempt to hit a sacrifice fly to drive the runner in by allowing the runner on third to tag up and score. When there are fewer than two outs and runners on base, they can try to sacrifice bunt. They might even be hit by a pitch, reach on an error or—if first is empty or there are two outs—on a dropped third strike.
The defense attempts to get the batter out. The pitcher's main role in this is to throw the ball in such a way that the batter either strikes out or cannot hit it cleanly so that the defense can get him or her out.
Batting is often cited as one of the most difficult feats in sports because it consists of hitting a small round ball, usually moving at high velocity, with a thin round bat. In fact, if a batter can get a hit in three out of ten at bats, giving him a batting average of .300 (pronounced "three hundred"), he or she is considered a good hitter. In Major League Baseball, no batter has had over a .400 average at the end of the season since Ted Williams in 1941, and no batter has ever hit over .367 in a lifetime—Ty Cobb hit .3664. In modern times, the statistic on-base plus slugging (OPS) is seen as a more accurate measure of a player's ability as a batter; this stat combines the player's on base percentage (a percentage of their plate appearances where the batter gets on base), with the player's slugging percentage (an average of total bases with at-bats). An OPS at or near 1.000 is considered to be the mark of an exceptional hitter. A sustained OPS at or above 1.000 over a career is a feat only a few hitters have ever been able to reach.
Batters vary in their approach at the plate. Some are aggressive hitters, often swinging at the first pitch (as pitchers often attempt to throw a first-pitch strike). Others are patient, attempting to work the pitch count in order to observe all the types of pitches a pitcher will use, as well as tire out the pitcher by forcing him to throw many pitches early. Generally, contact hitters are more aggressive, swinging at pitches within the strike zone, whereas power hitters will lay off borderline strikes in order to get a pitch they can drive for extra bases.
In preparation of hitting, every baseball player has their own particular warm-up routine. There are various hitting devices used during warm up in the "on deck circle" to try and increase the batter's bat velocity. The over weighted supplemental devices include swinging multiple bats, Schutt Dirx (96 oz), Pitcher's Nightmare, Power Fin (14 oz), Standard 23 oz softball bat, heavier 26 oz softball bat, lighter 18 oz softball bat, Draz gloves (40 oz) and Doughnut ring (16 oz). Weighted warm-up devices are commonly used because players feel that warming-up with heavier bats will help them increase bat velocity because after the warm-up with a heavier bat, the normal bat feels lighter and they feel they could swing it faster. The effect of these devices is not only mental, but it may also be physical. Heavy warm up loads stimulate the neural system, allowing for increased muscle activation during lighter bat swings. The use of weighted bats is based on the theory of complex training where sets of heavier and lighter resistances are alternated to increase muscle performance. This theory revolves around the idea that muscle contractions are stronger after reaching near maximal contractions. The postactivation potentiation improves motor neuron pool excitability and increases the number of recruited motor units, both leading to greater power output. The additional weight may also help strengthen the muscles of the forearms and wrist thus increasing bat velocity.
The lineup or batting order is a list of the nine baseball players for a team in the order they will bat during the game. During the game the only way to change the lineup is via substitution, as batting out of turn is not allowed. Once the ninth person in the lineup finishes batting, the first person bats again; this is the top of the order. Lineups are designed to facilitate manufacturing runs. Depending on batters' skills, they might be placed in different parts of the lineup. Of course, when it comes down to it, all batters are attempting to create runs for the team.
The player currently batting in a game is said to be at the plate, at bat, or up to bat (shortened to up). To keep the game moving at an orderly pace, the next batter due up waits to take his turn in a circle (actually marked or imaginary) between his team's dugout or bench and the batter's box, and is said to be on deck, with the circle known as the on deck circle. The player in the batting order after the on deck batter is said to be in the hole.
When baseball was in its beginning years, baseball players made their own bats. This allowed players to experiment with different shapes and sizes of the bats. It did not take long for players to realize that the best bats were those with rounded barrels. Wood bats are rare at most levels other than the pros. The majority of wood baseball bats today are made from northern white ash harvested from Pennsylvania or New York. White ash is used because of its hardness, durability, strength, weight and feel. Trees that provide the lumber for baseball bats are often 50 years old, and of all the lumber harvested, the top 10 per cent is saved for pro bats. Recent technology in drying wood has created bats with lower moisture content, which are light enough to make effective baseball bats. Rock or Sugar Maple bats are preferred. Maple bats cost more than white ash, but they often last longer as a result of their high strength.[Citation needed]
In addition to the Louisville Slugger, there are many other types of bats that have been used throughout the history of baseball.
The introduction of aluminum baseball bats in the 1970s forever changed the game of baseball at every level but the professional. Aluminum bats are lighter and stronger than wooden bats. Because of the trampoline effect that occurs when a baseball hit an aluminum bat, aluminum bats can hit a ball significantly farther than wooden bats can.
In light of the increase in power of composite and alloy bats, the NCAA and NFHS have adopted more stringent standards against the use of composite and alloy bats. The NCAA changed standards at the start of the 2011 season, and the NFHS plans to complete the change in the 2012 baseball season.
The design of bats also continues to evolve as manufactures search for ways to magnify the trampoline effect and increase the size of the bat’s “sweet spot.” In aluminum bats, a double-walled bat was introduced in the late 1990s. This design comprises an outer wall of scandium-aluminum, an inner wall of a composite material, and a “filling of rubber or a thick fluid between the two walls.
The curveball is a type of pitch in baseball thrown with a characteristic grip and hand movement that imparts forward spin to the ball causing it to dive in a downward path as it approaches the plate. Its close relatives are the slider and the slurve. The "curve" of the ball varies from pitcher to pitcher. Outside the context of baseball, variants of the expression "to throw a curveball" essentially translate to introducing a significant deviation to a preceding concept.
The curveball is gripped much like a cup or drinking glass is held. The pitcher places the middle finger on and parallel to one of the long seams, and the thumb just behind the seam on the opposite side of the ball such that if looking from the top down, the hand should form a "C shape" with the horseshoe pointing in towards the palm following the contour of the thumb. The index finger is placed alongside the middle finger, and the other two extraneous fingers are folded in towards the palm with the knuckle of the ring finger touching the leather. Occasionally some pitchers will flare out these two fingers straight and away from the ball to keep them clear of the throwing motion. The curveball and slider share nearly identical grips and throwing motion.
The delivery of a curveball is entirely different from that of most other pitches. The pitcher at the top of the throwing arc will snap the arm and wrist in a downward motion. The ball first leaves contact with the thumb and tumbles over the index finger thus imparting the forward or "top-spin" characteristic of a curveball. The result is the exact opposite pitch of the four-seam fastball's backspin, but with all four seams rotating in the direction of the flight path with forward-spin, with the axis of rotation perpendicular to the intended flight path much like a reel-type mower or a bowling ball.
The amount of break on the ball depends on how hard the pitcher can snap the throw off, or how much forward spin can be put on the ball. The harder the snap, the more the pitch will break. Curveballs primarily break downwards, but can also break toward the pitcher's off hand to varying degrees. Unlike the fastball, the height of the ball's flight path arc does not necessarily need to occur at the pitcher's release point, and often peaks shortly afterwards. Curveballs are thrown with considerably less velocity than fastballs, because of both the unnatural delivery of the ball and the general rule that pitches thrown with less velocity will break more. A typical curveball in the major collegiate level and above will average between 65 and 80 MPH, with the average MLB curve at 77 MPH.
From a hitter's perspective, the curveball will start in one location (usually high or at the top of the strike zone) and then dive rapidly as it approaches the plate. The most effective curveballs will start breaking at the height of the arc of the ball flight, and continue to break more and more rapidly as they approach and cross through the strike zone. A curveball that a pitcher fails to put enough spin on will not break much and is colloquially called a "hanging curve". Hanging curves are usually disastrous for a pitcher because the low velocity, non-breaking pitch is left high in the zone where hitters can wait on it and drive it for power.
The curveball is a popular and effective pitch in professional baseball, but it is not particularly widespread in leagues with players younger than college-level players. This is with regard for the safety of the pitcher - not because of its difficulty - though the pitch is widely considered difficult to learn as it requires some degree of mastery and the ability to pinpoint the thrown ball's location. There is generally greater chance of throwing wild pitches when throwing the curveball.
When thrown correctly, it could have a break from seven to as much as 20 inches in comparison to the same pitcher's fastball.
Due to the unnatural motion required to throw it, the curveball is considered a more advanced pitch and poses inherent risk of injury to a pitcher’s elbow and shoulder. There has been a controversy, as reported in the New York Times, March 12, 2012, about whether curveballs alone are responsible for injuries in young pitchers or whether it is the number of pitches thrown that are the predisposing factor. In theory, allowing time for the cartilage and tendons of the arm to fully develop would protect against injuries. While acquisition of proper form might be protective, Dr. James Andrews is quoted in the article as stating that in many children, insufficient neuromuscular control, lack of proper mechanics, and fatigue make maintenance of proper form unlikely.
The parts of the arm most commonly injured by the curveball are the ligaments in the elbow, the biceps, and the forearm muscles. Major elbow injury requires repair through elbow ligament reconstruction, or Tommy John surgery.
Curveballs have a variety of trajectories and breaks among pitchers. This chiefly has to do with the arm slot and release point of a given pitcher, which is in turn governed by how comfortable the pitcher is throwing the overhand curveball.
Pitchers who can throw a curveball completely over handed with the arm slot more or less vertical will have a curveball that will break straight downwards. This is called a 12–6 curveball as the break of the pitch is on a straight path downwards like the hands of a clock at 12 and 6. The axis of rotation of a 12–6 curve is parallel with the level ground and perpendicular to its flight path. The 12-6 curve is named for its break's motion as plotted against the face of a clock, i.e., "twelve o'clock to six o'clock" (straight down).
Pitchers who throw their curveballs with the arm slot at an angle will throw a curveball that breaks down and toward the pitcher's off-hand. In the most extreme cases the curve will break very wide laterally. Because the slider and the curveball share nearly the same grip and have the same unique throwing motions, this curveball breaks much like a slider, and is colloquially termed a "slurve". The axis of rotation on a slurve will still be more or less perpendicular to the flight path of the ball, however it will not be parallel to the ground. With some pitchers, the difference between curveball and other pitches such as slider and slurve, may be difficult to detect or even describe. A less common term for this type of curveball is a 1-7 or 2-8 curve.
Generally the Magnus effect describes the laws of physics that make a curveball curve. A fastball travels through the air with backspin, which creates a higher pressure zone in the air ahead of and under the baseball. The baseball's raised seams augment the ball's ability to churn the air and create higher pressure zones. The effect of gravity is partially counteracted as the ball rides on and into energized air. Thus the fastball falls less than a ball thrown without spin (neglecting knuckleball effects) during the 60 feet 6 inches it travels to home plate.
On the other hand, a curveball, thrown with topspin, creates a higher pressure zone on top of the ball, which deflects the ball downward in flight. Instead of counteracting gravity, the curveball adds additional downward force, thereby gives the ball an exaggerated drop in flight.
There was once a debate on whether a curveball actually curves or is an optical illusion. In 1949, Ralph B. Lightfoot, an aeronautical engineer at Sikorsky Aircraft, used wind tunnel tests to prove that a curveball does in fact actually curve. On whether a curveball is caused by an illusion, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean has been quoted in a number of variations on this basic premise: "Stand behind a tree 60 feet away, and I'll whomp you with an optical illusion!"
However, optical illusion caused by the ball's spinning may play an important part in what makes curveballs difficult to hit. The curveball's trajectory is smooth, however the batter perceives a sudden, dramatic change in the ball's direction. When an object that is spinning and moving through space is viewed directly, the overall motion is interpreted correctly by the brain. However, as it enters the peripheral vision, the internal spinning motion distorts how the overall motion is perceived. A curveball's trajectory begins in the center of the batter's vision, but overlaps with peripheral vision as it approaches the plate, which may explain the suddenness of the break perceived by the batter. A peer-reviewed article on this hypothesis was published in 2010.
As for many facets of the sport of baseball, a colorful variety of nicknames is used to describe the curveball pitch. Popular nicknames include "the bender" and "the hook" (both describing the trajectory of the pitch), "'Uncle Charlie," "the yellow hammer," "yakker," and "Public Enemy No. 1."
It is also referred to commonly as "the deuce" or "number two" because catchers have traditionally signaled their pitcher to throw the curveball by showing two fingers.][
Baseball lore has it that the curveball was invented in the early 1870s by Fred Goldsmith or Candy Cummings (it is debatable). An early demonstration of the "skewball" or curveball occurred at the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn in August, 1870 by Fred Goldsmith. In 1869, a reporter for the New York Clipper described Phonney Martin as an "extremely hard pitcher to hit for the ball never comes in a straight line‚ but in a tantalizing curve." If the observation is true, this would pre-date Cummings and Goldsmith. The first known college baseball player to utilize the curveball was Clinton Scollard (1860–1932), a pitcher from Hamilton College in the early 1880s, who later earned fame as a prolific American poet. In 1884, , a children's magazineSt. Nicholas, featured a story entitled, "How Science Won the Game". It told of how a boy pitcher mastered the curveball to defeat the opposing batters. In the early years of the sport, use of the curveball was thought to be dishonest and was outlawed,][ but officials could not do much to stop pitchers from using it.
Harvard President Charles Eliot was among those opposed to the curve, claiming it was a dishonest practice that Harvard students should not want to partake in.
In the past, major league pitchers Bob Feller, Virgil Trucks, Herb Score, Camilo Pascual and Sandy Koufax were regarded as having outstanding curveballs. Other notable curveball pitchers since 1900 are/were Barry Zito, Kerry Wood, Adam Wainwright, Sal Maglie, Dwight Gooden, Nolan Ryan, David Wells, Darryl Kile, Matt Morris, Orel Hershiser, Aaron Sele, Tommy Bridges, Bert Blyleven, Steve Carlton, Mordecai D. Brown, and Bronson Arroyo.
The fastball is the most common type of pitch in baseball. Some "power pitchers," such as Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens have thrown it at speeds of 95–106 mph (152.9–170.59 km/h) (officially) and up to 108.1 mph (174 km/h) (unofficially), relying purely on speed to prevent the ball from being hit. Others throw more slowly but put movement on the ball or throw it on the outside of the plate where the batter cannot easily reach it. The appearance of a faster pitch to the batter can sometimes be achieved by minimizing the batter's vision of the ball before its release. The result is known as an "exploding fastball": a pitch that seems to arrive at the plate quickly despite its low velocity. Fastballs are usually thrown with backspin, so that the Magnus effect creates an upward force on the ball, causing it to fall less rapidly than might be expected. A pitch on which this effect is most marked is often called a "rising fastball", as the ball appears to rise to the batter. Colloquially, use of the fastball is called throwing heat or putting steam on it, among many other variants.
Gripping the ball with the fingers across the wide part of the seam ("four-seam fastball") so that both the index finger and middle finger are touching two seams perpendicularly produces a straight pitch, gripping it across the narrow part ("two-seam fastball") so that both the index finger and middle finger are along a seam produces a sinking fastball, holding a four-seam fastball off-center ("cut fastball") imparts lateral movement to the fastball, and splitting the fingers along the seams ("split-finger fastball") produces a sinking action with a lateral break.
The four-seam fastball is the most common variant of the fastball.
The four-seam fastball is a pitch that is used often by the pitcher to get ahead in the count or when he needs to throw a strike. The type of fastball is intended to have minimal lateral movement, if any. It is most often the fastest pitch that a pitcher throws, with recorded top speeds in the 100+ mph range. The fastest pitch recognized by MLB was on September 25, 2010 at Petco Park in San Diego by Cincinnati Reds left handed relief pitcher and now closer, Aroldis Chapman. It was clocked at 105.1 miles per hour. April 19, 2011 Chapman lit up the stadium radar gun at 106 MPH (the TV-reading had his pitch at 105 MPH, and the pitchF/X reading was actually 102.4 MPH). There are two general ways to throw a four-seam fastball. The first and most traditional way is to find the horseshoe seam area, or the area where the seams are the farthest apart. Keeping those seams parallel to the body, the pitcher places his index and middle fingers perpendicular to them with the pads on the farthest seam from him. The thumb then rests underneath the ball about in the middle of the two fingers. With this grip, the thumb will generally have no seam to rest on.
A two-seam fastball, sometimes called a two-seamer, tailing fastball, running fastball, or sinker is another variant of the straight fastball.
The two-seam fastball is designed to have more movement than a four-seam fastball so that the batter cannot hit it hard, but it can be more difficult to master and control. Because of the deviation from the straight trajectory, the two-seam fastball is sometimes called a moving fastball.
The pitcher grabs a baseball and finds the area on it where the seams are the closest together, and puts his index and middle fingers on each of those seams. A sinker is a similar pitch thrown with almost the same grip, but with the thumb directly underneath the ball. Sinkers are also thrown slightly slower than two-seamers.
Each finger should be touching the seam from the pads or tips to almost the ball of each finger. The thumb should rest underneath the ball in the middle of those two fingers, finding the apex of the horseshoe part of the seam. The thumb needs to rest on that seam from the side to the middle of its pad. If you use your middle finger when you throw you get more whipping action making the pitch go around 10 mph faster.
This ball will tend to move for the pitcher a little bit depending on velocity, arm slot angle and pressure points of the fingers. Retired pitchers Greg Maddux and Pedro Martínez were known for their effective two-seamers.
Depending on the grip and pressure applied with the fingers, sometimes the two-seam fastball features more sink than lateral movement. Sinkerballers tend to induce a lot of ground ball outs. This is because hitters tend to swing over the ball due to the late downward movement, and thus, often end up beating the ball into the ground. Roberto Hernández of the Tampa Bay Rays, Justin Masterson of the Cleveland Indians, Derek Lowe of the New York Yankees, Tim Hudson of the Atlanta Braves, Aaron Cook of the Colorado Rockies, Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, Chris Volstad of the Chicago Cubs, Trevor Cahill of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Bronson Arroyo of the Cincinnati Reds are well known for their sinkers, consistently ranking high in the league in ground ball-to-fly ball ratio.
The rising fastball is an effect perceived by batters, but is known to be a baseball myth. Some batters claim to have seen a "rising" fastball, which starts as a normal fastball, but as it approaches the plate it rises several inches and gains a burst of speed. Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Sandy Koufax, Dwight Gooden and Chan Ho Park were often described as the paramount pitchers with this kind of ball action.
Such a pitch is known to be beyond the capabilities of pitchers due to the very high backspin that would be required to overcome gravity with the Magnus effect. While not physically impossible (conservation of momentum is maintained through imparting the required opposing momentum to air, as an airplane does at takeoff), the amount of spin required is beyond the capabilities of a human arm. It has been explained as an optical illusion. What is likely happening is that the pitcher first throws a fastball at one speed, and then, using an identical arm motion, throws another fastball at a higher speed. The higher speed fastball arrives faster and sinks less due to its high speed. The added back-spin from the higher speed further decreases the amount of sink. When the pitch is thrown, the batter expects a fastball at the same speed, yet it arrives more quickly and at a higher level. The batter perceives it as a fastball which has risen and increased in speed. A switch from a two-seam to a four-seam fastball can enhance this effect.
This perception may also be created by a tall, hard-throwing pitcher who throws the ball from a higher release point on an elevated mound (the pitcher's rubber is ten inches above the field level). Factoring in the element of depth perception when the hitter watches the pitcher from sixty feet six inches away from the pitcher's mound, and the hitter perceives the pitcher's size and positioning on the mound to be less elevated than it actually is. Hence, to the hitter an overhand pitch will appear to be thrown at a hitter's shoulder level (or even belt level), as opposed to several inches above the hitter's head, from where the pitch is actually released from the pitcher's hand. This perception enhances the apparent "rising" motion of the fastball when the pitch passes the hitter at a higher level than where the hitter perceived the pitch to have left the pitcher's hand.
It is possible for a rising fastball to be thrown by a submarine pitcher because of the technique with which they throw the ball. Because they throw almost underhand with their knuckles near the dirt, the batter perceives the sensation of the ball going upward because of its low starting point and flight trajectory. This is not the traditional rising fastball batters believe they see. This type of movement is similar to a rising fastball in fast-pitch softball. Left-hander Sid Fernandez was known for throwing a rising fastball from a slightly "submarine" motion.
A cut fastball, or "cutter," is similar to a slider, but the pitcher tends to use a four-seam grip. The pitcher shifts the grip on a four-seamer (often by slightly rotating the thumb inwards and the two top fingers to the outside) to create more spin. This usually causes the pitch to shift inwards or outwards by a few inches, less than a typical slider, and often late. A cutter is effective for pitchers with a strong four-seamer since the grip and delivery look virtually identical. The unexpected motion will often fool batters into hitting the ball off-center, or missing it altogether.
Mariano Rivera, a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees, is a pitcher known for throwing a cutter. In his prime, Rivera could deliver late motion while throwing the ball around 95 mph. Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants also throws a cutter. Al Leiter rode his cutter to 162 career wins and a no-hitter. Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies also throws a cut fastball, but claims that overusing it has given him forearm trouble][ which may have prematurely ended Halladay's 2006 season due to forearm stiffness,][ since the grip causes more stress than a standard four-seamer. Yankee Andy Pettitte is another pitcher who throws the cutter. On a June 3, 2007 game against the Boston Red Sox, announcer Joe Morgan estimated that of Pettitte's 87 pitches, 83 of them were cutters.
The split-finger fastball or "splitter," is truly an off-speed pitch rather than a type of fastball. Like the changeup, to which it is a close relative, it is thrown with the same arm motion as a normal fastball, but the adjusted grip causes it to behave quite differently. The ball does not have the characteristically tight spin of a fastball. The ball appears to tumble in a knuckleball-like fashion; but it is much faster than a knuckleball. The ball is gripped tightly with the index and middle finger "split" along the outside of the horseshoe seam. It is important that at least one finger is touching the seam, as the ability to control the release of the ball is derived from this contact. The release is the same as a fastball. A splitter will usually drop as it approaches the plate, and break to either the right or left. The forkball is a similar pitch, though it is slower and gripped with a more exaggerated split of the fingers. A pitcher generally needs long, flexible fingers to effectively throw this pitch. Due to similarities in speed and movement, some pitcher's split-finger fastballs are misconstrued as changeups.
When thrown correctly, the splitter places no more stress on the arm than the regular fastball. This is because the split-finger is thrown using the same mechanics as the fastball; the only difference is in the grip. The splitter's effectiveness is also increased when thrown mechanically the same as the fastball because the hitter generally picks up the movement later.
The split-finger is used currently by pitchers such as Dan Haren, Jonathan Papelbon, and J. J. Putz. Former players noted for use of the split-finger fastball include Bruce Sutter, Mike Scott, John Smoltz, Jack Morris, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Bryan Harvey, Roger Clemens, and Fred Breining.
The Incurve was a term used until about 1930 used to describe a simple fastball. As a curveball was often called an "outcurve," one might assume that an incurve is the opposite of a curveball, in other words, the modern screwball. However, this does not appear to be so, as cited by John McGraw.
A side-arm fast ball is thrown from an angle different from the normal one. It is at a lower angle and is thrown from the side, hence the name "side"-arm. It will have a sinking motion to the right if it is a right hand pitcher, or to the left if it is a left hand pitcher. It is usually slower than a normal four-seam fastball.
The following Major League Baseball seasons are often known as the Year of the Pitcher:
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