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Before we talk about different baseball pitching grips, let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat...
Clayton Kershaw has an absolutely ridiculous curveball.
Check it out right here:
What a great pitch right there. You would be hard pressed to think of a better curveball in baseball.
Look, it's been said many times that hitting is timing. If pitching is upsetting that timing, then the best way to do this is by changing speeds and getting the baseball to move different ways.
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On this page, you will learn several important baseball grips that are associated with pitching, including how to throw a fastball, how to throw a changeup and how to throw a curveball.
You will also learn how to throw various specialty pitches such as the slider, cutter and splitter.
Let's get to it.
1. Four-seam fastball
According to MLB stats, the most common pitch in baseball is the four-seam fastball. It accounts for 35.3% of all pitches thrown in the big leagues, and on average four-seamers travel at a velocity of 92.9 mph.
So who's got the best four-seam fastball in baseball right now?
My vote goes to Madison Bumgarner:
Bumgarner is a master of control and – somehow – whiffs, despite a pretty ordinary 92.69 mph average fastball velocity. He's deadly when operating up in the zone, and he's not afraid to throw the pitch with two strikes, which makes him somewhat unique.
One metric I find really interesting, called True Average, puts Bumgarner's fastball at second-best in the league. In other words, MadBum gets 100 mph results with a 92 mph heater.
2. Two-seam fastball
According to MLB stats, the second-most common pitch in the big leagues is the two-seam fastball or sinker, which accounts for 21.8% of all pitches, at an average speed of 91.7 mph. These pitches live up to their name and "sink" or end up lower in the strike zone than their four-seam cousins.
So who's got the best two-seam fastball in baseball right now?
My vote goes to Zach Britton:
Zach Britton is perhaps the best example of a reliever who has been dominant with essentially one pitch: a two-seamer that sinks.
3. Change up
According to MLB stats, the changeup makes up 9.5% of all pitches thrown in the big leagues and travels at 83.6 mph, exhibiting the opposite usage pattern as the slider.
Interestingly, lefties hardly ever throw it against lefties, but they use it a lot on righties. The same holds true for righties, who use it much more against left-handed batters.
In each case, an opposite-handed batter is about four times more likely to see a changeup than a same-handed batter.
And unlike the slider, the changeup doesn't break into an opposite-handed batter's swing, which helps explain why it's generally a much more popular off-speed option in those situations.
So who's got the best changeup in baseball right now?
My vote goes to Felix Hernandez:
Hernandez throws the changeup more than any other starting pitcher in baseball. It makes sense. The pitch is not only the best in its class, but one of the best pitches in the game.
According to MLB stats, curveballs account for only 9.9% of all big league pitches thrown. And although they do produce an overall location signature similar to the slider, they do not yield differences nearly as drastic in terms of frequency or efficiency.
The curveball is also, by far, the slowest MLB pitch, clocking in at an average speed of about 78 mph.
So who's got the best curveball in baseball right now?
In addition to Clayton Kershaw, my vote goes to Dellin Betances:
Betances's curve (or slurve, per the Washington Post) yielded an incredible .075 average and .124 slugging percentage in 2014, by far the best numbers among pitchers with at least 300 curves thrown on the year.
It's also very fast, at 83.91 mph, and it produces whiffs on 53 percent of all swings, third-best in baseball.
Most impressive of all, it's one of just two pitches the man throws. With two strikes or a favorable count, there's anywhere from a 62 to 70 percent chance the curve is on the way, which is sort of an insane number, even for a reliever. And even though everyone knows it's coming, it still can't be hit.
According to MLB stats, the third-most prominent pitch in the big leagues — and the most common breaking ball — is the slider, which makes up 14.1% of all pitches thrown and travels at an average speed of 83.9 mph.
Pitchers are much more likely to use this against a batter who shares their dominant hand; the slider is generally much more effective against a “same-handed” batter.
And when pitchers get older, they want to have every possible advantage at their disposal.
So who's got the best slider in baseball right now?
My vote goes to Corey Kluber:
Kluber's got the best horizontal movement of any slider in baseball, breaking an average of 10 inches left while dropping nearly three inches. This is the slider to beat all sliders.
The split-finger fastball is for older and more advanced pitchers who want to add another nasty pitch to help get hitters out and win more games.
Roger Clemens was an absolute master of the splitter.
So who's got the best splitter in baseball right now?
My vote goes to Joaquin Benoit:
In 68 at-bats in 2014, the splitter yielded him 41 strikeouts, one walk, and four hits. Think about that for a minute: He faced 68 batters and struck out 41 of them.
That splitter nastiness is better than any other pitcher in the game right now.
The sinker is essentially a two-seam fastball (see my description for the two seamer above), but sinks or drops downward instead of runs to the throwing hand side.
Depending on how many pitchers pronate their wrist at their release point, they can get their two seamer to behave like a sinker or run more like a traditional two seam fastball.
The cut fastball is the fastest growing pitch in the baseball community because it can be safe to throw while maintaining good pitching velocity.
Mariano Rivera of course threw it better than anyone in the history of the game.
So who's got the best cutter in baseball right now?
My vote goes to Adam Wainwright:
It's not a vicious strikeout pitch, and the movement/velocity isn't off the charts, but it's a wonderful "primary" pitch for a player with a very diverse repertoire.
5 tips for learning new grips
Here are five things to keep in mind when attempting to learn new baseball pitches with different baseball pitching grips.
- In any given game, pitchers will likely throw at least 70% fastballs. For younger kids, that's all they will throw. So this is what you should naturally spend the most time on.
- Don't have unrealistic expectations when learning a new pitch. Remember, it's new, so do not expect to be perfect with the spin and location right away. These things take time. The best attribute to have when learning a new baseball pitching grip is patience.
- I would rather see you be great at a few pitches rather than mediocre at a bunch. Trying to learn several pitching grips at once will likely decrease your effectiveness on the pitches you'll use most often.
- Other pitches like screwballs and knuckleballs just aren't relevant for 99% of the pitching population, especially in Little League baseball and high school baseball. Concentrate on the pitches that can contribute the most to your success.
- Have fun! Learning new pitching grips is fun because you're making yourself better, and that's what it's all about.
Learn more about my workout programs for pitchers
One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not.
To get to the next level, preparation is everything. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.
If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my conditioning and throwing programs for baseball pitchers of all ages.
What do you think?
Now it's time to hear from you:
Are there any pitching grips that I missed?
Or maybe you have an idea of how I can make this article even better.
Either way, leave a comment and let me know.
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