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Do you know how to throw a split-finger fastball?
In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about throwing a splitter that goes beyond "dirty" or "nasty" and usually involves embarrassing the batter...
But first, check out this splitter from Masahiro Tanaka and tell me it isn't awesome:
Tanaka's splitter hits the triple crown of traits for what a dominant pitch should exhibit—good velocity, generates ground balls, and gets whiffs.
It's easy to see why in 2014 among all pitchers who threw at least 300 splitters, Tanaka ranked 1st in whiffs/swing (46%), 1st ground balls per balls in play (69%), and 2nd in velocity (87.27 mph average).
The splitter is known for its tight rotation and strong velocity.
The surprise on the quick dive of the ball at home plate in the very last second creates missed swings from the opponent.
The split-finger fastball is strictly an out pitch.
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So what's the secret to a good splitter?
Let's take a closer look at how to grip and throw the splitter...
The split-finger fastball's grip is similar to the two-seam fastball, but the fingers are spread farther apart to change the rotation and add breaks.
If you have larger hands the pitch is most effective because it should be "choked" deep in the hand. This enforces the splitters downward movement.
- Place index and middle fingers on the outside of the horseshoe seam.
- Grip firmly.
- Throw the palm-side wrist of the throwing hand directly at the target. Keep your index and middle fingers extended upward; wrist should remain stiff.
Bruce Sutter and the split-fingered fastball
Did you know Hall of Fame pitcher Bruce Sutter may have had one of the best splitters in the history of baseball, according to baseball analysts?
Here's a shot of Sutter pitching in a game back in 1983... love the scruff.
To throw a splitter, Sutter says you do the following:
"Position your thumb on the back seam and throw a fastball. This placement puts the ball out front, more than a forkball."
What set Sutter apart from forkballers, and before that, spitballers, was how the ball came out of his hand with a spinning action indistinguishable from a fastball.
At 55 feet the ball dropped clear out of the strike zone.
You can watch it here:
Few pitchers in major league history have ever had better command of the bottom of the strike zone. Sutter rarely threw his splitter for a strike, but it was difficult for hitters to lay off.
And he'd throw the fastball just enough to keep them guessing. His dominance, and Hall of Fame career, can be directly traced back to learning the split-fingered fastball.
More images of splitter grips
DID YOU KNOW?
The splitter comes in with tight rotation and good velocity and dives straight down at the last second.
The grip is similar to the two-seam fastball, but with the fingers spread farther apart to change the rotation and add break.
This pitch is generally not thrown for strikes, but to coax a swing and miss.
My favorite GIF of throwing a splitter
Put it all together, and it looks like this...
Here's a splitter from Ubaldo Jimenez that makes Torii Hunter chase out of the zone:
Now that's a great pitch.
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 splitter grips, tips or techniques 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.
READ THIS NEXT: Pitching Grips: How To Throw 8 Different Baseball Pitches