Types of Baseball Pitches

Nolan Ryan, one of the greatest baseball players, delivered pitches that were a whopping 100 mph in speed. Pitches mark the way in which the ball is thrown toward the home plate which marks the start of a game. Ryan’s pitching was labeled by the media as the ‘Ryan Express’ because of the incredible speed he could generate in his pitches. He had mastered all the weapons required for pitching different baseball pitches.

There are many ways of pitching a baseball and in this following Buzzle article, we will give you more information about the same. Continue reading for more details.

The Commoner
Fastball is a significant and common weapon in the arsenal of a pitcher. In this, the pitch is thrown at a very high speed. However, the pitcher has to also maintain a good control over the direction, as it has to come straight at the batter. There are several variations like the two-seam fastball, split-finger fastball, four seam fastball, and cutter and sinker in fastball, which are very commonly used by pitchers. Nolan Ryan, as mentioned earlier, was a master of this type of a pitch. This pitch is pure speed and there’s nothing else to prevent the ball from being hit by the batter.

The Deception
The ‘breaking ball’ is not aimed straight at the batter and is not supposed to be as fast as the fastball. A breaking ball has a sideways or downwards motion to it. These balls can deceive the batter if they are delivered accurately, this is because they change their direction and may even hit the ground before reaching the home plate. Curveballs, sliders, knuckle curve, and screwball are a few variations of the breaking ball. A pitcher who uses breaking balls during his pitching is called a junkballer.

‘Speedy’ Change
Change up is yet another pitching style in baseball. It could be any pitch that is slower in pace than the fastball. It has a similar arm action as that of a fastball, but is delivered at a slower velocity because the ball is held in a special grip. Due to its resemblance to the arm action of a fastball, the change up can confuse the batter. A few types of change up pitches, are namely the straight change, palmball, and circle changeup.

Unpredictable―Knuckleball
When a pitch is erratic and unpredictable, it is called a knuckleball. It is thrown in such a way that it reduces the spin on the ball while it is in the air. The way this ball is thrown creates vortices over the seams of the ball in the course of its trajectory. This causes the pitch to change directions while it is in the air. This is sometimes difficult even for the pitchers to control. It is a challenge for the batters as well as catchers to deal with this ball.

The ‘Nothing Ball’―Eephus
Considered as junk in baseball, the eephus pitch is low in speed (55 miles per hour or less). The batter is caught unawares with this delivery from the pitcher. Interestingly, there is a theory that in Hebrew, the word ‘eephus’ means ‘nothing’. A different kind of strange, high arcing trajectory is identified with an eephus pitch. Rather than being akin to a baseball pitch, it seems more like a slow softball pitch.

There are other different types of pitches that include gyroball, spitball, shuuto, knuckleslider etc. as well.

Whether it is the fastball or the eephus pitch, the motive of the pitcher is to hit the target, and if not that, then at least to ensure that the batter is not able to hit the ball for a run. Now we know how Nolan Ryan could weave magic.

Layout of a Baseball Diamond

It is the ‘diamond’ which is most referred to when it comes to a game of baseball. It simply refers to the area on which the game is played. The area of the pitching base and the other accompanying bases are made in such a way that the whole formation looks like a diamond.

The excitement in a baseball game begins with the home plate. It is a pentagon-shaped irregular white rubber. This rubber measures 17 x 8.5 x 12 x 12 x 8.5 inches. The batter’s box is adjacent to the two parallel 8.5-inch sides of the pentagon. One corner of the 90-foot square is the point at which the two 12-inch sides meet at right angles. The other three corners are the three bases when counted counter-clockwise from the home plate. They are the first, second, and third base. Four bases at the corners of the infield are formed by these three bases and the home plate.

First Base
For the batting team to score a run, this is the first base that must be touched. A batter can reach the first base by walking, hitting by pitch, error, dropped third strike, catcher’s interference, umpire’s interference, etc.

Second Base
Commonly called 2B, this is the base which has to be touched by the batting team to score a run. It is touched in succession to the first base by the base runner. It is also known as the keystone sack. A runner on the second base is supposed be in a scoring position, as the chances of the runner reaching the home plate is high.

Third Base
The next in line for the batting team to reach for scoring a run is the third base. The runner on the third base is very important in case 2 batsmen are out.

Home Plate
Reaching this point completes a run. It is designated as the home base. The shape of the home plate is facilitated in such a way that it helps the umpire judge the balls and strikes.

Batter’s Box and Catcher’s Box
The batter’s box is where the batter stands, to receive the pitch from the pitcher. There are two batter’s boxes―for the right handers and the left handers. The catcher is the person standing behind the batter. The place where the catcher stands is the catcher’s plate. He receives the balls from the pitcher in case the ball is left alone by the batter. The catcher sits crouching behind the batter, and wears gloves and a helmet.

Foul Poles
These are the poles which help the umpire determine if a ball which is hit above the fence line is a foul or a home run.

Pitcher’s Mound
This is a low, artificial hill situated roughly in the middle of the main square of the baseball field. The square is on an equal distance to the first and third base. There is a rubber plate on the mound, called the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher stands on the mound while pitching to the batter.

Baseline
It is the straight line between two adjacent bases. However, it is not marked or drawn with chalk or paint.

Outfield
This is the area where the fielders, apart from the basemen, are positioned. It is either made of thick grass or artificial turf. There are right, center, and left field positions for the fielders in the outfield.

For the baseball enthusiasts, this diamond, in all plausibility, is worth more than the actual stone!

African-Americans in Baseball

African-Americans were banned from major league of the game, until Jackie Robinson stepped on the field for the Dodgers. From 1871 to 1947, African-American players were forced to play only those teams made up of blacks. Here are some well-known African-Americans, who not only played for their respective teams, but also fought against racism.

Bud Fowler
Bud Fowler was born on March 16, 1858, in Fort Plain, New York. His real name was John W. Jackson, and he learned baseball in Cooperstown, New York. He was the first known African-American professional player, and is first mentioned to have pitched for a team in Chelsea, in April 1878. Later the same month, he pitched a game for the Lynn Live Oaks against the Boston Nationals, and finished that season with Worcester. He continued to play for teams in New England and Canada for the next four years. He also played for teams in Niles, Ohio, Stillwater, and Minnesota. Fowler died on February 26, 1913, in Frankfort, New York. His death was primarily because of illness and poverty, and received national attention.

Rube Foster
Andrew Rube Foster was born on September 17, 1879, in Calvert, Texas. He is considered to be one of the best African-American pitchers of the 1900s. He started his professional career in 1897, with an independent black team Waco Yellow Jackets. Foster founded the Chicago American Giants, which was considered as one of the most successful black baseball teams of the pre-integration era. He went on to play for Frank Leland’s Chicago Union Giants, Bardeen’s Otsego Independents, and Cuban X-Giants. Later, he joined the Chicago Leland Giants as its playing manager, and under his leadership, the team won 110 games. Out of these, it won 48 straight matches and lost only ten matches. In 1920, Foster, along with the owners of six other mid-western clubs, formed a professional circuit for African-American teams. He died in 1930, because of mental illness.

Jackie Robinson
Jack Roosevelt Robinson (popularly known as Jackie Robinson) was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia. He graduated from Dakota Junior High School in 1935, and got enrolled in Muir Tech. Jackie was inspired by his elder brothers Mack and Frank, to pursue his interest in sports. He played in the baseball, football, and basketball teams, and was very fond of tennis. He was selected for the All-Star Games, from 1949 to 1954, and was the recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award, in 1947. He also went on to win the National League MVP Award in 1949, being the first black player to be so honored. He was the first African-American television analyst in Major League Baseball, and the first African-American vice-president of a major American corporation. Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He died on October 24, 1972, in Stamford, Connecticut, of a heart attack.

Moses Fleetwood Walker
Moses Fleetwood Walker was born on October 7, 1857, in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. He played for Oberlin College’s first varsity baseball team, in the spring of 1881, and for the University of Michigan, in 1882. Walker signed with the Northwestern League Toledo Blue Stockings in 1883, and played in Western League for Cleveland, in 1885. He also played for Waterbury, in the Eastern League through 1886. Later in 1887, Walker moved to the International League Newark Little Giants. After he was attacked by a group of white men in Syracuse, Walker became a firm supporter of black nationalism. He also published a 47-page pamphlet titled Our Home Colony: A Treatise on the Past, Present and Future of the Negro Race in America. Walker died on May 11, 1924, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Besides the players mentioned above, many others like Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige, Josh Gibson, Walter ‘Buck’ Leonard, and Ray Dandridge were also some famous African-Americans in baseball.

Origin and History of Baseball

A bat, a ball, a ninety-square-feet square or diamond patch and two teams with nine payers each; that is all you need for a baseball game. Yes, baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of nine players each. Each team has to score runs by hitting a ball with a bat and touching each of the four bases marked on the ground. One turn at the batting end makes an inning and nine such innings constitute one baseball game. Where did baseball originate? Since when has baseball been played? Let us find out.

History of Baseball

It was once believed that Abner Doubleday, a United States Army officer and Union General in the American Civil War, invented baseball. However, no evidence in favor of this belief has been found. It was in 1364, during the rule of King Vlaicu Voda, that Oina, a game similar to baseball was mentioned. It is also believed that baseball evolved from the North-American game of rounders. The American and British documents of the 18th century show many references to baseball and the bat-and-ball game. The Russians played a version of baseball, way back in the 14th century. This game of theirs was known as Lapta. Lapta was played between a pitcher and a batter. A batter was supposed to hit the ball thrown, with a short stick and then run to the opposite side and back, in order to score runs. Lately, it has been found that baseball was played by the British before anyone else.

The modern-day rules of baseball have been derived from Alexander Cartwright’s list of baseball rules, which he codified in 1845. On June 19, 1846, the New York Nine team played against the Knickerbockers defeating them with a score of 23-1. This was the first baseball game to be recorded. In 1953, Alexander Cartwright was declared as being the inventor of baseball. During the early 1960s, the number of baseball clubs dropped drastically, resulting in a temporary decline in the popularity of the game. The Civil War caused the number of baseball clubs to drop, while also leading to the spread of baseball to other parts of the world. By the time the war ended, people from different regions had grown interest in baseball. By the 1960s, the game had become a national pastime of America.

The year 1871 witnessed the establishment of the first professional baseball league that was called the National Association of Professional Baseball Players. The National League was founded in 1876.

Today, baseball is played all around the world. It has been played in the US and in Canada, since a relatively long time. But the first baseball league outside US and Canada was established in Cuba in 1878. It has been one of the strongest teams in international baseball. Between the world wars and after the Second World War, baseball leagues were established in several countries across the globe. In recent years, baseball has become popular in Australia. The increasing popularity of baseball has given it a place in the list of Olympic sports.

How to Increase Throwing Velocity

Any pitcher in baseball wants to increase his/her throwing velocity. Fortunately, this is not a god gifted talent and there are methods to increase it. What pitchers need to do is perform full body explosive exercises to energize as many muscles of the body as possible.

Throwing the ball properly itself will increase the speed. Apply direct force to the back of the baseball. The pitcher’s fingers should always be behind the ball. To stay behind the ball and increase straight line strength, use weighted baseballs and stretch cord.

Use available force from the wrist during the pitching motion. Studies have shown that wrist flexion and strength are significant contributors for increasing the throwing velocity. The wrist makes up 10% of the force applied to the baseball during the pitching delivery. The following exercises will help promote strength and speed of wrist motion:

  • Weighted balls
  • Shot put flips
  • Wrist rolls

The forearm is important to achieve high speed in the pitching delivery. Following exercises will help muscle development in the forearm:

  • Forearm curls with bar
  • Reverse forearm curls with bar
  • Hammer curls with dumbbell

The rotator cuff joint is a vital contributor to the overhand throw. Pitchers must have a strong and healthy rotator cuff since the pitching motion needs straight and curved finger action. Strengthening the shoulder and corresponding tendons should build the pitching velocity. For that do:

  • Arm swings
  • Jobe exercises with 2 lb. dumbbells
  • Football throws

Elbow extension is one of the four important elements. Elbow extension occurs during the acceleration phase of the delivery, right before the release of the ball. The following exercises will help add strength and speed of extension:

  • Shot put
  • Shoulder press
  • Triceps pull down

The scapular muscle is often underutilized by new pitchers. This muscle is not developed because many believe weight training, specifically, upper body resistance training may promote injuries. The following exercises will help develop strength in the scapular muscle and provide general upper body resistance training:

  • Bench press
  • Seated row
  • Lat pulldown
  • Push-ups and Dumbbell flies

The speed and strength of a pitcher’s torso affects the pitching power too. The speed of the trunk is not the only aspect of the torso that needs to be worked upon. Late trunk rotation is a movement that can help improve force applied to the ball along with keeping the arm safe and healthy. Exercises mentioned below will prove beneficial:

  • Exercises using the medicine ball
  • Total Abdominal workout
  • Leg lifts

Hence, full body exercises including upper and lower body plyometrics, is the right way for pitchers to get in shape. These workouts help improve velocity and also the body is conditioned to prevent injuries while pitching. Increasing the flexibility of the body through yoga or stretching exercises is another suggestion. Incorporating these exercises in your workout routine can surely enhance your throwing power.

How to Throw a Sinker

A sinker is a term used to describe one of the pitches in a ball game. Another term for it is a ‘sinking fastball’. However, this pitch is not as fast as a regular fastball. Other types of pitches are a cutter, a sharp curveball, and a split-finger fastball.

A sinker is thrown at a slight angle than normal, so you get a late movement on it, and the ball moves down to the right. This makes it one of the favorite pitches in a ballgame. Hitters have trouble making contact with it, and so pitchers have more opportunities of getting ground-ball outs. Knowing how to pitch an effective sinker takes time and practice. Many will probably advice you, if you are 16 or under, to hang around a bit more before you attempt this type of pitching. The reason being, youngsters run a danger of damaging their hands by stretching their fingers too much for a widened grip on the ball. Of course, if you were born with an extra-large set of hands, you might not face this problem.

A baseball comes with a closed-end horseshoe seam pattern. The horseshoe seam comes in handy for knowing where to place your fingers and how to throw different pitches. You can use different types of grips to throw a sinker. You place your first two fingers―the index one and the middle one―parallel to each other on the seam at the horseshoe’s closed end. Place your ring finger and little finger lightly on the side, to both, give some stability to your grip and to make it easier for you to make your throw. When you throw, do so in the way you would normally throw a fastball, but release the ball with a quick downward flick of your wrist, with your index and middle fingers propelling it forward.

Now, move your index and middle finger close together, so that they now lie between the ball seams. Place your thumb sideways, so that it lies in a 7 ‘o’ clock position in relation with the two fingers. This type of pitch will make the ball turn over naturally as it is thrown. When thrown by a right-handed pitcher, this kind of pitch gives the ball a clockwise, topspin.

Some pitchers―the extra-large handed ones―even manage to grip the ball in the webbing between their fingers. This is known as a fork ball. Don’t try this, especially if you have small hands. Let your fingers gradually accustom to this type of hold, before making it a permanent part of your pitching repertoire.

A few things to keep in mind when you throw a sinker:

  • You should make the ball roll off your index and middle finger when you pitch.
  • You should not get under the ball when you throw.
  • You should not throw the pitch high.
  • You should aim at the hitter’s waist, throwing low and a little on the inside.
  • You shouldn’t throw so many sinkers that you end up straining your shoulder or arm.