Creating Fastballs with Movement
James Hattenstein Head baseball coach for the varsity team at Citronelle High School in Alabama, James Hattenstein played collegiate baseball at the University of South Alabama, Bishop State Community College and two seasons of minor league baseball 94-96 while completing his B.Sc. and M.A. He now has over a dozen years experience in public eduation. (Click to close.)
An important note: The more movement on a fastball the less velocity. It's important to know what type of pitcher you are and how these types of delivery will help you on the mound. Coaches, please do not try to change the arm angle of a pitcher if he is free of arm injury and successful. Kids with less velocity may consider using one or more of these styles. But don't forget that control is the key to pitching - throw strikes! Movement is just an added bonus.
1 Arm Slot
Throw from different arm angles. (Watch a big league game to notice the difference.) If a pitcher throws straight over the top (12 o'clock arm position) he'll get little movement on his pitches. The further his arm drops from that angle the more movement he'll get. Example of a pitcher that drops the arm angle to get movement: Atlanta Braves Brad Klontz (submarine/almost underhand). [Note: Pro references are at the time of first publication, players move, we can't always keep up. Also note: more often when a young pitcher drops his arm slot it just means he is getting tired, not trying to fool the batter. A coach needs to learn tyo tell the difference.]
2 Wrist Tilt
Change the angle of the wrist rather than the arm angle. The further the wrist tilts away from the body the better movement you'll get on your fastball. Greg Maddux is a prime example of a wrist tilter. (He combiens all 5 techniques.) [WebBall Note: There is a correlation between lateral wrist pressure and forearm stress injuries - be aware of the difference between a set tilt and a side movement of the wrist during the delievery.]
3 Fnger Pressure
Throw two types of fastballs: a four-seamer (fingers lay across four seams) and a two-seamer (fingers lay on top of or near only two seams). The four-seam fastball will get less movement than a two-seam. A pitcher with great movement will often throw the four-seamer inside to hitters to keep the ball from tailing inside. So the four-seamer is used in a situation where control is the issue. The two seamer is another way to get extra movement - caused by the rotation of the ball as it leaves the fingers. If a pitcher releases the ball with a specific finger releasing last, the ball will get extra movement to the opposite side of that finger's pressure. [The idea of mixing fastballs is good, the reason a 2-seam drops also has a lot to do with air resistance on the smooth surface of the ball.]
4 Across Body
Step to the same side as your throwing arm during your stride to the plate - throwing across the body. There are many theories about this effect but it does causes the ball to get much more of a sinking action. Many pitchers naturally throw across their body. First find a comfort zone and if you have good control from that point, and no arm problems, use the extra movement. If you already throw across, unless it is causing problems, don't change. (If it ain't broke don't fix it). [WebBall expects and invites argument on this point. As with many pitching tips, it depends who you're talking to - some pitchers may throw too much acrioss the body and lose velocity. Remember the top point: getting movement is going to be at the expense of speed. This article is about creating movement. Period.]
Release a ball with a screw-ball action causing the ball to sink. This delivery is done by turning the hand so that the thumb is pointing down at the end of release. Like the across-the-body theory, this delivery has been thought to cause arm injury. However, Fernando Valenzuela was still pitching with this technique after a long big league career. (Coach H. note: The pitcher who adds this to his list of adjustments should know that this must be combined with at least two of the other ways of getting movement.) [WebBall note: Not usually recommended for players below senior high/college, however see our comparison page
between screwballs and curveballs which takes this adjustment to the extreme.]
Coach Hattenstein, who provided these, says it's best to have a fastball in hand when you do this. [Editor's note: We also believe there are some points in here with which other pitching instructors may have strong disagreement and have noted them.]
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