Underhand Pitching In Baseball – Is It Legal?

Mike Specter
Mike Specter

The pitcher is undeniably an important player in any baseball game, which is why the question “Can you pitch underhand in baseball?” is such a common one.

Good pitching is essential to help you win a baseball game, regardless of how great the hitting lineup is. Throwing underhand isn’t necessarily against the rules, but the answer isn’t that simple. There are many reasons why pitchers prefer to throw overhand.

Let’s dig a little deeper to see why throwing overhand in baseball is usually preferred and what advantages throwing underhand has.

Throwing Underhand In Baseball - The History

The importance of pitching in Baseball was not always recognized. They only used to serve up the balls for batters to start playing. Historically, baseball was pitched underhand, in fact, overhand throwing was banned until 1884.

After 1884, all limits on pitching were lifted, thus opening the door for overhand throws to take over. After the new rules, underhand pitching persisted for some time until it virtually went extinct.

Contemporary pitchers now prefer to throw overhand in order to produce high ball speed and more spin variations available.

Is It Illegal To Throw Underhand in Baseball?

No baseball rule book mentions anything about pitching underhand being illegal. So, technically, nothing is stopping you from doing that. However, it is still considered unconventional.

Simply put, pitching underhand puts the pitcher at a competitive disadvantage. Moreover, college or school coaches will never teach any serious pitcher to pitch underhand.

While it’s possible to win while underhand pitching, it certainly makes it much more difficult.

What Are The Advantages of Pitching Underhand?

Pitching overhand is preferred since it generates more power and speed. But, that is not to say that pitching underhand is completely a waste. Sure, it is difficult to obtain the same pace with an underhand throw, but it still has its own set of advantages.

Firstly, underhand throws are more convenient and accurate when going for shorter and closer targets. In such cases, overhand throwing will have more pace.

Secondly, the underhand pitching technique is easier to learn and puts less pressure on the pitcher’s arm. It comes more naturally to the body, and with the arm being closer, the motion does not exert much strain on your shoulders and elbows.

Why Is Overhand Pitching Preferred?

If you have ever sat down to watch a baseball game, you must have noticed that all pitchers use the overhand throwing technique. This is because of a couple of reasons.

It is largely due to the field’s layout. Pitchers have to throw from a raised mound, and there is a lot of distance between them and the home plate. In order to strike out the batter with more power and speed, baseball pitchers usually go for overhand throwing.

More Speed

Throwing overhand results in more speed. It allows pitchers to take advantage of their elevated position. When throwing overhand, pitchers can throw fastballs that reach more than 100 mph.

However, when throwing underhand, the speed of the ball hardly goes beyond 70 mph. If the ball is thrown that slowly in competitive baseball games, it makes it easier for the batter to eventually hit a homerun.

Faster Windup

Underhand pitches require more time to execute. With runners on different bases, the pitcher must throw fast.

Using the underhand technique will take too much time and increase the chances that a runner steals a base.

Underhand throwing is usually done in softball, which has different rules. But, in baseball, the same technique can end up being costly.

Easier To Grasp

One of the biggest reasons overhand throwing is more acceptable is because it is much easier to learn because of the natural motion. Most importantly, not many people understand the complexities of throwing underhand.

Baseball pitchers usually throw overhand because they have never had anyone to teach them otherwise. Be it high school or college, coaches or parents, it is difficult to find anyone who completely understands the ins and outs of this technique.

As a result, young pitchers are usually not encouraged to learn it and are taught only the overhand technique because it simply is the most efficient.

Why Is Pitching Standard In Softball?

There are several reasons why softball pitchers throw underhand and not overhand. Let us see what they are.

Firstly, softballs weigh much more than baseballs. This makes it easier for softball pitchers to throw them faster.

Secondly, softballs are thrown from a much shorter distance than baseballs. While it is 40 feet in softball, baseball pitchers throw the ball from approximately 60 feet.

Lastly, a softball field does not have a raised mound. This eliminates the benefit of elevation.

The Last Inning

I hope that you have got the answer to your question of whether you can throw underhand in baseball. There is nothing stopping you from doing it, but underhand pitching is no longer that beneficial, considering how the game of baseball has progressed.

Keeping in mind the current regulations, striking out a player is more difficult when pitching underhand. Baseball coaches have a prevailing belief that teaching the underhand technique to pitchers is of no use since it doesn’t serve any purpose.

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Mike Specter
Mike Specter
Mike hold's a Degree in Sports Coaching from the University of Minnesota and has held managerial and baseball head coaching roles at the college level. Mike currently consults with several professional athletes and clients in the areas of self-accountability, health, and goal orientation.