Learn The Different Pitching Grips For Baseball

Ball pitching grips are one of the chiefest tools in the arsenal of a pitcher. If you can mix in some of those rare pitches with the more traditional two-seam fastball, you will likely increase your success rate on the field.

There are many different pitches for you to try out and master. Below is a list + guide for nearly all baseball pitching grips in existence. I’m going to help you figure out which grip works best in what situation.

As a bonus, I’ll share some Major League Baseball videos showcasing the pitches – so that you get a better idea.

12 Baseball Pitching Grips You Must Know About

1. Four Seam Fastball

So first up on this list of pitching grips, we have the four-seam fastball.

Of all baseball pitching grips, the four-seam fastball is the most commonly used – you’ve probably seen many, many pitchers throwing a fastball. The four-seam fastball allows the player to obtain more speed and more control over the ball. Additionally, the four-seam fastball pitch is the straightest pitch of them all.

Thanks to its speed, the four-seam fastball pitching grip can overpower many hitters, resulting in a miss or weak swing.

And here’s how to implement the four-seam fastball grip:

  1. Place the tips of your index and middle fingers on the perpendicular seam of the ball so that the “horseshoe seam” (called so because of its characteristic shape) faces your throwing hand’s ring finger.
  2. Place your thumb underneath the baseball. The thumb should be resting in the center of the seam.
  3. Don’t squeeze the heck out of the ball – keep your fingers soft to minimize friction and maximize ball speed. Coaches often say that you should hold the ball “like an egg.” There should be a gap between your palm and the ball as well.

Although the four-seam fastball is a very common pitch, it can still throw off the hitter when combined with other baseball pitches.

2. Two Seam Fastball

The two-seam fastball pitch isn’t as fast as the four-seam pitch, but it’s still one of the fastest pitches in a baseball player’s arsenal.

The main distinguishing feature of the two-seam fastball pitch from the four-seam pitch is that it has more movement. More precisely, the ball gains momentum in the pitching arm’s direction – e.g., a left-handed throw will result in a leftward movement with this pitch.

The two-seam fastball is thus a more deceptive pitch, and it can be used by baseball pitchers who can’t overpower the hitter with the raw speed of a four-seam fastball.

Two-seam fastballs can be gripped in a variety of ways. But the most common gripping technique is as follows:

  1. The index and middle fingers are placed on the seams on top of the ball (where the seams are closest together). If you throw with your right hand, your index finger should go on the left-hand side seam and the middle finger on the right.
  2. The thumb should be on the bottom of the ball on the leather between the seams.

Two-seam fastballs are typically gripped firmer than four-seam fastball pitches. This increases friction and consequently increases the ball’s change of direction.

3. Changeup

The changeup (or change up) is one of the slowest pitches in baseball. It’s thrown in a nearly identical fashion to fastballs.

However, unlike the ultra-fast four-seam fastball, the changeup’s primary aim is to trick the opponent into swinging early. A well-concealed change up is very likely to make the hitter miss – but if the hitter recognizes this pitch, they will be able to easily hit the ball due to its low speed.

Changeups may be held in several ways, but the three-finger pitching grip (also called trophy change up because of the fingers’ position) appears to be the most common. It’s easy to master and control as well.

And here’s how to do the three-finger change-up:

  1. Place your ring, middle, and index fingers on top of the baseball.
  2. Place your thumb and pinky on the leather surface on the bottom of the ball. Some people like to touch their pinky and thumb for a better feel of the pitch.

Regardless of how you grip a change-up ball, the ball should be deep in your palm to increase friction and decrease speed.

As mentioned above, the three-finger change-up is thrown nearly exactly like a fastball. But more advanced players may try to pronate their throwing hand – that is, turn their hand as if giving a thumbs down – to create more movement in the ball.

The circle changeup (or the OK changeup) is a variation of the change-up baseball pitching grip with more fading movement toward the plate’s throwing-arm side.

Here’s how the circle change is held:

  1. Using your thumb and index fingers, make an OK gesture with your throwing hand.
  2. Place the baseball between the remaining three fingers, making sure it’s centered.

The circle change is again thrown like a fastball for deception, but the hand is slightly pronated (i.e., the thumb turns toward your body).

Finally, there is the palmball, sometimes called the four-finger changeup. It’s again pitched in the same manner as a fastball, but the grip is slightly different.

To perform the palmball, you just need to wrap your fingers around the ball, with your thumb placed directly underneath it. The deeper the ball is in your palm, the more it will slow down.

4. Curveball

The curveball (or curve ball) is one of the most famous and most commonly used pitches in baseball history. It’s so renowned that it gave birth to the “throw a curveball” idiom, which means to deceive or trick someone.

The curve ball is a slow pitch that has more movement than nearly any other pitch. Like with the changeup, its goal is to deceive the hitter into swinging the bat too early.

Curveballs can be gripped in several ways. The most straightforward form is called a beginner’s curveball. The curveball grip is as follows:

  1. Grip the ball, leaving your index finger off of it as if you are pointing at something.
  2. Place your middle finger along the bottom seam of the ball.
  3. Place your thumb on the back seam.

When this curve ball is thrown, rotate your thumb upward and your middle finger down. Your index finger should be pointing toward the target, helping you with your aim.

The beginner’s curveball is rather intuitive and easy to master, but it’s also easy to identify due to the index finger position. Past high school football, players should instead opt for straight or knuckle curveballs.

The straight curveball is held in the exact same way as a beginner’s curveball, but the index finger is kept on the ball. With that, transitioning from a beginner’s to a straight curve ball is rather easy.

As for the knuckle curveball, it’s again identical to the beginner’s curveball, but you now need to tuck the index finger back into the ball’s seam. When gripped correctly, your knuckle will be pointing in the direction of the pitch.

The knuckle curveball adds a lot of rotation and movement to the curveball, but not everybody feels comfortable with the finger tucking aspect of this grip. You may thus need to spend some time getting used to it.

5. Slider

The slider pitch is often confused with the curveball because they have the same goal – deceiving the hitter. However, sliders are generally thrown harder, faster (only slower than four and two-seam fastball pitches), and have overall less movement than the curveball. The spin of the slider resembles a fastball more closely as well.

When it comes to grip, a slider is held similarly to a two-seam fastball but slightly off-center. The long seam of the ball is placed between the index and middle fingers, and the thumb is placed on the opposite seam underneath the ball. Some pitchers prefer to put their index fingers along the seam.

The slider pitch should come off the thumb-facing side of your middle and index fingers to increase spin. Also, upon releasing the ball, snap your wrist slightly toward your throwing hand’s thumb side. Your arm speed should be the same as in fastball pitches.

6. Splitter

The splitter is a slow pitch (slightly faster than the changeup) that isn’t used very commonly. 

When thrown with the same arm speed as in fastball pitches, the ball drops sharply as it approaches the home plate. The primary goal of the splitter is to cause the hitter to contact the ball only weakly.

Here’s how to hold a splitter:

  1. Place your middle and index fingers on the outside of the “horseshoe seam,” spreading them far apart.
  2. Place your thumb on the back seam.

The grip with this pitch is firm. When performing the splitter, throw the throwing hand’s palm-side wrist right at the target, keeping your middle and index fingers extended up and the wrist stiff. The throwing technique is the same as with a fastball.

You’ll need to have fairly big hands to get hold of this pitch. Pitchers with hands on the smaller side may struggle to adequately engulf the ball in their hand.

7. Cutter

The cutter is a fastball variant that moves a bit away from the pitcher’s throwing arm’s side as it approaches the home plate. This pitch can be rather deceptive because the ball moves toward the hitter’s hands, typically leading to a mishit with the bat’s handle.

Interestingly, cutters are most effective when the hitter’s hitting arm is opposite to the pitcher’s pitching hand – so a righty pitcher and a lefty hitter, and vice versa.

For a cutter pitch, shift your regular fastball grip and move it slightly off-center. As a result, you should start applying more pressure to the outside of the ball.

Pitch the cutter the same way as you would pitch a fastball – without any extra motion in your wrist, like turning or snapping.

8. Screwball

Not many pitchers use the screwball – it’s considered one of the most straining baseball pitching grips out there, though one study showed that it produced no more stress on the joints than a fastball – the most common of all pitch grips, as mentioned earlier.

What’s remarkable about the screwball is that it travels toward the pitcher’s arm side. This is unlike almost any other pitch in baseball.

It’s also interesting that there aren’t too many good videos showing how to pitch a screwball, but I’ll try to explain everything here.

To hold a screwball, do this:

  1. Place your index and middle fingers on top of the ball. The index finger should rest directly inside of the inner seam, while the middle finger should be about an inch or an inch and a half away from the index finger.
  2. Place your thumb on the bottom of the ball. Only the pad of the thumb should be in contact with the ball.

Don’t grip the ball too firmly – only just enough to make the pitch.

When throwing a screwball, the throwing hand’s wrist is snapped so that the palm faces away from the glove hand’s side. In contrast, with other baseball pitching grips like sliders and curveballs, the palm faces the glove hand’s side. The screwball is considered to pose a high injury risk precisely due to the rapid wrist snap.

9. Sinker

The sinker pitch has a distinct downward trajectory, hence the name. This pitch’s goal is to cause weak contact with the ball.

An interesting thing about the sinker is that there is no universally accepted grip for it. No matter your baseball pitching grip, if the ball has a sinking action, it’s a sinker.

With that said, it seems the two-seam fastball grip is the most commonly used pitching grip for the sinker. However, when throwing the ball, you should be applying force to its inside to force it to spin sideways. Additionally, you should make your pitching thumb slightly rub against your lead leg to force the ball to sink.

11. Forkball

The forkball is a pitch with a downward action. Of all other baseball pitching grips, it’s most similar to the splitter. But unlike the splitter, the forkball is used very rarely in baseball. Aside from that, the forkball incorporates a snapping action with the wrist. This wrist snap causes the ball to spin forward and sink as it approaches the home plate.

In terms of grip, the forkball is really similar to the splitter, with the only major difference is that the ball is held closer to the fingertips. And as a reminder, here’s how a splitter is held:

  1. Place your index and middle fingers outside of the horseshoe seam, spreading your fingers as far from each other as you can.
  2. Your thumb should be supporting the ball from below.

The forkball is pitched more or less like a fastball, but you keep your wrist stiffer and do a snapping pitching motion.

12. Eephus

And finally, on my list of pitching grips, we have the eephus.

The eephus pitch exhibits a snail-worthy slowness. It’s also one of the most infrequently used baseball pitching grips in Major League Baseball (and any other baseball league, for that matter). It can thus rather easily catch hitters off guard.

The eephus pitch can be so baffling that some players don’t know at all how to properly react to it:

The eephus is usually thrown high in the air, tricking hitters into believing that they see a fastball. Well, the outcome is predictable – if the player does get confounded, they will swing the bat way too soon.

There are no standard eephus grips – no matter how you grip the ball, you need to ensure that it makes a tall and slow loop.

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Conclusion

So that is it for my guide for baseball pitching grips!

I strongly recommend that you learn as many different pitches as you can – this should help you catch hitters – a pitcher’s primary opposing player – off guard. The more grips you know, the better! Baseball players should regularly incorporate pitching practice in their workout programs.

The two-seam fastball or splitter can be wonderful in many situations, but by mixing in the exotic eephus and other rare pitching grips from time to time, you may leave hitters scratching their heads more often.

Jonathan Roussel
Jonathan Roussel
Jonathan Roussel is a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and Indigo League champion. He now chases the dream to become a part-time Jedi Master like Gandalf. He means to reach his goals by sleeping 14 hours a day and eating pineapple pizzas.