How to Throw Four Kinds of Fastballs

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The Basic Fastball

New York Mets vs Washington Nationals—Johan Santana

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The fastball is the most basic pitch in a pitcher's arsenal, probably the first pitch anybody learns in baseball. It's the easiest to control grip is fairly simple and, unlike other pitches, allows a pitcher to maintain a good grip on the ball, and therefore, control.

But while speed is important to the pitch, the way a fastball is thrown, with two seams, four seams, etc.—is vital to giving the pitch movement. It doesn't matter how fast a fastball goes. If it goes straight as an arrow, hitters at all levels will likely catch up to it at some point.

It's all about how a pitcher holds and releases the ball. If it's released with the fingers pointed straight up, the pitch isn't likely to move much. But if the fingers are to one side or the other, the ball will get some different spin and move a little more.

There are two basic fastballs—the four-seam fastball and the two-seam fastball. And there are some specialty fastballs: The cut fastball or “cutter” and the split-finger fastball or “splitter.” And each does something different.

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Two-Seam Fastball

Two seam fast ball grip
Fingers rest along and with the seams with open space between the base of the fingers and the palm of the hand.

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The two-seamer is designed to move a little more than a four-seam fastball.

Grip the ball along the seams, at the part of the ball where the seams are closest together, with your middle and index fingers and put your thumb under the ball, in the smooth area between the narrow seams. Exert pressure on the ball with your middle finger and thumb.

A two-seamer is gripped a little tighter and deeper in the throwing hand than the four-seamer.

If you're right-handed, the ball should dive inside on a right-handed hitter. Vice-versa for lefties. A pro right-handed pitcher typically wouldn't throw this to a left-hander because the pitch would probably cut right into the barrel of the bat.

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Four-Seam Fastball

Four seam fast ball grip
Fingers rest across the seams with open space between the base of the fingers and the palm of the hand.

 Bruce Leighty/Getty Images

This is the basic fastball that just about every pitcher throws.

Grip the ball with your top two fingers across the seams and with your index finger and middle finger across the seams at the ball's widest point. But don't grip it tightly—grip it like an egg in your fingertips.The key is to get the ball to leave your hand without much friction.

Put your thumb under the ball across the bottom seam. Your index finger and middle finger should be about a half-inch apart. Too close together, and you're throwing a weak slider. Too far apart and it will cost you speed. If you move your fingers slightly off-center, the ball should break a bit.

There should be a little bit of a gap between the palm of your hand and the ball. When you release the ball, let your fingertips roll off the laces.

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Cut Fastball or "Cutter"

Cut fast ball grip

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The cut fastball is thrown similar to the four-seam fastball, across the seams. It's a little more advanced pitch.

The difference: Rotate your middle and index finger and bring them together, leaving your middle finger along the seam of the closed end of the U-shaped seam. Bring your thumb slightly up the inside of the ball.

When you follow through, snap your wrist down while applying pressure with your middle finger.

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Split-Finger Fastball

Split-finger baseball grip
Fingers rest along and outstide the seams with the baseball squared up against the palm of the hand.

 Bruce Leighty/Getty Images

The split-finger fastball is a much more advanced pitch than the other three fastballs. It varies slightly from the forkball in that it's thrown with more velocity and generally replaced it as part of a pitcher's repertoire in the 1980s and 1990s. It dives when it reaches the plate.

To throw a splitter, split the middle and index fingers and grip the ball along the widest point of the ball. Don't jam the ball past the midway point of your fingers, but the grip is firm. The thumb is along the seam of the bottom, on the back seam.

Children generally can't throw split-finger fastballs because their hands aren't big enough.

Your index and middle fingers should be placed on the outside of the horseshoe seam. The grip is firm. When throwing, throw the palm-side wrist of the throwing-hand directly at the target while keeping your index and middle fingers extended upward. Your wrist should remain stiff.

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Finishing Up

Pitcher holding ball

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As it is with all pitching in baseball, keeping your intentions secret is a big part of the battle.

Keep the ball hidden in your glove when you're throwing, or you might tip off the batter (or a baserunner or base coach) what pitch you're throwing.

Wind up normally and throw. Don't forget to follow through. When you don't follow through, the ball will likely stay high.