A fan's guide to identifying pitches
I'm a baseball fan. I've watched my share of televised games and attended a few handful. After all this, I was still in the dark about the difference between pitches. I knew a curveball broke downwards, but what exactly was a circle changeup?
The diagrams below are the results of skimming through baseball books and doing online research. This is not a complete guide. I've picked twelve of the more common pitches:
- Fastballs: Four-seam, Two-seam, Cutter, Splitter, and Forkball
- Breaking Balls: Curveball, Slider, Slurve, and Screwball
- Changeups: Changeup, Palmball, Circle Changeup
Learning to identify pitches
The list of pitches might seem like a lot to keep track of, but remember that each pitcher utilizes only a selection of these pitches. For example, Pedro Martinez throws a curveball, circle-changeup, an occasional slider, and a fastball. Do a little research on the pitcher before the game.
Things to watch for that will help you identify a pitch:
- Movement - the general direction the ball is moving
- Break - a sudden shift in direction
There are a few other things that can help you identify a pitch: ball rotation, point of release, and grip. For a casual fan though, it might be a bit much and I don't illustrate or discuss any of the latter three items.
Reading the diagrams
Take note of the speed, movement, and break of the ball. Don't worry about where the baseball is shown in the the strike zone. You can throw a fastball in the middle of the strike-zone like the one illustrated, or you can throw one high and away from the batter. It's still a fastball. Location doesn't determine the pitch.
Fastest, straightest pitch. Little to no movement.
Also known as a Sinker. Moves downward, and depending on the release, will sometimes run in on a right handed hitter (RHH).
Breaks down suddenly before reaching plate.
Like a splitter, but with a less dramatic, more gradual downward movement.
Commonly called a 12-6 curveball. The 12-6 refers to the top to bottom movement (picture a clock with hands at 12 and 6).
11-5 movement. Similar to a curve but with more lateral movement.
1-7 movement. Opposite of the slurve.
Slower than a fastball, but thrown with the same arm motion.
Ball is gripped tightly in palm. Just like a changeup, this pitch is slower than a fastball, but thrown with the same arm motion.
A changeup with 1-7 moment like the screwball.
All twelve pitch diagrams, minus the text notes, are collected onto a single page PDF.