When it comes to the different baseball pitches used in major and minor leagues, as well as various types of amateur baseball leagues and games, there are literally thousands of options. Since the early years of the game, different styles and approaches have created variations that have caught the imagination of generations of players and fans, even serving as the inspiration for even more new types. In order to get an idea of the different types of baseball pitches, it is often helpful to group them into categories or classes, and explore some of the different types found within those categories.
Just about everyone has heard of fastballs. Loyal fans know there are many different types of fastballs, although all of them share once common characteristic; they are fast. Fastballs are designed to throw off the batter and encourage a swing at the wrong time.
The most basic of fastballs is known as the four-seam fastball. This approach is perhaps the simplest of them all. There are no movements designed to make the ball alter course slightly during flight. Instead the idea is to get the ball across the plate so quickly that the batter is unable to time the swing just right to make a connection. While simple, this approach has proven to be extremely effective over the years.
There are several other fastballs that do put a little bit of a spin on the basic approach. While speed is still very important, direction and angle are also major factors. Pitches like the two-seam add more downward motion, which can trick the batter into not being sure just where the ball will cross the plate. With pitches like the splitter or the forkball, the idea is to deliver the ball at a fast pace into the strike zone, but with the ball dropping just before crossing the plate. This is accomplished by putting a forward spin on the forkball, whereas most fastballs use a back spin.
Breaking balls are another class of baseball pitches that can make it more difficult to connect at the right point on the ball to make it soar out of the field or stadium. This is because of the curve and spin employed with these strategies. The slider is somewhat of a combination of a curveball, in that it makes use of a top spin to make the ball curve, while also employing speed that is somewhat like that of a fastball. Screwballs also work to achieve a break and curve, but achieve the movement in a left to right motion, rather than the right to left motion that is normally found with a traditional curveball.
Most fans have at least heard of a spitball, although some leagues of different types actually prohibit the use of this type of pitch today. Just as the name implies, a small amount of liquid is applied to the exterior of the ball. This not only impacts the movement of the ball as it approaches the plate, but also can affect the ability to use the connection with the bat to move the ball into the desired direction.
Perhaps one of the most popular of all baseball pitches is the knuckleball. This type of pitch is achieved by positioning the knuckles of the hand against the ball during the windup. Different strategies call for using the knuckles of the two fingers closest to the little finger, while others call for bending the middle and index fingers so they are in contact with the ball. With any approach, a successfully delivered knuckleball carries a lot of speed, a minimum of spin, and has a somewhat erratic approach to the plate. While harder for the pitcher to control, this type of pitch is often much harder for the batter to connect with.
Since there are literally thousands of pitches that have been used in the past as well as today, fans can spend hours mulling over the favored pitching strategies of some of the great players in the game. This is especially true for fans of major league ball, although minor league fans will have plenty to choose from. Spend some time today exploring the types of pitches that have made a difference in the standings of your favorite teams, including which ones played a pivotal role in winning championships of different types.