Most baseball players know how to throw before they even know which end of the bat to hold. It’s hard to find a more basic skill in baseball. Yet, throwing the ball is something that constantly needs work. Even the pros blow it on occasion, such as Edmundo Sosa, who missed his first baseman and hit the umpire in the Mets-Cardinal game in 2021. Ouch. What are the fundamentals of throwing a baseball?
The fundamentals of throwing a baseball include a player’s grip, stance, and the use of the entire body when throwing. After the throw, players need to be able to properly adjust their bodies so they land in the ready position.
Throwing a baseball is one fluid motion. But within that motion are the details of the mechanics that can take a decent arm and make it excellent. Refining the movement will improve accuracy and speed. The more you pay attention to the finer points in throwing, the more likely you are to consistently hit your target.
This article is one part of a guide on baseball fundamentals. Read my complete guide on breaking down every baseball fundamental for every position.
3 Fundamentals Of Throwing A Baseball
There are three key fundamentals in throwing a baseball:
Three fundamentals to one fluid motion may not sound like much. But in-between these three fundamentals are details that, when refined, will produce a throw that is strong and accurate. After all, if throwing a baseball was a piece of cake, we’d all be all-star baseball players.
1) Gripping The Ball
The four-seam grip is the number one way to hold a baseball when preparing to throw. It may appear to be a waste of valuable time to get the seams in the correct position before throwing. But you lose time in the air if your throw is slow. You lose even more time if your throw is wild.
The Four-Seam Grip
There are 108 double stitches per baseball. These stitches are laid out in two figure-8 patterns, and a good pitcher will know how to exploit these to create various effects in order to baffle batters (hopefully).
A four-seam grip is used to maximize backward rotation whenever a player is trying to throw as fast as they can. The four-seam grip gives pitchers and position players a straight and hard throw.
However, holding the ball parallel to the seams will leave them exposed like sails. Thus, wind resistance can push the ball to the left or the right. This could be useful if you do it on purpose, like when you’re pitching, but this grip can cause a player to miss their target when making a throw.
The four-seam grip involves the index finger and middle finger at the top and the thumb at the bottom. It’s a claw that’s gripping the ball like an egg: tight enough to hold it, but loose enough you don’t splatter yolk everywhere. A firm, but not knuckle-whitening grip, will allow for a smooth and accurate release.
The tricky part for some players is finding the four-seam grip after fielding a ball. And because plays happen fast, players don’t have time to look down at their glove to see where they need to position their fingers on the baseball.
Obviously, finding the four-seams in a split second requires practice. But it is actually only a quarter turn at the most, thanks to the unique baseball design. Thus, you can practice finding the four-seams at any time, even while watching tv. Spin and find, as much as you like, until the feeling is as much of a habit as blinking.
2) Throwing Stance
A throwing stance requires both body position and arms. The two work nearly in tandem. But the feet and hips start it off, positioning themselves towards the target. The opposite leg to the throwing arm needs to be pointed to where you want the ball to go.
This means for right-handed throwers, your left leg will be your front leg and your left foot will be pointed towards your target. For left-handed throwers, your right leg will be your front leg and your right foot will be pointed towards your target.
Gripping the ball begins at the chest. The ball should be facing down for as long as possible as it gets pulled back.
Right before you’re about to throw, you should be in a good throwing stance. Your front foot will be pointed towards the target, the ball will be in your throwing hand with your palm facing down, and either your front elbow or front arm will be pointed towards your target.
To get in the habit of being in a good throwing stance, practice your motion without the throw. Pausing to check your form each time and use a full-length mirror to get a better view of your stance. Doing this routinely will soon make it second nature.
3) Throwing The Ball
The actual throw requires accelerating your arm forward, releasing the ball, and your body following the arm.
The ball goes from behind your head, rocketing forward as the front shoulder moves back. Your body will also move forward so that your back leg will come even with your plant leg, resulting in you landing in the ready position.
It is important not to decelerate your arm or your body when the throw is about to be released.
A good drill to prevent deceleration is doing figure-eights without releasing the ball. You bring the ball through like a throw but don’t release, and on the down, swoop it back up to make the eight. The need for momentum to hook up will encourage acceleration and discourage declaration.
3 Common Rookie Errors When Throwing A Baseball
Everyone wants to be an original, but mistakes in throwing often fall into some pretty common categories. Yes, even in our errors, humans tend to follow the crowd. Thus, watch out for these three common throwing errors.
An incorrect grip can lead to the ball sailing to the left or right of your target. The best grip for any position player to use is the four-seam grip because it creates backspin, which allows players to throw the ball farther and harder than any other grip.
Striding in the Wrong Direction
Players need to make sure they’re striding toward their target. When first learning to throw, it can be easy to think you’re striding towards your target, but if it turns out you’re off by a little bit, then your throw can also be off by a little bit.
Not Lifting Your Back Leg
Back legs that stay planted in the ground cause your throw to lose speed. Your entire body is part of a baseball throw, and that blackleg should be lifting the foot off the ground as soon as the ball is released.
Remember, the ideal position to be in is your ready position. So you want to use that back leg to generate power in your throw, but then have it come forward so you’re landing in the ready position.
Throwing a baseball is easy, but most do it wrong when they don’t have enough practice. The general concept is there for most baseball players, but when tiny mistakes are glossed over it can lead to bad throws. Paying close attention to the details in throwing a baseball raises your game and keeps the errors away.