One of the most devastating and debilitating pitches in the game of baseball is the change-up. Thrown with the same arm speed as a fastball but with a different grip, the pitch confuses and eliminates batters with brutal efficiency. But how do you throw the most effective change-up pitch?
A pitcher who can control their change-up in any situation is the most valuable player on the diamond. They will baffle batters and control the lineup from top to bottom.
While a change-up is a great pitch to learn, mastering it can take some time and patience. Gripping the ball can be hard for those with smaller hands. Don’t fret, read on, and learn how the change-up can be added to your repertoire with just a few added routines. The following sections tell you how to throw a three finger change-up pitch successfully.
The Three Finger Change-up Grip
The fingers are the most critical part of the pitch. There are several change-up variations, but the most effective and most accessible to teach is the three-finger, or finger, change-up.
“To throw an effective three-finger change-up, center your ring, middle, and index fingers on top of the baseball. Your thumb and pinky finger should be placed on the smooth leather directly underneath the baseball.” (Source: League Athletics)
Your thumb and pinky can be touching each other to form a better place for the ball to rest. This touching isn’t to be confused with the circle change, which uses the pointer finger and thumb to create resistance during the pitch. Don’t grip with any fingers except those on top of the baseball. The pinky and thumb should be a place for the ball to rest.
Don’t Slow Down the Throwing Arm During the Change-up
The most debilitating thing about the change-up is that the batter thinks another fastball is coming. When it leaves the hand, it floats like a shuttlecock and is hard to hit. The batter’s timing makes them swing well before the ball hits the mitt.
The arm speed is crucial to selling this illusion. The friction caused by having the fingers on top of the baseball will slow it down without slowing arm speed.
Learning the touch of your fingers on the ball can take some time. Think of them like a sheet that covers the ball until the last possible second. These extra nanoseconds under the fingers will create a considerable difference between speeds.
Practice by throwing long tosses and alternating between four-seam fastballs and change-ups. As your arm begins to adapt to the throwing motion, you will learn how much pressure to apply to get specific effects on the ball.
Extend Towards the Plate and Rip with the Fingers
When you extend your hand, the ball will feel like it is being ripped from your fingers. This is achieved by extending the hand down like a cat scratching against a post. It makes a flicking motion over time that creates the effect of slowing down the ball while keeping the arm fast.
The key to throwing (and selling) the finger change-up is the arm motion. If you keep your arm movements the same, it works as a disguise for the change-up. The camouflage is what sells the pitch. Work on keeping the fingers on the ball and add more pressure each time. As your grip strength increases, the ball will lose 8-10% of its velocity.
Hitters can spot a pitcher digging in their glove to grip the change-up. Learning ways to disguise your hand movements is another thing that will take time, but a good rule is to always adjust a few different grips on every pitch to keep the batter guessing.
When to Throw a Finger Change-up
Adding a change-up in your arsenal means that you need to throw it in 0 – 2 or 1 – 2 situations. Using it in those situations is smart, but as children get older this will become something they lean on. Smarter and more skilled batters will pick up on the change-up, and when they know it is coming they will drive it into the gaps with ease.
Varying the times you throw the change-up can only improve if you practice throwing it consistently. As you throw it, your confidence in the pitch will increase. This confidence lets you throw the change-up more often, and batters will not know what to expect on any pitch count.
The best places to throw the change-up unexpectedly are:
- 3 – 2 Count
- First Pitch
- Back to Back
- 2 – 0 Count
Throwing the Change-up on a 3 – 2 Count
One of the scariest places for a pitcher to end up is in a 3 – 2 count. They are inches away from an out, walk, or hit. Throwing the change-up here is for those who command the pitch and are looking to upset the batter’s timing. There is little room for failure, and it must be thrown in the exact spot you need to get the hitter to freeze in their tracks.
First Pitch Change-ups are a Game Changer
Close to 90% of all pitchers are going to start off the at-bat with a fastball. It gives them a bit more warm-up, and often batters will take the first pitch to get an idea of what the pitcher can do.
Throwing the change-up on the first pitch will confuse a hitter and make them second guess their approach to the pitcher. When a pitcher is inside a batter’s head, the game is won. They can control the plate and keep the batters guessing for their entire outing.
Back-to-Back Change-up Pitches Confuse the Batter
The game of wits between pitchers and hitters is one of the most intriguing parts of the game. Throwing back-to-back change-ups on a batter is an excellent way to get a strike.
After a slow pitch, the batter usually expects a fastball. Even if the first change was called a ball, throwing the second confuses the batter. Timing is everything, and when a batter doesn’t have it, they cannot hit.
Throwing the Change-up on a 2 – 0 Count
2 – 0 is a notorious hitter’s count. The pitcher has to throw a strike or fall farther in the hole. Throwing a change here, where a fastball would typically be, can get a strike on an uneven batter.
They will tend to swing early because they expect the pitch to be a fastball. Even if the hitter can adjust to the loss of speed, the ball’s connection often won’t be enough to drive it anywhere with power.
A 3-finger change-up is an excellent pitch for younger pitchers to learn as it won’t hurt their arm like the torsion from a curveball. It forces the hitter to change his timing, and it sets them off-balance. Even if they do connect, there isn’t enough inertia to move the ball very far. The three finger change-up is just one of several different grips that can improve your change-up.
Learning how to throw a change-up can be a massive boon for any younger pitcher. It can have the same effects as a curve when thrown correctly, and being thrown with the same arm speed as the fastball allows for the grip to create friction on the baseball surface and slow it down as it leaves the hand. While the batter thinks a fastball is coming, the pitch will soar slightly higher but drop like a stone when nearing the plate.