Former Minnesota Twins pitcher Anthony Slama shares tips for how to throw a changeup, including beginner to advanced grip variations.
What is a changeup?
The fundamental purpose of a change up is to deceive the hitter and change his timing. Even the best hitters rely on timing as the key to tracking pitches and making solid contact. By altering the speed of the pitch without altering arm-speed or delivery, the pitcher can deceive a hitter and by doing this have a better chance at keeping the ball off his barrel (Keep reading to learn the 3 types of grips for a changeup).
Do I need a change up?
A good changeup can be the most valuable card in your pitching deck. It’s also one of the most difficult to master. It can be the most valuable because if you can throw it in any count, you can truly deceive the hitter and keep him off balance, creating an out on THAT pitch.
The changeup is the most difficult to master because the difficulty to stay consistent with arm slot and arm speed, both of which are vital to a good changeup. But if it is mastered through practice and repetition, it is an equalizer!
A pitch scouts drool over, and hitters detest!
Scouts love to see an amateur with a good feel for his changeup, and often say the pitcher has “pitchability.”
Pitchability means the pitcher has a good feel for what his arm, body and hand are doing during a pitch, thus increasing his value.
A good changeup can turn an average fastball into a great fastball, simply because the hitter thinks you might change speeds, making the fastball get on him a split second faster.
— Kyle Gibson (@kgib44) March 15, 2015
Examples of when to use a changeup
We suggest our pitchers use it when behind in a count (2-0,3-1, even 2-1,) most hitters are geared up for a fastball.
If you have the ability to control a good changeup and make it appear to be a fastball, the hitter has a better chance of putting an off-balance swing on the pitch, which neutralizes his power, and can keep the ball off the barrel.
An off-balance swing is a bad swing, and our job is to get bad swings on good pitches!
Warning – Be careful not to tip off the hitter. While a good changeup can be extremely valuable, a changeup that is “tipped off” turns into a batting practice meatball. A “Tipped off” changeup is one that a hitter can determine is a changeup early, oftenbefore the pitcher even throws it.
If he sees the pitch early enough, he adjusts his timing mechanism, and the changeup becomes a beachball. The pitch is “tipped off” by the pitcher slowing down his arm, his delivery, or both!
How to throw a changeup
3 things to remember for how to throw a change up: (1) Arm speed; (2) Grip; and (3) Good extension and what we call “hand-feel.”
1.) Arm Speed
Arm speed must be the same as your fastball. Throw it hard and let the grip do the work of slowing the ball down.
A changeup must be learned, so throw it in practice EVERY time you play catch to develop armspeed and confidence with the pitch. If you don’t commit to the pitch with confidence, it’s won’t work, and your work will be wasted!
2.) Proper grip for a Changeup pitch
Grips can vary and takes many practice throws to find a grip the pitcher likes. Pay attention to what the ball is doing in flight, and determine what feels comfortable.
(Advanced) How to throw a standard circle changeup
Index finger and thumb form a circle, and the top two fingers are placed across the baseball seams like a four seamer. Think about throwing the circle through the catcher, pulling hard down on the ball with the middle and ring fingers.
(Intermediate) The two seam changeup. Put the middle and ring fingers inside the two baseball seams, and throw just like a fastball. Try not to pronate the pitch, just let the grip do the work and throw the pitch hard!
(Beginner) 3 finger changeup – A simple three finger changeup is recommended for young pitchers, whose hands may not have the dexterity or size to properly handle a circle changeup grip.
Three finger changeup grip is seen here. Throw just like a fastball, loose grip, ball a little deeper in the hand compared to the fastball.
Whatever grip you choose, its important to stick with it for at least a month of playing catch, until the habit and handfeel can be learned.
3. Extension and Handfeel
That sensation of ripping the ball down with the fingers, all the fingers touching the ball with good armspeed should create this feeling. Hand should be somewhat loose, don’t squeeze the ball.
You want to reach out with the hand as far as you can but keep more weight on your back side as possible. Track the ball out of your hand and adjust to what you see the ball doing in flight and it’s location.
Tough to master but it’s a trick that a lot of guys with good change pieces use to cut velocity off the ball but make it look like a fastball. It’s all deception kids!
More Free Tips from the Pros:
- Pitchers Gear – 4 Contraptions that Make a Pitcher’s Life Easier
- Types of pitches and Pitch Grips
- Best Baseball Sunglasses
- What are scouts looking for –Throwing Strength. How do YOU stack up?
- The secret of World Class Athletes – How mental toughness in baseball can make or break your career
We have some great pitching tips coming out in the next couple months, all donated by pro or former-pro baseball players. Also coming this off season, and in-depth review of pitchers practice nets. Be sure to subscribe to our pitcher’s list if you would like to be notified of new posts.
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