How to Throw a Changeup Pitch

Here’s everything you need to know about a changeup pitch.
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

Have you ever been to a baseball game and seen a pitcher throw a changeup pitch? It’s amazing how that one little trick can confuse the batter. If you’re looking to add some new tricks to your pitching arsenal, keep reading for instructions on how to throw a changeup pitch.

KEY
POINTS
  • A changeup pitch is an off-speed pitch that pitchers throw to confuse hitters.
  • The reason for the slower speed is to get the batter to swing early and miss the ball.
  • A changeup pitch is called a changeup because of the lower velocity of the ball. In the early 1900s, it was referred to as a “slow ball” because of its noticeable changes in speeds.
  • To throw a successful changeup, grip the ball tightly with your thumb and ring finger while applying minimal pressure with your index and pointer fingers. The placement of your fingers will determine how fast the ball will travel.
  • Changeups are most effective when thrown after a fastball since once a hitter has seen a fastball, they time their swings based on the pitcher’s motion.

Throwing a changeup

A changeup is a type of pitch that’s like a fastball but travels at a much slower speed. The reason pitchers throw pitches at different rates is to confuse a hitter and disrupt their timing.

If pitchers threw straight fastballs all the time, hitters would be able to time them. By changing the speeds of the pitches, pitchers keep hitters guessing, which gives them an advantage.

What is a changeup pitch?

A changeup pitch is considered an off-speed pitch that pitchers throw to confuse hitters. When thrown correctly, a changeup will travel and spin like a fastball but will be 10-20 mph slower than the fastball. The reason pitchers throw it slower is to get the batter to swing early and miss the ball before it reaches home plate.

Why is it called a changeup pitch?

It is called a changeup pitch because of the lower velocity of the ball. In the early 1900s, the pitch was commonly referred to as a “slow ball” because of noticeable changes in speeds. Later, people would say the pitcher was “changing up speeds,” which was eventually shortened to “changeup.” 

Throwing a changeup: The 4 steps

1. Grip

The basic grip for a changeup involves more of the palm of the hand and the ring finger, making it much different than any other pitch. To maintain the motion of a fastball with less velocity, a pitcher needs to change the grip of the ball. To grip a traditional changeup, pitchers are taught to make a circle with their thumb and index finger. Consequently, place that circle on the inside of the ball and grip the ball hard with the middle and ring fingers. With the pinky finger on the outside of the ball, you must put pressure on the tip of the middle finger.

2. Arm Angle

For a changeup to be successful, the arm angle that a pitcher uses to throw a changeup must be identical to the angle of their fastball. The purpose of the changeup is to confuse hitters, so if a pitcher changes their motion for a changeup, the hitter will know that a pitch is coming.

3. Spin Movement

Since the changeup is a straight pitch, the spin on a changeup is the same as on a fastball. As a pitcher releases a fastball, the index and middle fingers are firm on the ball and press downwards upon release of the ball. With a changeup, release the ball the same way but with the middle and ring fingers. The strength difference between the index finger and ring finger slows down the baseball’s speed because the pitcher cannot put as much pressure on the ball.

4. Release

The release point of a changeup pitch should be the same as the fastball, just like the arm angle. Other off-speed pitches have a higher release point because they break downwards, but the changeup remains straight. Because of that, the changeup release point is identical to other consecutive pitches. 

Also, like a fastball release, when a pitcher lets go of the ball, the tips of the middle and ring fingers press down on the ball and roll off the back of the baseball in the same manner as the index, and middle fingers do for a fastball.

To learn more about gripping and throwing a changeup, watch the video below to see tips from MLB Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who is widely considered to have the best changeup in the history of baseball.

When to throw a changeup pitch

While not a specific point during an at-bat calls for a changeup pitch, it is usually most effective when thrown after a fastball.

Once a hitter has seen a fastball, they will time the start of their swing based on the pitcher’s motion. When the pitcher throws a slower changeup, the batter will begin their swing early and miss the changeup.

How does a changeup pitch move?

A changeup is intended to stay on a straight path from the pitcher’s hand to home plate. It is a deceptive pitch because of the slower speed that throws the hitter’s timing off.

However, depending on how the ball is gripped and released, some pitchers may apply a slight spin to the ball, allowing it to sink or curve to one side or another.

Why is a changeup pitch hard to hit?

A changeup pitch is hard to hit because it looks like a fastball but travels 10-20 mph slower. Because hitters have so little time to identify and swing at a pitch, pitchers that can adjust speeds easily are highly successful.

Additional tips

According to Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, the changeup pitch should be slowed down by a pitcher’s fingers and not their arm. Maddux confused thousands of hitters with his off-speed pitches and has been considered one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last 40 years.

In this video clip below, Maddux will show you how he gripped and threw his legendary changeup.

To see the effectiveness of a great changeup, watch the video below and pay close attention to the slower speeds of the pitches and how early the hitters swing and miss because they were fooled.

FAQ

Who invented the changeup pitch?

There is no single person who is credited with inventing the changeup. In the early years of baseball, pitchers threw straight pitches at different speeds, but in those days, it was referred to as a slow ball.

According to the modern dictionary and baseball scholars, the actual word “changeup” was not used in baseball literature until approximately 1943. Since then, a few pitchers have successfully utilized the changeup in MLB. Hall of Famers such as Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, and Roy Halladay all credit their success to having a great changeup.

Who had the most famous changeup pitch?

It is widely agreed that Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine had the most effective changeup in MLB history. Other pitchers also had excellent changeup pitches, but Glavine used his with such frequency that it became something he was well known for.

How many different ways are there to grip a changeup pitch?

There are dozens of ways to grip a changeup, but the common theme among each different grip is that the ball is held tightly with the thumb and ring finger with minimal pressure applied by the index and pointer fingers. The placement of the fingers determines how fast the ball will travel.

An excellent off-speed pitch for young players to learn

The changeup is an excellent pitch for young players to learn because it is an effective off-speed pitch that does not require any twisting or snapping motion of the wrist or elbow. It is one thing to be able to throw a hard fastball for a strike, but great pitchers know they need to mix it up, change speeds and do what they can to get batters out. Now that you know how to throw a changeup, go out and give it a try!

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