If you’re looking to add a new pitch to your repertoire, the forkball might be just what you need. With its deceptive motion and tendency to “knuckle” at the last second, the forkball can be tough for batters to hit. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to throw a forkball that will have them guessing. Let’s get started!
- The forkball is a rare and complicated pitch that is rarely used in the major leagues anymore
- A forkball pitch is an off-speed breaking pitch that pitchers use to make the ball drop quickly and sharply as it reaches home plate
- The grip used for a forkball is like a splitter but with the fingers spread wider, and the throwing motion is like that of a fastball
- It is called a forkball pitch because the index and middle fingers are forced to the very outside of the ball, making it look like there’s a fork in the road
- To throw a successful forkball, the pitcher should have their thumb underneath the ball and tuck it into their hand. In addition, the motion should be between 45-85 degrees with rapid backspin movement
The forkball is a rare and complicated pitch that is rarely used in the major leagues anymore. The forkball is a cousin of the split-fingered fastball because of the grip, it is a cousin to the fastball because of the windup and the motion, and it is a cousin of the curveball because the wrist must snap downwards on a forkball like a curveball.
What is a forkball pitch?
A forkball pitch is an off-speed breaking pitch that pitchers use to make the ball drop quickly and sharply as it reaches home plate. It is a hybrid between the splitter and the fastball.
The grip used for a forkball is like a splitter but with the fingers spread wider, and the throwing motion is like that of a fastball. When thrown correctly, the pitch looks like a fastball in every way, then drops toward the ground as it reaches home plate.
Why is it called a forkball pitch?
It is called a forkball pitch because the index and middle fingers are forced to the very outside of the ball, and when separated that far, it looks like a fork in the road. There are also references to a pitchfork because some pitchers use an additional finger when gripping the ball. This grip makes it appear that the ball is on the end of a pitchfork.
Throwing a forkball pitch: The 4 steps
To grip a forkball, the pitcher must physically force the baseball between the index and middle fingers so each one is on the outside edge of the ball. The thumb should be underneath the ball, and the ball should be tucked into the hand. If the ball is held towards the fingertips, it will react like a splitter pitch and not give you the desired drop.
2. Arm Angle
Like other off-speed pitches that are supposed to drop straight down, the arm angle for a forkball needs to be between 45-85 degrees. If a pitcher drops the arm angle to the sidearm, the risk of hitting the batter with the pitch increases.
3. Spin Movement
The backspin movement of a forkball is what makes it so effective. The forkball is thrown with a similar motion to a straight fastball but should break down like a curveball because of the rapid backspin placed on the ball during the release. The faster the ball spins, the more it will drop away from the hitter.
The release of the forkball is what makes it unique compared to other pitches. As the pitcher releases the ball, the release point should be higher than the fastball to account for the drop. Also, when the pitcher releases the ball, they must snap their wrist downwards sharply to achieve the right spin.
In the video below, MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Morris explains how he gripped and delivered his forkball and tried to fool hitters into thinking it would be a fastball. Morris used the forkball successfully during the 80s and 90s when he won 254 games and was a 4-time World Series champion.
When to throw a forkball pitch
A forkball is best thrown in place of a curveball or slider. However, due to the extreme nature of the grip and delivery of the pitch, it is recommended that only pitchers with above-average flexibility in their hands, wrists, and elbows throw it.
For pitchers that throw it, a forkball is best when set up by one or two fastballs thrown higher in the strike zone. Then, the pitcher throws a forkball that starts high again but drops, causing the hitter to miss.
How does a forkball pitch move?
A forkball pitch moves like a fastball once it leaves the pitcher’s hand. But, once it reaches home plate, the ball will drop straight down very quickly if the pitcher puts the correct amount of spin on it.
To a hitter, the pitch should move and spin like a fastball, but as they swing the bat, the ball “falls” straight down, causing the hitter to miss or make weak contact with the ball.
Why is a forkball pitch hard to hit?
A forkball pitch is hard to hit because of the extreme drop of the ball and the pitcher’s ability to disguise the pitch as a fastball. Hitters have a certain way they swing at fastballs versus off-speed pitches, so the best pitchers can keep changing speeds to confuse hitters.
Because the fingers are spread so far apart when gripping a forkball, it puts a lot of extra strain on the wrist and forearm. In addition, the downward snap of the wrist that is needed also puts additional strain on the elbow and forearm. Because of this, it is recommended that young pitchers do not throw a forkball.
Even a correctly thrown forkball will put an unnecessary strain on an arm. Once a pitcher is an adult and all tendons are fully developed, they can become a dangerous pitcher if they can throw a forkball without pain.
To see one of the best forkball pitchers in the world, below is a compilation of Japanese professional pitcher Minoru Iwata, who still throws a forkball today. As you watch, notice how neither the hitter nor the catcher has any idea what is happening with the pitch. That is what makes the forkball a legendary pitch.
Who invented the forkball pitch?
Baseball historians credit “Bullet” Joe Bush for inventing the pitch in the 1910s. However, the pitch did not get widespread use until the 1940s, when Elroy Face started using it more frequently and successfully.
Who had the most famous forkball pitch?
Many baseball historians agree that Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry has the most famous forkball pitch. Perry played from 1962-1983 and won 314 games and two Cy Young awards. He was a controversial pitcher because of his off-speed pitches, but his forkball made him a legend.
In the 1974 MLB All-Star game, Gaylord Perry struck out four straight hitters, including superstars of the time like Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. Two of the four all-stars he struck out were by forkball. See the footage here and watch how the ball drops all the way to the ground to make the hitters miss.
What is the difference between a forkball and a splitter?
The main difference between a forkball and a splitter is the snap of the wrist when the ball is released. For the forkball to drop, the pitcher must snap the wrist downward to get the right spin. On a splitter, the motion is the same, but the ball is thrown harder with the ball placed more towards the fingertips without the added spin.
Who threw the fastest forkball pitch?
Since adopting the MLB pitch radar system in 2006, only three pitchers have thrown a forkball over 80mph. However, prior to that technology, most baseball experts agree that All-Star pitcher Dave Stewart threw the fastest forkball during the 1980s. Stewart’s nickname was “Smoke” because he had a fastball over 95 mph and his forkball was only 8–10 mph slower than his fastball. This pitch gave him a great career and fooled many hitters.
While the forkball is rarely used anymore because of its damaging effects, no one can dispute the effectiveness of the pitch when thrown correctly. Most agree that it is an effective off-speed pitch, but because of the trauma it causes the throwing arm, coaches do not teach how to throw a forkball anymore.
Our apologies if you found this post unhelpful.
How can it be improved? Your feedback is important to us!