Throwing a splitter is one of the most effective ways to fool hitters. In this post, we’ll show you how to throw a splitter and give you some tips on how to make it more effective.
- A splitter pitch is an off-speed pitch thrown like a fastball but with less backspin, which causes the ball to drop as it reaches home plate.
- Pitchers are taught to maintain the same windup and arm angle as their fastball and throw the ball with the same energy and force.
- The success of the splitter depends on the lack of backspin on the ball.
- When releasing a splitter, the location of the hand should be identical to that of the fastball.
- A pitcher throws a splitter at the same time he/she would throw any other off-speed or breaking pitch to keep the hitter confused.
Throwing a splitter
Like other off-speed pitches, a splitter should deceive hitters expecting a straight fastball. Pitchers that throw an excellent splitter pitch make it appear to hitters that a fastball is coming, then at the last minute, the ball drops, causing them to make weak contact with the bat or no contact at all.
What is a splitter pitch?
A splitter pitch is an off-speed pitch thrown like a fastball but with less backspin, which causes the ball to drop as it reaches home plate. Pitchers are taught to maintain the same windup and arm angle as their fastball and throw the ball with the same energy and force.
However, because of the ball’s grip, the pitch will be slower than a straight fastball with more movement.
Why is it called a splitter pitch?
It is called a splitter pitch because of the grip of the ball. When a pitcher grips a splitter, the index, and middle fingers are split wide open and wrapped around the outside edges of the ball.
The name “splitter” is a short version of the pitch’s full name, “split-fingered fastball.” The splitter has roots tracing back to the 1920s but really came to prominence during the 1980s when more coaches began to teach it.
Throwing a splitter: The 4 steps
To grip a splitter, the ball should be tucked into the hand, not touching the palm. With the thumb on the bottom of the ball, the index and middle fingers should be spread as wide as possible without being painful. To ensure your fingers are far apart, the fingers should be on the outside of the widest seams of the baseball. The splitter will be successful if the fingers can be split wide enough to be on the outside of the seams.
2. Arm Angle
The arm angle for a splitter should be the same as a fastball’s. A splitter pitch can be thrown from any arm angle, but it is essential to disguise the pitch so pitchers throw it with the same motion as their fastball.
3. Spin Movement
The success of the splitter depends on the lack of a backspin on the ball. Because of the grip of the splitter, pitchers can exert the same force as a fastball but have the ball travel much slower to confuse a hitter. What makes the splitter different from other pitches that break and curve is that this pitch does not require spin on the ball. In fact, a splitter should have a minimal spin at all. This is because the force of gravity brings the ball downwards with less spin. Fastballs do not drop because they are thrown with a fast backspin that creates air pressure underneath the ball, thus resisting gravity and keeping the ball on a straight path.
When releasing a splitter, the location of the hand should be identical to that of the fastball. However, with pressure applied from the inside of the fingers, the ball will have a backspin like a fastball, but at a much lower speed.
To see how MLB All-Star and former MVP Shohei Ohtani grips his famous splitter, watch the video below and pay close attention to the location of his middle and index fingers.
When to throw a splitter pitch
Pitchers throw a splitter at the same time they would throw any other off-speed or breaking pitch. Their goal at all times is to keep the hitter confused and guessing what is coming next.
Pitchers with a good splitter will set it up with a hard fastball, then show the same motion again for a splitter. However, they will confuse the hitters and throw off their timing because of the slower velocity.
How does a splitter pitch move?
A splitter pitch moves straight like a fastball until it reaches 6-12 inches from home plate. As the ball approaches home plate, the soft backspin on the ball causes the ball to drop several inches. Depending on which finger has the most pressure on the ball will also determine if the ball moves slightly to the left or right as it drops, just like a slider.
Why is a splitter pitch hard to hit?
A splitter pitch is hard to hit because batters believe a fastball is coming due to the pitcher’s motion and release. However, if the grip is correct, the ball will start to travel like a straight fastball. When the batter sees the slower spin, the ball is already dropping away from the bat.
There are several variations of the splitter. One of the most common versions is to grip the ball with the index and ring fingers on the sides of the ball as the fingers that are “split.” Then, the middle finger rests on top of the ball, and pressure from that fingertip allows for additional side spin that makes a splitter drop down and to the left or right.
In the video below, you will see MLB All-Star pitcher Kevin Gausman talk about how he grips and releases his splitter. Gausman uses a non-traditional grip but has had a lot of success with the pitch for many years.
Who invented the splitter pitch?
The splitter pitch came from what was initially called the “forkball” as the fingers were split like a fork in the road. Baseball historians credit Joe Bush of the Boston Red Sox with inventing the forkball in the early 1920s.
The pitch started becoming more widespread in the 1950s when Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Elroy Face began to having success with it. The pitch was then brought to prominence in the 1980s by Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter.
Who had the most famous splitter pitch?
For modern-day baseball fans and media, most agree that Bruce Sutter had the most famous splitter. Many pitchers today throw excellent splitters, but Sutter used the pitch primarily and made a hall of fame career for himself in the process.
Thomas Boswell was quoted as saying, “Bruce Sutter and his new pitch, the split finger fastball fascinate the manager of the Cuban national teams. ‘We must find out about this new weapon,’ he said. ‘Are the American hitters plotting to murder him?”
Who threw the fastest splitter pitch?
Since pitches have been tracked, the fastest splitter on record belongs to Jhoan Duran of the Minnesota Twins. Duran’s splitter averages 96.2 mph, and he owns the top 68 fastest recorded splitters in MLB. There is no one else even close.
The splitter: Pros and cons
While the splitter, or split-finger fastball, is not widely used in professional baseball, a few pitchers throw the pitch well. Skeptics say that the splitter causes too much stress on the fingers, affecting a pitcher’s velocity over time.
However, for those pitchers that throw it safely and successfully, there is no limit to how far they can go. Some pitchers have used their splitters to strike hitters out, win championships, and even go to the hall of fame. No one can argue with that. Now that you know how to throw a splitter, go out and give it a try!
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