how to throw a changeup

How To Throw A Changeup: A Complete Guide

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how to throw a changeup

Standing on the mound with the bases loaded, tension mounts as the batter readies himself. You’ve been relying on fastballs and curves, yet they’re not hitting the mark tonight. It’s time to shift gears and introduce the unexpected – the changeup. This pitch is the epitome of deception in baseball. It’s slower, yet it deceives the batter by mirroring a fastball’s delivery. In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps of how to throw a changeup, including the best ways to grip the ball, how to move your arm, and some handy tips to make sure you get it right.


The Art of the Changeup:

When you’re facing batters who have seen a steady diet of fastballs and curves, throwing a well-executed changeup can be the key to keeping them guessing and off balance.

Why It Works: The magic of the changeup lies in its ability to look like a fastball coming out of your hand. The batter sets up for a fastball, but what they get is something much slower, throwing off their timing. This difference in speed can cause the batter to swing early and miss or not hit the ball as hard.

When to Use It: The best time to throw a changeup is when the batter expects a fastball. This could be in a count where fastballs are commonly thrown, like 2-1 or 3-2, or when you’ve been throwing a lot of fastballs in the game.

Getting the Feel: Learning to throw a changeup takes practice. It’s not just about the grip. It’s about getting the feel of the pitch. You want to be comfortable enough with it that you can throw it with confidence in any count and any situation. Start by practicing it during your regular pitching sessions and gradually work it into your game plan.


Understanding Changeup Mechanics:

Changeup Grip

There are numerous grips for a changeup, with popular ones including the circle change, the modern three-finger grip, and a variation used by Pedro Martinez. The ideal grip is one that feels natural and comfortable, particularly important for younger pitchers with smaller hands. Experiment with different grips to find the one that best suits your style.

how to throw a change up
change up grips

Consistent Arm Speed

Maintain the same arm speed for your changeup as you do for your fastball. This consistency is crucial for deceiving the batter, making it challenging for them to differentiate between the two pitches until it’s too late.

Mimicking Fastball Mechanics:

  • Release and Spin: Your changeup’s release should closely mimic that of your fastball, helping to maintain the illusion of a faster pitch. Similarly, the spin on your changeup should resemble your fastballs, further confusing the batter.
  • Release Point and Arm Angle: Ensure that the release point and arm angle of your changeup are identical to those of your fastball. This helps the changeup maintain a straighter trajectory, contrasting the downward break of pitches like curveballs.

By honing these elements, your changeup can evolve into a deceptive and integral part of your pitching repertoire, complementing your overall style and making you a more versatile and challenging pitcher to face.

I could honestly listen to Pedro Martinez talk about pitching all day long. Check out this video of how he threw what many consider to be the greatest changeup of all time. Pedro’s thumb and forefinger joined together to form a circle-change grip, and he used the other fingers to guide the ball.


Why Are Changeups In Baseball So Effective?

In baseball, pitchers typically have a repertoire of five or six pitches. The fastball, curveball, slider, cutter, splitter, and changeup. Each pitch has unique characteristics designed to outwit hitters.

The fastball, a staple for most pitchers, is known for its speed and is generally the easiest to control. The curveball, in contrast, is slower and breaks sharply near the plate, challenging hitters to make good contact. The slider, less sharp than the curveball, moves away from the hitter, adding another layer of complexity.

Among these, the changeup is often underrated, especially among young pitchers who focus more on fastballs and develop off-speed pitches like curveballs or sliders later. However, the changeup deserves equal attention. It’s essentially a slower fastball, thrown with the same arm speed but arriving at the plate usually 7-9 mph less. This discrepancy can fool hitters who are expecting a fastball.

Pitchers often vary this pitch by adjusting speeds, grips, and locations, tailoring it to different game situations. Some pitchers even create a larger speed gap between their fastball and changeup, adding to its unpredictability.


Common Mistakes 

When mastering the changeup, young pitchers often encounter a few typical mistakes that can undermine the effectiveness of the pitch. Recognizing and correcting these errors is crucial for developing a reliable changeup.

Incomplete Follow-Through: A frequent error is not following through properly after the release. The grip should be relaxed, yet the arm motion must remain strong and complete. Failing to do so can result in a meatball pitch that will get crushed by a hitter.

Incorrect Finger Positioning: Proper finger placement on or near the seams is essential for control. If your fingers are positioned off-center, the pitch can lose its trajectory, leading to an uncontrollable pitch that could result in a walk or a home run.

Slowing Down Arm Speed: Some pitchers mistakenly slow their arm speed to reduce the pitch’s velocity. However, the changeup’s reduced speed should come from the grip and finger pressure, not a slower arm motion. Consistent arm speed is key to maintaining the deception of the pitch.

Frustration in Practice: Young pitchers often struggle with the changeup during initial practice, leading to pitches bouncing in the dirt. This can be due to an overly tight grip or experimenting with various grips. Additionally, there might be a fear of walking batters due to unfamiliarity with the pitch. It’s important to remember that learning the changeup takes time and should not be attempted for the first time in a game situation.


5 Best Changeup Pitchers In MLB History

  1. Pedro Martinez
  2. Tom Glavine
  3. Tim Lincecum
  4. Roy Halladay
  5. Johan Santana

The guy’s throwing 95-98 mph with a changeup that just stops. He going to make any player look like a fool. This was the most dominant period of time by one pitcher that I’ve ever seen.

Dennis Eckersley on Pedro Martinez

Final Thoughts

If you want to be successful on the mound, you need to have more than just fastballs and curves in your repertoire. A well-thrown changeup pitch can be virtually unhittable—but only if you know how to throw it correctly. It’ll help preserve your arm health, keep hitters off balance, and give you another pitch to get hitters out with. With a little practice, you can learn how to throw and grip a changeup that will confuse even the best hitters.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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