how to throw a splitter

How To Throw A Splitter: A Pitcher’s Best Friend

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how to throw a splitter

Are you struggling to throw a splitter in baseball? This pitch can be tricky, but when done right, it’s almost unhittable. Don’t worry, we’ve got a solution for you. In this article, we’ll guide you step-by-step on how to throw an elite splitter, covering everything from the right grip to the perfect throwing technique, and even how to stay safe while doing it.


What is a Splitter In Baseball?

Let’s start by understanding what a split-finger fastball, or ‘splitter,’ is and why it’s important in baseball. The splitter is a special kind of pitch that’s meant to trick the batter. When thrown the right way, it looks just like a straight fastball at first. But as it gets close to home plate, it suddenly drops down. This quick drop can make the batter swing too early or miss the ball.

Throwing a great splitter isn’t just about how fast you throw it. What really matters is how suddenly it drops and when you choose to use this pitch. The splitter looks a bit like a fastball when you first throw it because it moves fast. But what makes it different is how you hold the ball and the way it moves sharply down right before it reaches the batter.

Unlike curveballs that have a vertical break, the splitter keeps going straight until it’s almost at the plate. Then it drops quickly, which surprises the batter.


Split Finger Grip

The key to an effective splitter lies in how you grip the ball. This grip is what creates the pitch’s unique late-breaking movement.

Gripping the Ball for a Splitter

  • Finger Position: Begin by positioning your index finger and middle fingers on the baseball’s seams. Unlike the close finger placement used for a fastball, spread these fingers apart on either side of the ball. This spread should resemble a ‘peace sign.’
  • Thumb Support: Place your thumb underneath the ball for stability. It should be aligned roughly midway between your index fingers and middle fingers.
  • Applying Pressure: The main pressure points are the tips of your index and middle fingers, along with the top part of your thumb. The ball should sit back in your hand but not press against your palm.
  • Wrist Position: Maintain a slightly stiff wrist. This stiffness is crucial for control and stability, particularly during the ball’s release.
splitter grip
how to grip a splitter

How To Throw A Splitter – Common Mistakes

The cornerstone of throwing a good splitter is mastering the grip. This is a skill that demands consistent practice until it becomes second nature.

A typical mistake for young pitchers is incorrect finger placement on the baseball. If your fingers are spread either too widely or not wide enough, it can affect the pitch’s velocity and the path it takes. Another critical aspect is the pressure exerted on the ball. Both overdoing and underdoing the pressure can lead to undesirable changes in how the ball moves. Finding the right balance in applying pressure is important for the splitter to achieve its intended effect.

When a pitcher throws the splitter for the first time it will most likely result in wild pitches, so be sure to practice and get comfortable with it before using it in a real game.


How To Throw A Splitter – Technique

The grip is just the first step. Once you’ve got that down, there are other factors to consider like your arm angle, the ball’s spin, and the release point of the ball.

Arm Motion – The arm angle when throwing a splitter should be similar to that of your fastball. The goal is to make the pitch look as much like a fastball as possible to deceive the batter.

Spin – The splitter’s grip reduces the backspin compared to a fastball, causing the pitch to drop as it nears the plate. Unlike curveballs or sliders, you don’t snap your wrist.

Release – The release is a critical part of throwing a good splitter. As your arm comes forward and you’re ready to release the ball, you want to let the ball slide out from between your two fingers. Your fingers should extend fully upon release, with both fingers touching the ball last.


How does the splitter pitch move?

When thrown correctly, the splitter will look like a fastball to the batter until it nearly reaches the plate, where it suddenly drops downward. This sudden change in direction is the signature move of a splitter and what makes it such an effective pitch.

The reduced backspin generated from the release causes the ball to experience more drag on its top side, leading it to drop sharply as it nears the plate.

However, the exact movement can vary from pitcher to pitcher, depending on the specific grip, finger pressure, and release. Some pitchers might get a bit of sideways movement on their splitter in addition to the downward break, while others might get a more drastic drop.


Tips and Tricks for a Successful Splitter

This section will provide you with tips to add more speed and movement to your splitter, advice on disguising your pitch, and insights into pitch sequencing.

Advanced Strategies

  • Pitch Sequencing: One of the most effective ways to utilize a splitter is in conjunction with a fastball. By throwing a fastball before the splitter, you can trick the batter into thinking another fastball is coming, making the late drop of the splitter even more surprising.
  • Varying Speeds: To further confuse the batter, try altering the speed of your splitter. Throwing a slightly slower splitter after a series of fast ones can lead to an off-balance swing, weak contact or ground balls.
  • Disguising Your Pitch: A great way to disguise your splitter is to mimic the arm speed and release point of your fastball. This will make it much harder for the batter to identify the pitch until it’s too late.

Improving Your Splitter

To enhance the effectiveness of your splitter, consider experimenting with small variations in your grip and the pressure applied by your fingers. These slight adjustments can significantly increase the movement of your pitch.

Additionally, focusing on strengthening your arm and wrist muscles can contribute to an increase in the velocity of your splitter. Another crucial aspect is accuracy. Consistently practice aiming at different parts of the strike zone.


Does Finger Length Matter?

Finger length and flexibility are both key factors that can significantly influence how effective your splitter pitch is.

Finger Length

A pitcher with longer fingers has a natural advantage when throwing a splitter. This is because longer fingers can spread wider across the baseball, allowing for a better grip. When you release the ball, it slides off your spread fingers, creating the downward movement of the splitter. The wider you can comfortably spread your fingers, the better the drop will be.

Finger Flexibility

Flexibility is also essential, as it allows you to spread your fingers wider on the ball. This increases the ball’s drag as it leaves your hand, causing it to slow down and drop more drastically. If your fingers are more flexible, you can also manipulate the pressure points on the ball more effectively, changing the pitch’s trajectory.


How To Throw A Splitter – Safety Considerations

Safety should always be a priority when throwing a splitter. Throwing this pitch can be tough on your arm, especially your elbow and shoulder. So, it’s important to be careful and protect your arm.

The first secondary pitch that I learned was a splitter. My coach wanted me to have an out pitch and apparently, he wasn’t too fond of the changeup. The pitch was extremely effective and I thought I could strike anyone out with it. The problem was that I was twelve years old and throwing it a lot. I didn’t know the damage it was doing at the time but by the time I was fifteen, my arm was shot. I could barely reach second base from my outfield position.

How To Minimize Risk

  • Overuse: Throwing any pitch repeatedly can lead to overuse injuries. It’s important to monitor your pitch count and ensure you get plenty of rest between pitching sessions.
  • Incorrect Technique: Incorrect grip or throwing technique can lead to strain or injury. Always focus on maintaining correct form, even when fatigue sets in.
  • Insufficient Warm-up: Failing to properly warm up before throwing can increase injury risk.

Proper Warm Up And Conditioning

  • Warming Up: A proper warm-up should include stretching and light throwing to get your muscles ready for the action.
  • Conditioning: Regular conditioning exercises, including strength and flexibility training, can help prepare your body for the demands of pitching and reduce the risk of injury.

Taking Care Of Your Arm And Overall Health

  • Rest: Ensure you get enough rest between pitching sessions to allow your body time to recover.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Stay well-hydrated, and maintain a balanced diet to support your body’s recovery and performance.
  • Listen to Your Body: If you feel pain while throwing, stop immediately. It’s better to rest and recover than to risk further injury.

By keeping these safety tips in mind, you can enjoy the fun of throwing a deadly splitter while preserving your arm’s health and your longevity in the sport.


Final Thoughts – How To Throw A Splitter

As young pitchers aspire to reach the heights of Major League Baseball, mastering a pitch like the splitter can be a game-changer. From the historic pitches of Babe Ruth to the modern-day mastery of Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer, the splitter has played a pivotal role in defining some of the best players and moments in baseball. Whether it’s making an impact in the regular season, shining in the World Series, or representing the United States in the World Baseball Classic, a well-executed splitter can set a pitcher apart.

For high school players and those in college baseball, developing a pitch with good command like the splitter can be a stepping stone to professional baseball.

Remember, the journey to becoming a great pitcher is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, dedication, and a focus on perfecting your craft. As you progress, keep a close eye on the MLB season, learn from the best pitchers, and pay attention to how they adapt and evolve. With hard work and perseverance, you might just find yourself starting the season in the big leagues one day striking professionals out.


FAQ

What is a splitter in baseball?

A splitter, or split-finger fastball, is a pitch that looks like a fastball but drops sharply as it reaches the batter, making it hard to hit.

How do you grip a splitter?

Grip the baseball with your index and middle fingers spread apart on either side of the ball, resembling a ‘peace sign’, and place your thumb underneath for support.

Is throwing a splitter hard on the arm?

While not as stressful as other off-speed pitches like a slider or curveball, it’s important to learn proper technique and build arm strength to avoid strain.

How does a splitter differ from a fastball?

Unlike a fastball, which has backspin and stays straight, a splitter has reduced backspin, causing it to drop suddenly near the plate.

Can young pitchers learn to throw a splitter?

Yes, young pitchers can learn to throw a splitter, but they should focus on mastering the basics and ensure they have developed enough arm strength and pitching mechanics first.

What is the best way for a high school player to start learning the splitter?

High school players should begin by focusing on the proper mechanics of the splitter pitch, especially the standard splitter grip. It’s important to practice consistently, starting with a focus on grip and gradually working on control and velocity.

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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