The Four Seam Fastball

When it comes to pitching, nothing is more fundamental than the four seam fastball. It is often the first pitch mastered. The idea is straightforward, the ball is thrown as fast as possible, and the batter tries to hit it. Learning to harness the true potential of the pitch through hard work, as well as understanding hitter psychology is more difficult.

What is the Four Seam Fastball?

When addressing the hitter, the pitcher wants to be as deceptive as possible while simultaneously locating the pitches in and around the strike zone. The four seem or "rising" fastball is designed for both maximum velocity and a high degree of accuracy. When a pitcher is simply trying to throw a pitch past the hitter, they turn to the rising fastball. In Major League Baseball, the four seam often approaches and sometimes exceed 100 miles per hour. This pitch has little movement, and often appears to be rising in the strike zone although it is not.

Where Should the Baseball Be Gripped?

Pitching legend Nolan Ryan, known as one of the hardest throwers of all time, grips the pitch with his index and middle resting perpendicular to the seams at the point where the two are furthest apart. The thumb grips the underside of the ball and runs perpendicular to the two seems there as well. It is not necessary for all four seams to be gripped at the same time, as the name suggests. It is important to allow the ball to roll off the index and middle finger last. It is for this reason that properly manicured nails are so important.

Why is the Four Seam so Important?

Every hitter approaches hitting the baseball in a different manner. As a result, there certain places a pitcher can locate his fastball that are more effective in producing swings and misses. The rising fastball is important in that it has no break and thus is easier to control. Also important is the change in velocity. A batter expecting a change-up will not likely be ready for a pitch traveling 10 miles per hour faster.

When is it most effective?

Fastball effectiveness is dependent upon many factors. A hitter with better bat speed can hit pitches traveling faster. These batters are known as fastball hitters for obvious reasons and pitchers generally throw breaking balls or off-speed pitches to them. The maximum achievable speed is also important as higher velocity is always a plus. It's always important to be deceptive as even the most overpowering fastball becomes easy to hit when the hitter knows it is coming.

When is it Least Effective?

The pitch is least effective when it is thrown too slow or right down the middle of the strike zone. Hitters practice on pitches thrown down the middle all the time during batting practice, so they know how to capitalize on this mistake. Also important is the count. Most pitchers avoid throwing a fastball when they have two strikes on the hitter with one or two balls as this is generally when they want to use a breaking ball out of the strike zone. Wasting pitches in this manner often induces swing-and-miss strikeouts.

The four seam is the most predominate pitch in the game. Many players in professional leagues do not feature the four seam fastball, but nearly all throw one occasionally. Conversely, in rare occasions, the pitch can be thrown almost exclusively. It exemplifies both the brawn and brain of the game itself.

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