At Driveline, we have been fortunate to collect a large database of grip options, classified by pitch type, to help us identify potential adjustments and find the grip that “feels right” to our athletes. While the ideal grip varies from person to person, it is often the case that athletes are generally unaware of the various grip options available to them, frequently relying on grips taught to them at a young age.
In this blog series, we will share the grips most commonly used by our own athletes, in hopes of giving the general public a better opportunity to self-discover the grip that works best for each individual.
We will cover the single most commonly used four-seam fastball grip in our database—known to us as “FF 1”—which over 80% of our athletes use. After a detailed description of how to throw the FF 1 fastball, we’ll also provide some alternative options for gripping the four-seamer, along with supplemental Edgertronic video.
Overview of the Four-Seam Fastball
The most commonly thrown, and arguably most important, pitch in a player’s arsenal is the four-seam fastball. Synonymous with high velocities, a pitcher’s four-seam fastball typically exhibits some degree of backspin and arm-side movement.
A four-seam fastball differs from other types of fastballs, such as two-seamers or sinkers, in that it shows greater vertical movement, less sink and a higher average velocity. Unlike breaking balls, four-seam fastballs are typically thrown in the zone with high frequency to maximize effectiveness.
The most important fingers for the four-seam fastball are the index and middle fingers. They are used to impart force to the baseball, which results in high velocity and spin. In this grip example, the fingers are spread evenly on top of the ball while the finger pads are placed directly onto the seams.
The thumb is positioned underneath the ball for control, but its placement can be modified based on comfort. We usually see most pitchers either put their thumb directly underneath the ball or just off center.
The ring finger is placed on the side of the ball in order to help maintain control, while the pinky finger is completely off. This grip isn’t one size fits all–the most important thing is that you position your fingers so that you are able to hold the ball comfortably in your hand.
After you’ve found a comfortable grip, you should hold the ball with a good amount of pressure between your thumb, index and middle fingers.
How to Throw a Four-Seam Fastball
As you throw your fastball, aim towards a target and pull down on the seams using your index and middle fingers as you get close to release. A cue we like to use when throwing is to “yank” the ball down as hard as possible, as it should feel as if the ball “shoots” out of your hand.
Here is an example from high-speed footage of a four-seam fastball. Watch how the pitcher gets directly behind the ball at release and throws the ball with close to perfect backspin:
As the ball travels towards the target, we would expect the pitch to move straight but with increased horizontal movement the lower your arm slot gets.
For example, if you throw from an over the top position, you should have almost no arm side run, in contrast to a pitcher who throws from a low ¾ slot, whose ball we’d expect to show a high amount of run.
If you’re throwing on a Rapsodo device, the movement plots below visualize where you’d see a four-seam fastball fall on the horizontal and vertical break plot.
The fastballs are highlighted in red and shown in comparison to a changeup. Notice how they display a high amount of vertical movement with some horizontal break as well.
One of the keys to a great four-seam fastball is maximizing its vertical break, as we’d expect that fastballs with a higher velocity and more vertical movement would lead to a higher rate of swings and misses.
At the end of the day, you should choose a grip that feels the most comfortable and allows you to throw the ball as hard as possible. Staying healthy, locating well and throwing hard are the keys to a successful fastball!
Additionally, below are some other four-seam grips that are common amongst our athletes in gym. Each of these can be slightly different, and have a different effect on movement, velo and spin rate. Starting with the “close grip”, the index and middle fingers are placed side by side and directly on the center of the ball. In our findings, a close-grip fastball was found to have slightly less velo and spin relative to the FF1 grip, but just about the same units.
Conversely, a wide grip has the index and middle fingers placed at positions stretched across the top of the baseball a little more widely than in our normal FF 1 grip. We’d expect this grip type on average to produce less velocity and spin. These results would make sense, as a grip like this would start to resemble a splitter, a pitch known for killing spin and velo to allow for greater fade or drop.
Another variable to consider is whether to place the fingers on-seam or off-seam. Most athletes will find that leveraging both fingers on the seams enables them to produce greater spin and thus vertical movement. This is not always the case, however. There are exceptions where an athlete may have greater success placing their fingers off the seam. While we recommend athletes start with FF 1, discovering grips is an individual process and it is necessary to test each option in order to know what suits you best.
Additional Cues: “Stay behind the ball”, “Pull the ball down”, “Apply more pressure on the ball”, “Hold the ball tighter”, “Pronate sooner”
Close grip “FF 2”
Wide grip “FF 3”
Standard off-seam “FF 4”:
Close grip off-seam “FF 5”
Wide grip off-seam “FF 6”:
Written by R&D Pitching Analyst Mike Tampellini