What is a Changeup in Baseball

Baseball, a sport deeply rooted in the fabric of American culture, is a game of strategy, skill, and precision. At the very core of this game lies the crafty art of pitching, a skill that requires an array of various pitches. One such pitch deeply entwined in the fabric of baseball pitching repertoire is the changeup.

The changeup is an off-speed pitch that a pitcher skillfully weaves into his artillery of pitches to disrupt the timing of a hitter. How so, you might ask? Well, the magic lies in the unique qualities of this particular pitch that set it apart from the others.

Characteristics of a Changeup

The changeup pitch possesses a fascinating blend of distinctive traits such as its ‘drop’, ‘run’, speed, and uncanny similarity to a fastball.

Talking about its ‘drop’, we refer to its tendency to move downwards as it approaches home plate, making it challenging for a batter to intercept exactly. Add to that its ‘run’ characteristic, which means the tendency for the ball to move horizontally to the pitcher’s arm side, giving it an unexpected twist to further disrupt the batter’s predictive timing.

A compelling fact about a changeup is its speed, usually within the range of 6-12 mph slower than a fastball. This perceptible change in pace, drawing away from the predictable curve that the batter is accustomed to reacting to, throws them off balance.

However, what sells the deception convincingly is that, despite the off-speed delivery, the changeup pitch is made to look almost the same as a fastball in the pitch release. It’s like waving a flashing sign of a fastball to the batter but delivering an unexpected changeup instead. This intricate simulation of the fastball, in conjunction with the slower speed, results in a beautifully orchestrated mix-up for the batter, making them more likely to miss the mark with their swing.

How to Throw a Changeup

How Do You Throw a Changeup in the Game

Throwing a changeup involves a specific technique that appeals to the pitcher’s intricacy of skill, precision, and strategic intent.

For a beginner, the process might seem daunting. However, with practice, patience, and a proper understanding of the basics, one becomes able to mask this pitch in the camouflaging shroud of a fastball, thereby achieving the desired deception. But, for the benefit of those just starting to understand how to throw a changeup in baseball, let’s break down the necessary steps detailed below.

  • Blade the hand: The first step to throwing a changeup is correctly holding the ball. Unlike a fastball, which firmly grips the ball across the laces, the changeup grip requires ‘blading’ the hand. By doing this, the pressure goes to the fingers when letting go of the ball. This ensures that the pitch will stay down in a vertical plane.
  • Install the grip: After performing ‘blading,’ keeping the index fingernail on the seam (a two seam fastball grip), make a circle with the index finger and thumb. Then leave the other fingers relaxed and across the seams.
  • Keep arm action consistent: Maintain the arm action and don’t decrease the throwing intensity. This may be tricky, but it’s essential for keeping the pitch almost as fast as the fastball, ensuring deception.
  • Release as a fastball: Release the changeup as if it were a fastball. It is vital that the ball comes out of the pitcher’s hand the same way as it would in a fastball release, thus maintaining consistency in deception.

The Role of a Changeup in Relation to a Fastball

A changeup, with its distinctive traits, plays a strategic role when used alongside different types of fastballs. The purpose is to disguise the changeup as a fastball and disrupt the hitter’s timing, leading to more effective pitching outcomes.

The brilliance of a changeup lies in its deceptive ability to mimic a fastball in its path but come at a slower speed, hence getting the batter to swing and miss or hit the ball weakly. This disruption in timing can often sway the tide of the game in favor of the pitcher, and for this reason, the changeup is a crucial pitch in any pitcher’s repertoire.

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The Varieties of Changeups and Desired Movement Profile

Speaking about the different types of changeups, it is noteworthy to mention that the characteristics of a changeup, such as its movement and velocity, often depend on the type of fastball primarily used by a pitcher.

For instance, if a pitcher primarily uses a 2-seam fastball (2SFB) or sinker, the changeup would ideally possess more ‘run’ or horizontal movement towards the pitcher’s arm side. Conversely, for a pitcher preferring a 4-seam fastball (4SFB), the changeup’s desired movement would be more of a ‘drop,’ aiming for vertical movement.

Focusing on ‘Run’ or Horizontal Movement for a Changeup

Achieving more ‘run’ in a changeup is an art that requires mastering the skill of applying more sidespin to the baseball. The goal is to limit the vertical movement and capitalize on the horizontal movement, similar to a 2SFB or sinker. This increased ‘run’ towards the pitcher’s arm side complicates the batter’s prediction of the ball’s path, increasing the effectiveness of the deception.

Just like an artist carefully crafts his masterpiece stroke by stroke, step by step, a pitcher orchestrates the flawless execution of a changeup, piece by piece until it fits into a beautifully harmonious rhythm of pitches, each adding on to the last’s effectiveness.

Focusing on ‘Drop’ or Vertical Movement for a Changeup

Now, suppose you’re using a 4SFB predominantly. In that case, your changeup will need to display a greater ‘drop’, focusing on achieving more vertical movement. Ideally, the changeup should resemble the 4SFB’s metrics but with a lesser vertical break and velocity, creating an efficient mirage of deception for the hitters. This effect is much akin to an illusionist convincing the audience’s senses into believing what they are witnessing, much like how a pitcher manages to convince a batter of an impending fastball when a changeup is headed their way.

The techniques used to bring about such a ‘drop’ are intricate—more pressure is applied to the index and middle fingers, and less to the pinky and ring fingers, resulting in a slower, more downward pitch. This is opposite to a fastball, where the pressure is spread more equally among the fingers, leading to a more linear, faster pitch.

Using a Movement Chart for Perfect Changeup Location

The science of pitching not only involves natural skill and developed technique but also utilizes tools like a movement chart for analysis and improvement. A movement chart becomes particularly valuable for a pitcher in analyzing and perfecting the ideal movement and location for a particular pitch, including the changeup.

A pitch’s location on the movement chart is a pivotal factor in determining the effectiveness of that pitch. In the case of a changeup, it assists pitchers in identifying where their pitch ‘drops’ or ‘runs’ accurately so that they can plan their throws more strategically.

Ideal Location for Right-Handed Pitcher’s Changeup

For a right-handed pitcher, the ideal location for a changeup on the movement chart is the upper right-hand quadrant. Why so, you may ask? Here’s the reason – a changeup in this location indicates positive horizontal break towards the pitcher’s arm side and ‘drop,’ ideal characteristics of a well-executed changeup for a right-handed pitcher.

In contrast, a changeup that lands in the lower quadrants might indicate more fastball characteristics, thereby rendering the pitch less deceiving and easier for the batter to predict and hit.

Ideal Location for Left-Handed Pitcher’s Changeup

Similar to a right-handed pitcher, a changeup’s ideal characteristics for a left-handed pitcher also include a downward vertical movement or ‘drop’. However, there’s a significant difference when it comes to the horizontal arm-side movement, which should ideally have a negative value.

Therefore, for left-handed pitchers, the upper left-hand quadrant of the movement chart becomes the most desirable landing location for their changeup.

The Challenges of Learning to Throw a Changeup

While the changeup baseball pitch might seem like an irresistible tool, it does pose a fair share of challenges for those attempting to master it. The primary reason being that it doesn’t offer an easily observable break like some other pitches, and therefore provides less feedback to the pitcher.

Identifying Good, Bad, and Mediocre Changeups

But despair not! Players and coaches have found effective ways to deal with these unique challenges. The feedback loop for a changeup, for instance, primarily relies on how the ball feels off the pitcher’s hand, the slight run and sink they can perceive, and of course, the pitch’s speed reduction.

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With time and experience, a pitcher becomes able to learn the difference between a good, bad, and mediocre changeup. Sharpening this skill calls for paying careful attention to the ball’s feeling as it comes off one’s hand, watching out for the slight run and sink, and staying conscious of the speed at which one’s pitches are moving.

Unfortunately, since the speed reduction is not visible without using a radar gun or similar tool, it might be a challenge that requires extra attention.

The Role of Practice in Perfecting the Changeup

Mastering a changeup pitch requires ample patience and continuous practice. A crucial ingredient of this formula is getting effective feedback that provides insights into what’s going right and what needs improvement.

Over time, you can gain mastery over this craft and learn to throw a changeup that mimics the heavy sink and armside run seen in successful MLB pitchers like Kyle Hendricks and Johnny Cueto.

Concluding Tips on Mastering the Changeup

Mastering the art of throwing the changeup takes time, patience, and persistence. Even the seemingly daunting task of learning how to throw a changeup comes down to understanding its characteristics, meticulously practicing the required steps and techniques, and receiving effective feedback to further improve.

As a concluding piece of wisdom, always remember that patience, practice, and perseverance are the cornerstones of mastering this art. As long as you remain steadfast in your journey, you can definitely master this critical pitch and use it to your advantage in any game of baseball. It may not be an easy journey, but it’s undeniably rewarding and worthwhile in shaping a versatile pitcher.

In the world of baseball, where the game is decided by the ability to strategize, deceive and surprise, a well-executed changeup can often tip the scale in favor of the pitcher. Therefore, learning how to throw a changeup becomes an essential step in the journey of every aspiring baseball pitcher.

As you embrace this journey of mastering the changeup baseball pitch, remember that every step, every mistake turned into a lesson, brings you a step closer to your dream. So embark on this journey with the intention of learning, improving and reaping the rewards of diligence and persistence. Happy practicing!

Changeup Baseball Overview

DefinitionThe changeup is an off-speed pitch that pitchers use deceptively off their fastball to disrupt a hitter’s timing at the plate
VelocityThe changeup will typically be around 6-12 mph slower than the pitcher’s fastball
MovementGenerally speaking, the changeup will have some degree of “drop” or “run” to a pitcher’s arm side

Desired Movement Profile for a Changeup

Type of FastballDesired Movement of the Changeup
2SFB/SinkerMore “run”
4SFBMore “drop”

Details of Changeup that Desires More “Run”

Desired SpinApply more sidespin to cause the pitch to move horizontally towards the pitcher’s arm side
MovementLimit the amount of vertical movement and capitalize on the amount of horizontal movement
ComparisonSimilar movement to a pitchers 2SFB/Sinker
RunTypically anywhere from 10-15+ inches of run

Details of Changeup that Desires More “Drop”

Desired SpinSimilar metrics to the 4SFB but with a drop in vertical break and velocity
ExampleIf a RHP pitcher has a 4SFB that plays at 85 MPH with +17 VB and +5 HB, then a changeup that plays at 78 MPH with +10VB and +5HB would be ideal
ObjectiveCreate deception when trying to fool hitters

Ideal Changeup Location on a Movement Chart

GoalThe pitcher wants the changeup to “drop” or “ride” out of his hand with positive horizontal break
Ideal Quadrant for Right-Handed PitchersUpper right-hand quadrant
Ideal Quadrant for Left-Handed PitchersUpper left-hand quadrant

Challenges in Learning to Throw a Good Changeup

Lack of Visual FeedbackUnlike breaking ball, a changeup doesn’t have an easily-observed break, which makes it less interesting to throw
Difficult to Identify SuccessIt’s hard to tell when a changeup is correctly thrown as the feedback relies heavily on subtle aspects like spin, feel, and speed reduction
Lack of Access to Proper ToolsMost beginner pitchers do not have access to a radar gun, making it harder to gauge the effectiveness of the pitch

Feedbacks Needed for Throwing a Good Changeup

Feedback TypeDescription
FeelSensing how it feels off their hand when they throw a good, bad, or mediocre changeup
MovementObserving slight run and sink which is less significant than any breaking pitch
Speed-reductionLearn to sense speed reduction over time

Insights on Throwing a Changeup in Baseball

As an expert in baseball, I’m excited to share some unique insights about throwing a changeup, a critical but often misunderstood pitching technique.

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Understanding the Deception of a Changeup

The secret to a successful changeup lies in its deception. Pitched at a speed slower than the fastball, but released similarly, it works to throw off the batter’s timing, leading to an off-balanced swing. The slower speed and the similarities in release to a fastball make this pitch a potent weapon for the pitcher. It’s like a well-executed plot twist in a thrilling novel, it keeps the readers, or here in this case, the hitters, off balance and on edge.

Tailoring your Changeup

Baseball is a game of strategy and multiple variables, and the changeup is no exception. Different types of changeup can be thrown, based on the type of fastball a pitcher primarily uses. This degree of customization emphasizes the importance of adaptive game strategies, context awareness and opponent understanding. In other words, it’s not just about throwing a changeup, but also about what kind of changeup it is, based on your primary fastball. The fact that one size or one type doesn’t fit all makes the art of throwing a changeup complex and fascinating.

The Perfect Placement on a Movement Chart

An interesting insight about the changeup involves its placement on the movement chart. This tool is like a map for pitches, visually representing where a particular pitch ‘lives’. A right-handed pitcher’s changeup best thrives in the upper right-hand quadrant, while for a left-handed pitcher, the optimal area is the upper left-hand quadrant. It seems the movement chart could wear a secret code ring for pitchers, guiding them to their perfect pitch destination!

The Challenge of Changeup Mastering

Mastering the changeup isn’t a walk in the park. This pitch is a bit of an enigma and might be a tough nut to crack initially as it doesn’t give instant or easily observable feedback, unlike other pitches. The feedback loop is based more on the feel, the run and sink, and the speed reduction. To grasp and command this pitch, a radar gun, patience and a lot of practice might be needed. The path may seem steep, but reaching the destination makes it all worth it, allowing pitchers to use changeup to their advantage and befuddle hitters.

Final Thought

Alive with all its complexities, the changeup is indeed a masterpiece in the baseball canvas. Once mastered, it could change the game, adding another layer of depth to the pitching strategy. Happy pitching!


⚾ What is a changeup in baseball?

A changeup is an off-speed pitch in baseball, which a pitcher uses to disrupt a hitter’s timing at the plate. The changeup is characterized by some degree of ‘drop’ or ‘run’ to the pitcher’s arm side and presents additional deception due to its similar release to a fastball. The changeup is typically slower than a fastball by around 6-12 mph. The difference in speed, alongside the similarity in release to the fastball, is used to interrupt the hitter’s timing, resulting in an off-balanced swing and potentially a positive outcome for the pitcher.

⚾ What’s the difference between a changeup and other baseball pitches?

The significant difference between a changeup and other baseball pitches is its speed and release. Unlike fastballs and curveballs, a changeup is slower and intended to disrupt the batter’s timing with a different speed. Where a fastball is thrown at top speed and curveballs are meant to curve, the changeup deceives the batter by being similar to a fastball in release but slower in speed.

⚾ What are the types of changeups and their desired movement?

The movement profile for a changeup depends upon the type of fastball it is paired with. If you’re using a 2SFB/Sinker primarily, your changeup should possess more ‘run’ or horizontal movement towards the pitcher’s arm side. Contrarily, if you primarily throw 4SFB, your changeup should exhibit more ‘drop’ or vertical movement. More ‘run’ is achieved by applying more sidespin to the baseball, while a larger ‘drop’ involves similar metrics as the 4SFB but with less vertical break and velocity.

⚾ Where should a changeup ideally land on a movement chart?

On a movement chart, a right-handed pitcher’s changeup should ideally ‘drop’ or ‘ride’, indicating positive horizontal break towards the pitcher’s arm side, making the upper right-hand quadrant the best for right-handed pitcher’s changeups. For left-handed pitchers, while the vertical drop remains the same, the desired horizontal movement negatively shifts, making the upper left-hand quadrant the most desirable. The movement chart is a frequently used tool by players and coaches to analyze the ideal movement and placement of a given pitch.

⚾ What challenges are faced when throwing a good changeup?

A changeup, despite being a critical pitch, often becomes hard to learn because it doesn’t have an easily observable break and provides less feedback. The feedback loop for a changeup is primarily based on how the ball feels off their hand, the slight run and sink they can see, and its speed-reduction, which is challenging to grasp without a radar gun. However, with continuous practice and appropriate feedback, improvement occurs over time, enabling the pitcher to determine a good, bad, or mediocre changeup. Practice is key and with enough of it, a pitcher can learn to throw a changeup with heavy sink and arm side run, much like accomplished MLB pitchers.

By Joseph Johnson

Joseph Johnson is the main writer on the site. He prepares up-to-date news and reviews on baseball.