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  All Pitches...Even Fastballs...Have an Arc
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by Gerald Warner, Softball Pitching Instructor
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No pitch...not even the fastest thrown on an absolutely level line.   ALL pitches, regardless of how fast they are thrown, have an "arc" in them.   And, change-ups and other off-speed pitches can have quite a dramatic arc.

It's gravity that pulls the ball toward the ground no matter how fast they are thrown forward.   If you are a student of physics you might know that the up and down curved path that the ball takes is called a "parabolic arc".   Since gravity's downward pull remains constant, the height of this arc depends largely on:   (1) the speed (velocity) that the ball is thrown,  (2) the distance that the ball will travel, (3) the angle at which the ball is release,  and (4) wind resistance.



Although these factors are meaningful for EVERY pitch, the three pitches that are most directly affected by this arc are:

FAST BALL - As you can see below, even though a 60 mph fastball seems like it is coming in on a pretty level line, it goes up...then much as 8 inches in the time that it takes to get from the pitcher's hand to the plate.

RISE BALL - We mentioned in another section of this website that a rise ball needs to be thrown in the low to mid-50's before the backwards spin can have enough effect to actually make the ball go UP.    In the diagram below, you can see that a rise, even thrown at 60 mph has to has enough spin to overcome an 8-inch gravity-induced arc...JUST TO LEVEL OUT!    The release and speed of the spin has to be even better to make it hop over the bat.

CHANGE-UP - We have seen a majority of pitchers throwing their change-up too fast, because they (or their coach) wanted the ball to come in on a level line.   Obviously, we do NOT advocate a huge arc on a change-up (that's what slow-pitch softball pitching is all about).    As we mentioned in another part of this website, we work with pitchers to (1) make the change-up LOOK deceptive, and (2) to come in at a speed 25% to 35% slower than their fastball.    That means that a younger pitcher with a 50 mph fastball would want a change-up of about 35 mph or so.   A 55 to 58 mph fastballer works well with a 40 mph change-up.

In the example shown below, a pitcher wanting to throw a 35 mph change-up should try to throw it so the highest point of the pitch is about equal to the level of her shoulders.

A pitcher with a 40 mph change would see the top of the arc about chest high.

arc of a thrown softball - 3-speed comparison.jpg


Since wind resistance is a factor, remember that if the wind is coming in from the pitcher's back (blowing toward home plate) the ball will be more level than is shown in the above diagrams .   If the wind is blowing in from the catcher's back, the ball has to be thrown faster or needs a higher arc to reach the target.


The article above can be downloaded and printed from Microsoft Word


If you have questions or need more information
E-mail us,
  or call Pitching Instructor Gerald Warner in Colorado at (720) 200-4575


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