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  The Best Change-Up
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by Gerald Warner, Softball Pitching Instructor
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"It doesn't matter if you grip it with two fingers, four fingers, your knuckles, or your elbow...the best change-up is one that looks like you are throwing a fastball, then crosses the plate slow enough to mess up the batter's timing."

As we discussed in another article on this website, the change-up is a "must" for all competitive pitchers.   When thrown correctly a good change-up can not only intimidate a batter, but it also puts the pitcher in control of the game.   The pitcher always knows what pitch she is going to be throwing... but batters on the other team always have to be on edge, "What is she going to throw at me now?"  If you can throw a change properly, your effectiveness as a pitcher can improve as much as 50%!   (Go to the page "Why You Need a Good Change-Up" by clicking HERE).

In addition to being deceptive, a good change-up should have a speed 25% to 35% slower than your fastest pitch.   Therefore:

If your fastball is 60 miles per hour, your change-up should be about 40 mph

If your fastball is 53 miles per hour, your change-up should be about 35 mph

If your fastball is 45 miles per hour, your change-up should be about 30 mph

To see the "arc" that your speed of change-up should make, see the article elsewhere on this website, titled All Pitches Have an Arc .


There are 4 basic rules that you should follow when throwing a change-up:

(1)  The GRIP should be the same as you use on your fastball.
(2)  Your backswing, arm circle, & facial expression should look just like a fastball.
(3)  Your stride should NOT change...keep it the same length as for the fastball.
(4)  MOST IMPORTANT:  Do NOT slow down your arm rotation!

(By releasing the pitch properly using any of the basic styles mentioned below, you will automatically lose the extra arm whip, and by keeping your wrist stiff you will eliminate the wrist snap at the release of the ball...without the arm whip and wrist snap you should be taking the right amount of speed off the pitch).


Here are brief descriptions of the basic styles change-up.    None is the "right" one.    Although most pitching instructors have a favorite style, what is right for the instructor might not be right for you.   Each pitch, including the change-up, needs to work...and that means that the grip, and the type of release must be a style that YOU are comfortable with.

STIFF WRIST (or "OPEN PALM") CHANGE - This style takes a lot of practice to make it work well, but it can be very deceiving when thrown right.  Grip the ball far back in your hand instead of on the fingertips.  The wind-up, arm rotation, and body movements are all the same as the fast ball.  Keep your wrist stiff as you approach the final part of the arm swing.   Then, PRECISELY at the release point "pop" open you fingers (like a piece of exploding popcorn) letting the ball be pushed through the release on the heel of your hand.

"FLIP" (or TURNAROUND) CHANGE - The "flip" is the most commonly-used method of throwing a change-up, but is also difficult to learn to throw properly.  The grip is essentially the same as your fastball grip, but the difference happens during the arm rotation.   During the final downward swing of the arm...just before the release...turn your hand around so that the OUTSIDE of the wrist is going toward the catcher.   To release the ball, let the hand come through the release point and "flip" it to the catcher.   Another variation of the release is to keep the wrist stiff and let the ball roll from the ends of the fingers.
If the speed of this style of change-up is too fast, try changing the grip.  Use your thumb and little finger
(pinkie) to grip the ball, leaving the three middle fingers loose.   Another type of grip is to use the circle change grip described below, but still release the ball with the backward flip.

CIRCLE CHANGE - This style is generally used by younger pitchers just starting practice with the change-up...although we see many experienced pitchers who use the circle grip to throw a flip change.   To throw a "circle change",  grip the ball with the tips of the thumb and index (pointer) finger touching and forming a circle.   Therefore the thumb and index finger are on the side of the ball and being held in place by two or all three remaining fingers.   There are two ways to release the circle change:  (1) As the hand approaches the release point, turn it sideways so the finger circle is going directly toward the catcher (imagine that there is a dot in the middle of the finger circle, and your job is to throw the dot to the catcher);  OR  (2) As the hand is on the final downward swing approaching the release point, keep the wrist STIFF and release it the same as described for the stiff wrist / open palm change-up described above.

KNUCKLE BALL - Although often used to throw a true "knuckle ball" at a faster speed, the knuckle GRIP can also be used with a change-up release.   The value of the knuckle change is that is has no or very little spin, and therefore cannot be hit as far if the batter makes contact.   And, although not of great importance, on a windy day it can have a "wobble" effect in the air as it approaches the plate.  (This takes a larger hand to accomplish:)  Grip the ball with the knuckles of the first two or three fingers against the stitches of the ball (on the SIDE of the "U" or "horseshoe").    If your hand is smaller and you find this difficult, you can also use the tips of your fingers instead of the knuckles by digging the fingernails into the stitches on the side of the "U".    Release the ball the same way described for the stiff wrist / open palm change-up described above.   Or for the knuckle change, you can also use the "shove" release below.

SHOVE CHANGE - The "shove" is used effectively by some, but not many pitchers, and is essentially a variation of the stiff wrist / open palm change-up described above.   The primary difference is that with the shove method, as your arm is in its final downward swing, instead of tightening your wrist...bend your elbow slight to shorten your pitching arm and "shove" the ball toward the plate.



Although a couple of the change-up methods are more popular than others, no one is the "best".   YOU have to find the one that works best for YOU.

The BEST change-up is one that looks like a fastball

The WORST change-up is one that looks like a change-up

And again, to determine whether you are throwing your change-up at the right speed, we recommend that you see the article elsewhere on this website, titled All Pitches Have an Arc .



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