Yesterday I was approached by a gentlemen at a Baseball facility in Utah. He asked me to enlighten him a bit about the splitter and if his son should be throwing it or not. His son is not in high school yet and he is concerned about his son throwing the splitter because he has heard that it can cause damage to his throwing arm. Any pitch thrown without proper pitching mechanics will cause damage to your arm eventually. The problem with the split finger fastball is that most pitchers throw it wrong and end up twisting their wrist at release of the baseball which I explain in a few moments.
Pitching Grip: This splitter is released just like a four seam or two seam with your palm facing the catcher. The wider the fingers the slower the speed. Make sure your thumb is centered below the baseball in between your index and middle fingers.
The toughest part about this pitch is the grip. When you release the baseball, it can feel like it is slipping through your fingertips. This is a normal feeling until you get used to the release. Because this is one of the only pitches your thumb and middle finger don’t split the baseball in half, it is easy to “twist” the ball at release. You need to pretend that there is an imaginary middle finger splitting the ball in half with your thumb. Pitchers who tend to “twist” the ball at release are the ones who are prone to injury with this pitch.
Once you have established your fastball (meaning the hitter has seen it)
you can throw your split finger. Anytime you have a fastball count, a splitter
can be thrown. Some of the best counts to throw the pitch are a 3-1, 2-1, or
a 2-0 count.
This is a changeup even though it is called split-finger fastball.
Here is Nate Barnett giving us a hitter’s perspective of a splitter. Many of you may not know this, but Nate is a Hall-of-Famer at George Fox University and draft pick for the Mariners in 1999. Yes, he can crush the ball; just not against me.
“I was fortunate to avoid seeing a good splitter until later in my career. The split-finger fastballs I saw in college were usually mediocre at best. Those who threw one didn’t have an overpowering fastball in the first place. And, if pitchers left this pitch up in the zone, it became a nice hittable pitch for me. Those who were able to get the pitch down in the zone had good success. It came in straight but then late in its flight it would take off and break downward quickly. It’s a very tough pitch to pick up early and that’s what makes it effective. It’s never quite as fast as a four seam or two seam fastball because of the grip, but faster than a change-up. The guys who could throw it consistently low in the zone were annoying to hit off of because they would use it a lot. To my advantage, most could never keep it down in the zone all of the time and therefore they got hit hard.
It’s is a good pitch to learn if you can mix this pitch into your bag of pitches semi-infrequently to give a hitter a glimpse of something new. Younger pitchers may have a tougher time gripping the splitter correctly, but if you can develop the knack, it’s a good pitch to learn at any age.
Our new Baseball DVD has a pitching grips section that will teach you how to throw 10 of the best pitches. Remember, there are three things that get a hitter out. Change of speed, movement and location. You cannot experience success on the mound with just an above average fastball. You’ve got to know how to throw at least three different baseball pitches for strikes on any occasion.