What is the Definition of a Pitch in Baseball?

A pitch in baseball is the act of throwing the ball toward home plate with the aim of starting a play by getting the batter out. The origins of the term stem from the Knickerbocker Rules, under which pitchers had to throw the ball underhand, similar to pitching in horseshoes. It wasn’t until 1884 that overhand pitching became an accepted part of the game, and since then, the biomechanics of pitching have garnered extensive study.

Every baseball game involves hundreds of pitches, each thrown from 60 feet and 6 inches away from home plate, with the primary purpose of defeating the hitter. Players have various pitch types at their disposal, such as the four-seam fastball, the fundamental pitch of baseball known for its high velocity and straight trajectory. Fastballs range in speed from 85 to over 100 miles per hour and can be quite challenging for hitters to make contact with.

Key Takeaways

  • A pitch in baseball is the act of throwing the ball toward home plate to begin a play.
  • Pitch types vary, with the four-seam fastball being the most fundamental and known for its high velocity.
  • Pitching strategy varies based on pitch types, understanding the strike zone, and mastering deception in pitches.

Pitch Mechanics

Arm Motion

The arm motion in a baseball pitch begins with a wind-up and progresses through various stages like leg drive, hip rotation, shoulder rotation, and then finally the arm acceleration. The key to a successful pitch is to maintain coordination and balance throughout these stages. It is important to emphasize proper arm mechanics to maximize pitch velocity while minimizing arm stress. The arm action should be smooth and fluid, ensuring efficient kinetic chain transfer from the lower to the upper body.

Release Point

The release point in baseball pitching is the precise moment when the pitcher lets go of the ball. A consistent release point leads to better accuracy and control. During the arm acceleration phase, the pitcher’s hand should move towards the target in a straight line, with the fingers on top of the ball. Achieving the optimal release point usually occurs when the arm is fully extended and at the highest point above the front-foot landing. Locating the ideal release point can be a trial and error process, as it varies depending on the pitcher’s arm length, strength and individual biomechanics.


The grip on the baseball is an important factor in determining the type of pitch and its effectiveness. Each pitch has a different grip, which affects the spin and movement of the ball. Here are some common grips used in baseball:

  • Four-seam fastball: Hold the ball with the index and middle fingers across the seams, forming a “C” shape, with the thumb underneath for support. This grip allows the ball to travel straight and fast.
  • Two-seam fastball: Grip the ball with the index and middle fingers along the seams, with the thumb underneath. This pitch has less velocity but more movement than a four-seam fastball.
  • Curveball: Place the middle finger on the seam and the index finger next to it, with the thumb gripping the opposite seam. This grip imparts topspin on the ball, causing it to break downward.
  • Changeup: Hold the ball with three or four fingers on top and the thumb opposing them, deep in the palm. This grip creates a slower version of the fastball with slight downward movement.

It is crucial for pitchers to master these grips to command their pitches effectively and keep hitters off-balance.

Common Pitch Types


A fastball is the most common and fundamental pitch in baseball. Pitchers generally throw four-seam fastballs, which are thrown very fast and as hard as the pitcher can manage while still maintaining control. The four-seam fastball is characterized by its straight trajectory, and sometimes, it can create an optical illusion, making it appear like it’s rising. The key for a successful fastball is the combination of speed and accuracy.


The changeup is an off-speed pitch that is designed to deceive the batter by coming in slower than a fastball. This pitch aims to disrupt the batter’s timing, as it’s thrown with a similar arm action as the fastball, but with a different grip and release, resulting in a reduced speed. The changeup is particularly effective when it’s paired with a good fastball, forcing the batter to adjust and anticipate different speeds and movements.


The curveball is a breaking pitch that has a significant amount of spin, causing the ball to move in a downward and sideways trajectory. The curveball differs from the fastball in that it’s griped more tightly and released with a different wrist movement. The effectiveness of the curveball comes from its movement and the difference in speed when compared to the fastball. A well-executed curveball can leave the batter off-balance and unsure of what to expect next, making it a valuable weapon in a pitcher’s arsenal.

Understanding the Strike Zone

The strike zone in baseball is a crucial concept for both pitchers and batters. It is the area over home plate that a pitch must pass through to be considered a strike, and it serves as the target for pitchers while also defining the space that batters must protect.

The official strike zone is defined as the area over home plate from the midpoint between a batter’s shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and a point just below the kneecap when the batter is in their stance and prepared to swing at a pitched ball. The strike zone’s boundaries are determined by these points and the width of home plate, which is 17 inches.

For pitchers, understanding the strike zone is essential for developing control and effectiveness. By targeting specific locations within the strike zone, they can exploit the opposing batter’s weaknesses, increase their chances of inducing a swinging strike or a weakly hit ball, and reduce the likelihood of issuing a walk. Mastering pitch location and the ability to skillfully work the edges of the plate is a vital skill for pitchers at all levels of play.

Batters, on the other hand, benefit from knowing the strike zone well, as it enables them to be more selective with pitches and helps them decide when to swing and when to let a pitch pass. By focusing on pitches within the strike zone, a batter can improve their contact rate, resulting in better quality hits and a higher chance of reaching base safely.

In summary, the strike zone is a fundamental aspect of baseball strategy. Both pitchers and batters must have a thorough understanding of the strike zone to maximize their performance on the field and make adjustments to their approach as needed.

Pitching Strategy

Pitch Sequencing

Pitch sequencing is the art of planning how to retire the hitter or influence their behavior throughout the entire at-bat. Keeping the hitter uncomfortable at the plate is essential, as well as keeping them off-balance. The goal is to use the pitches in a tactical way, sometimes requiring aggressive throws, while at other times employing cunning pitches to deceive the batter.

Location Control

Besides having a diverse pitch repertoire, controlling the location of each pitch is crucial to a pitcher’s success. The objective is to hit specific spots or areas around the strike zone, exploiting the hitter’s weakness or avoiding their strengths. By mastering location control, a pitcher can prevent the batter from making solid contact or even force them to swing and miss.

Mixing Speeds

One key aspect of a successful pitching strategy is the ability to mix pitch speeds. By varying the velocity of the pitches, the pitcher keeps hitters off-balance and less able to anticipate what’s coming. Combining different pitch types such as fastballs, curveballs, and changeups with different speeds can disrupt the batter’s timing and ultimately help the pitcher achieve their goal of obtaining an out or reducing the offensive threat.

Deceptive Pitches

Baseball is a game that involves a lot of strategy and deception. Pitchers, in particular, have a wide variety of pitches at their disposal that can deceive and confuse batters. In this section, we’ll discuss three types of deceptive pitches: the Slider, the Knuckleball, and the Screwball.


The Slider is one of the most effective and deceptive pitches in baseball. When thrown correctly, this pitch can move laterally and slightly downwards, making it difficult for batters to hit. The key to a successful slider is its late break and similar release point to a fastball. This similarity in appearance can lead to batters misidentifying the pitch and swinging too early or too late.


The Knuckleball is a unique and highly deceptive pitch due to its unpredictable movement. This pitch is thrown with minimal spin, which allows the ball to move erratically, guided by the unpredictable air currents it encounters during its flight. The difficulty for batters when facing a knuckleball is anticipating the ball’s unpredictable movement, which often leads to swings and misses or weak contact. Knuckleball pitchers are rare in baseball, as the pitch requires an exceptional level of skill and control to master.


The Screwball is another deceptive pitch, as it moves in the opposite direction of a traditional curveball. A right-handed pitcher’s screwball will break down and away from a left-handed batter (and down and in on a right-handed batter), making it an arm-side breaking pitch. This unusual movement can fool batters who expect the pitch to break in the opposite direction. The key to an effective screwball lies in the pitcher’s wrist and arm action, which must work in concert to create the pitch’s unique spin and break.

Catching and Calling Pitches

In baseball, a pitch is the act of throwing the baseball from the pitcher to the catcher. The pitcher uses various types of pitches, each with its unique movement, speed, and trajectory, to deceive the batter and keep them from hitting the ball. The catcher plays a vital role in the process by receiving the pitch and calling for specific types of pitches based on the game situation and the batter’s weaknesses.

A crucial aspect of the catcher’s job is to call the right pitches that exploit the hitters’ weaknesses and align with the pitchers’ strengths. This requires effective communication between the catcher, the pitcher, and sometimes the coach. Developing a winning strategy depends on the catcher’s knowledge of the game, their ability to analyze the batter’s tendencies, and good judgment.

One way catchers can call pitches is by using a wristband with buttons that signal the desired pitch and location. An example of this is the PitchCom system in Major League Baseball. The system includes a receiver in the catcher’s mask and the pitcher’s cap, which helps to streamline the process and protect against sign stealing from the opposing team.

When calling pitches, it is essential for the catcher to consider the following factors:

  • The strengths of the pitcher: Always prioritize showcasing the pitcher’s best pitches that they can confidently execute.
  • The weaknesses of the batter: Analyze their hitting tendencies and adjust the pitch selection accordingly.
  • The game situation: Take into account the number of outs, the score, and the position of runners on base.
  • The strategic sequencing of pitches: Vary the types, speeds, and locations of pitches to keep the batter guessing and off-balance.

In conclusion, the art of catching and calling pitches in baseball requires skill, strategy, and effective communication between teammates. By mastering this aspect of the game, the catcher contributes significantly to the team’s overall success.


A pitch in baseball is the act of throwing the ball toward home plate to initiate a play. Starting from the Knickerbocker Rules, the baseball pitching journey transitioned from an initial underhand throw to allowing overhand pitching in 1884. Over time, the biomechanics of pitching have evolved and been extensively studied.

In the battle between pitcher and batter during a game, there are various pitch types designed to challenge the hitter. These include fastballs, curveballs, sliders, changeups, and more. Each serves a defined purpose: to defeat the hitter, while the batter endeavors to succeed against the pitch in order to score points.

Fundamental aspects of pitching include the grip, starting stance, windup, pivot, stride, and follow-through. These techniques, when practiced consistently, contribute to the success of a pitcher. Moreover, pitch movement is analyzed by measurements of horizontal breaks and vertical drops, further enhancing the understanding of pitcher performance.

In summary, a pitch in baseball is at the core of gameplay, representing the ongoing duel between the pitcher and batter. The intricate techniques and strategies behind throwing various pitch types serve as a testament to the complexity and artistry of the sport.