What is the definition of Changeup in Baseball?

The changeup pitch in baseball holds a significant place in a pitcher’s arsenal. Known for its deceptive delivery, a changeup is an off-speed pitch thrown with a similar trajectory as a fastball, but at a considerably slower velocity. The reduced speed of the changeup, combined with its resemblance to a fastball, serves to confuse the batter’s timing, making it an essential weapon for pitchers.

Various techniques can be employed by pitchers to throw a changeup, such as the Circle change, Vulcan change, or Palm ball grip. Each grip offers a unique method to control the movement and speed of the pitch. Mastering the changeup requires dedicated training and practice, as well as an understanding of how it fits within a pitcher’s complete repertoire.

Key Takeaways

  • The changeup is a slower, deceptive pitch that mimics the trajectory of a fastball.
  • Various grips are used to throw a changeup, like Circle change and Palm ball grip.
  • Training and practice are essential for mastering the changeup and using it effectively in a game.

What is a Changeup

A changeup is a type of pitch in baseball and fastpitch softball that serves as a staple off-speed pitch in a pitcher’s arsenal. Thrown with a deception-focused approach, a changeup resembles a fastball in its trajectory but arrives at the plate significantly slower. The key to its effectiveness lies in its reduced speed and deceptive delivery, both designed to confuse the batter’s timing.

The throw’s mechanics involve using a grip that allows the pitcher to create backspin on the ball, leading to its downward movement. As the changeup typically mirrors the same arm action as a fastball, it can be challenging for the batter to recognize the pitch and adjust their swing in time. The resulting misdirection in the hitter’s anticipation can lead to a pitch that may be anywhere from 8-12 mph slower than expected.

One of the most basic off-speed pitches, the changeup is often taught to youth pitchers soon after they learn the fastball. Since there are various variations of the changeup, understanding the basic concept helps pitchers enhance their skillset and maintain an element of surprise throughout the game. By mastering this deceptive pitch, pitchers can keep batters guessing and maintain control on the mound.

The Techniques of Throwing a Changeup

Grip Types

There are several grip types for throwing a changeup, but the most common is the three-finger changeup. To grip the ball, place your index, middle, and ring fingers on the ball’s top and your thumb on the bottom. The tightness of the grip and finger placement can vary depending on the pitcher’s preference and comfort level. Another popular grip type is the circle changeup, in which the pitcher positions their index finger and thumb in a circular shape on the side of the ball, while the other fingers remain on top.

Wrist Snap

The wrist snap is an essential part of executing a successful changeup. Unlike other off-speed pitches, where the wrist snap generates more spin to slow the ball down, changeup pitchers need to maintain the same wrist action as their fastball. This helps deceive the batter into thinking a fastball is coming, even though the ball will be slower.

Release Point

The release point for a changeup is crucial in determining its effectiveness. Pitchers should aim to release the ball with the same arm motion and arm speed as their fastball, allowing the grip and wrist action to dictate the ball’s slower velocity. Consistency in the release point of a changeup and a fastball can make it challenging for a hitter to distinguish between the two pitches, causing them to misjudge the pitch’s speed and disrupt their timing at the plate.

Importance of Changeup in Baseball

Disrupting Batting Timing

The primary purpose of a changeup is to disrupt the hitter’s timing. Since it is thrown with a similar trajectory as a fastball but at a significantly slower velocity, the hitter might anticipate a faster pitch. This can cause them to swing early and miss the pitch or make weak contact. Throwing a changeup effectively keeps hitters off balance and guessing, ultimately making the pitcher harder to hit.

Maintaining Pitcher’s Energy

One of the benefits of incorporating a changeup into a pitcher’s repertoire is its relatively low impact on the pitcher’s arm and energy. Unlike other high-velocity pitches that can strain a pitcher’s arm, the changeup requires less effort to throw. This means that using a changeup strategically throughout a game can help control a pitcher’s energy expenditure, allowing them to perform more consistently throughout their outings.

Adding Variety to Pitcher’s Arsenal

A changeup adds another layer of complexity to a pitcher’s arsenal, forcing hitters to adjust their timing and approach to the plate. With a variety of pitches at their disposal, a pitcher becomes more unpredictable to opposing batters. Mixing in a changeup with other pitches, such as fastballs, curveballs, and sliders, keeps the hitter guessing and makes it harder for them to predict and prepare for a specific pitch type. This ultimately increases the pitcher’s effectiveness and ability to consistently get outs.

Famous Baseball Players Who Used Changeup

One notable player who effectively utilized the changeup is Atlanta Braves’ southpaw, Tom Glavine. With a two-seam changeup serving as his primary pitch, Glavine achieved significant career milestones, including winning two Cy Young Awards, a World Series MVP, and earning a spot in the Hall of Fame. His command and comfort with this specific pitch played a significant role in his success and dominance during his career.

Another example is Tommy Kahnle, who throws one of the hardest changeups in the game with a low spin rate. This downward action allows for swings and misses against both left-handed and right-handed batters alike, contributing to his performance as a successful pitcher. The low spin rate differentiates his changeup, with an average of 1,483 rpm, far below the MLB average of 1,807 rpm.

Stephen Strasburg also possesses a remarkable changeup, showcasing all the essential traits needed for an effective pitch. He maintains his fastball arm speed while the pitch exhibits fade and run, exemplifying the deceptive nature of a good changeup. These qualities have contributed to Strasburg’s reputation as a talented pitcher in Major League Baseball.

In conclusion, the changeup is a slow, deceptive pitch in baseball, that when executed correctly, can lead to great success for the players utilizing it. Tom Glavine, Tommy Kahnle, and Stephen Strasburg are just a few examples of talented pitchers who have used this pitch skillfully in their careers.

Training to Throw a Perfect Changeup


The first and most important aspect of learning to throw a changeup is getting a proper grip on the ball. Start with a three-finger grip, with your index, middle, and ring fingers spread across the seams. Practice throwing the ball with this grip and focus on maintaining the same arm speed as your fastball. Slowly adjust the grip and finger placement to achieve the desired speed reduction and movement.

Some effective drills to improve your changeup include:

  • Wall drill: Stand a few feet away from a wall, and practice releasing the changeup while aiming for a specific spot on the wall. This helps to refine your control and precision.
  • Partner drill: Play catch with a partner, focusing on consistent arm speed and grip throughout each throw. Communicate with your partner to receive feedback on the effectiveness and movement of the changeup.

Mental Preparation

Developing a strong changeup requires mental preparation as well. Pitchers must have the confidence to throw their changeup in any count and believe it will be effective. Incorporate changeups regularly during bullpen sessions and practice games to build trust in your ability to execute the pitch.

Visualization is another crucial component of mental preparation. Visualize the trajectory and movement of the changeup, and how it will effectively deceive the hitter. By creating a clear mental image of the pitch, you’ll increase your confidence and ability to execute it under pressure.

Additionally, study successful changeup pitchers and their techniques to gain insights and inspiration. Analyze their grips, arm motions, and release points to adapt and enhance your own changeup.

Remember, practice makes perfect – so consistently work on your changeup and stay patient while refining this pitch to achieve mastery.