How To Throw Changeup
By Steven Ellis former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
The key to an effective changeup is deception. A changeup must look like a fastball, but come in slower and lower in the strike zone.
One way to take speed off of a changeup is to shorten your stride slightly (I’m talking a few inches here, not feet) and collapse on your back leg (again, slightly).
When I say "collapse" on your back side, I’m talking about reducing the back-side leg-action associated with your follow through.
For instance, when you throw a fastball, your back-side kick is generally at its highest point. That's because it helps the arm and body decelerate.
But when you throw a changeup, that back leg kick shouldn't be as high. Because the variation is so slight, you really need a video camera to view it. That's why I recommend that you videotape your pitching motion from the right side and left side during practice sessions. This way, when the practice session is completed, you can see if your changeup mechanics are working.
Are you slowing down your delivery? When you're throwing your changeup, do your mechanics look the same as your fastball mechanics? How's your tempo?
If the hitter you're facing notices differences in your mechanics pitch to pitch, he may be able to recognize it and make the necessary adjustment. Your changeup delivery needs to remain the same as the fastball — and video can help you.
Another way to take speed off a pitch is to grip it correctly. Grip the changeup deep in the base of the fingers and turn it over and inward on the release. That deep grip will cause friction between your hand and the baseball. The more friction, the less speed, which is good.
How To Grip A Changeup
Usually, with a fastball, you have 100 percent of your strength in these two fingers, the index and middle fingers. You take 50 percent of that strength away by removing the index finger. So you're holding the ball real lightly. ... Your wrist is real loose. The ball is real loose in your hand. And you just throw a fastball.
That's why you teach it at a young age, because it's just repetition. ... The whole idea is to make it look like a fastball coming out of your arm.
How To Throw A Changeup ... Like Tom Glavine
Tom Glavine has one of the better circle changeups in baseball. He forms a circle with his index finger and thumb, using these two fingers to grip the seams of the baseball. By pronating the wrist upon release, this pitch tends to break slightly in the same direction as a screwball. More or less break will come about from the pitcher's arm slot. The more three-quarters or side-arm angle, the more break generally.
How To Throw A Changeup ... Like Eric Gagne
Eric Gagne throws very hard. But what makes him successful (in his early days :-) is how he uses his fastball to set hitters up for his off-speed pitches. He throws a variation of a circle change.
Here's how he throws it:
1. Keep up your fastball arm speed, otherwise you won't get the full splitter action as it comes to the plate.
2. Keep your wrist loose, again to get the full extent of the splitter movement.
3. Keep the "Circle" made by your thumb and pointer finger small. This one I figured out myself, it needs to be small and only hold onto the ball a little bit, so that the pitch comes out of your hand easily. Otherwise, you won't get the same action.
4. Place the baseball between your middle and ring fingers instead of the index and middle fingers. Throw it with fastball arm speed but pronate it a little to get downward spin on it.
How To Throw A Changeup ... Like Trevor Hoffman
Trevor Hoffman throws a variation of the circle change. He says he grips it by pinching the seam between his thumb and index finger, right near the printed logo on the baseball.
He also uses pressure with his thumb and lets the ball settle into the palm of his hand, resting on the ball of the hand below his fingers. He says it takes some soft touch in his hand, but the full arm action of a fastball.
How To Throw A Changeup ... Like Jamie Moyer
Jamie Moyer throws a changeup by forming a circle with his index finger and thumb, using these two fingers to grip the seams of the baseball. By pronating the wrist upon release, this pitch tends to break slightly in the same direction as a screwball. More or less break will come about from the pitcher's arm slot. The more three-quarters or side-arm angle, the more break generally.
How To Throw A Changeup ... Like Tom Seaver
Even Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver threw a circle changeup. See the circle his index finger and thumb are making?
Here are a few more changeup grips submitted by readers of The Complete Pitcher...
Changeup grip (front view)
Changeup grip (side view)
How do you throw your pitches? Post pictures of your pitching grips on my baseball pitching discussion forums.
Related Pitching Materials
Want to learn more about baseball pitches and pitching grips? Arm yourself with the most innovative and up-to-date baseball pitching training available. These related pitching materials from former Chicago Cubs pitching pro Steven Ellis are guaranteed to help you or the players you coach pitch better and reach the next level faster!