Baseball Pitchers

> I’ve been following baseball for more than 50 years. When I was a pup pitchers threw fastballs, slowballs (now called change up), curves, and knuckleballs. Now in addition to those the announcers talk about sliders, cutters, sinkers, split-fingered fastballs, two seam fastballs, etc. What are these pitches? Are they really different? Are they really new?
> Why didn’t old time pitchers throw them?

Dammit, I just typed out a whole response and it disappeared. Here we go again:

[li] A slider is like a harder version of a curveball, only with more horizontal movement than vertical. See Randy Johson- if he throws a pitch that’s not a fastball, it’s a slider.[/li]
[li] A cutter, or cut fastball, is a fastball that, when thrown by a righty, “cuts” in on the lefthanded batter’s hands, and vice versa. It’s used to keep batters from leaning out over the plate- that couple of inches of horizontal “cut” will jam the hitter if he lets it get in on his hands.[/li]
[li] A sinker is basically a fastball that sinks. This is also called the split-fingered fastball. I’m not sure why the two names, but I don’t know of a difference between the two. Some pitchers have natural downward movement on their fastball, some don’t. See Kevin Brown for a great example.[/li]
[li] To explain the two-seamer, first you need to understand that the plain old fastball is also called a four seam fastball. The customary fastball is thrown with the fingers across the seams perpendicularly, so that the fingers cross four seams. It stays up in the strike zone for some physics reason, so it’s the pitch of choice of all the high heat throwers. The two-seamer is thrown with the ball rotated so the forefinger and middle finger go along the U part of the seams (the U goes in the crevice between the fingers). This pitch has a little downward movement and also trails away from a lefthanded batter when thrown by a righty, unless I’ve imagined the horizontal part. See here for a little visual example of the grip. [/ul][/li]
Essentially, all those pitches are new, fancy ways to throw a fastball. The ball does different things depending on the grip and the release, and eventually people worked out that, for example, the two-seam grip makes the ball dip.

The pitches are new in that they have names now, and pitchers throw them expecting certain movement on the ball. I guess Walter Johnson or someone might have thrown a sinker sometimes, but it wasn’t until later on that somebody started gripping the ball a certain way to make the ball sink and named that grip a sinker. Same with a slider, etc. The old guys hadn’t worked out all these variations yet. Just like anything else, people innovate and develop new ways to do stuff- the skills got refined over time and people started specializing.

What I said about the sinker is misleading. There is a difference between a sinker and a fastball- different grips. I didn’t mean to imply that some pitchers’ fastballs just miraculously sink and some don’t. What I meant was that some pitchers’ deliveries tend to put more downward movement on pitches, and some pitchers’ don’t, so it’s more natural for some to throw a sinker.

Welcome to the SDMB Ronald C. Semone!

And thanks for being a paying member before posting for the first time, hats off to you.

The sinker and the split-finger fastball are not the same pitch. The splitter, which came into vogue in the mid-1980s with coach Roger Craig and pitchers Bruce Sutter and Mike Scott, breaks harder than a sinker. Of course, there are those who say that the splitter is no different than an old-timey pitch called the forkball.

One pitch that you didn’t ask about is the screwball. It’s a lot like a curveball. But whereas a curveball breaks down and to the left if thrown by a right-handed pitcher, a screwball breaks down and to the right. This was Fernando Valenzuela’s signature pitch. You don’t see it too much because it’s widely acknowledged to be the pitch that wears out a pitcher’s wrist the most.

The slider, which has a shorter, sharper break than a traditional curve ball, was sometimes called a “nickel curve” by old-timers. I remember reading Frankie Frisch’s memoirs, and he talked about hitting against it in the 1920s.

[QUOTE=Jimmy Chitwood]
[li] A sinker is basically a fastball that sinks. This is also called the split-fingered fastball. I’m not sure why the two names, but I don’t know of a difference between the two. Some pitchers have natural downward movement on their fastball, some don’t. See Kevin Brown for a great example.[/li][/QUOTE]

No, a splitter is a splitter. It’s got a sharp downward movement. Think vertical slider.

A sinker is a two seam fastball. As you noted below, it’s a fastball that moves down more than the four seamer. It also tends to be slower than the four seamer.

The four seamer stays up in the strike zone, but only relative to other pitches. It still arcs down. Just not as much as other pitches. Since hitters are used to seeing fastballs drop from the pitcher to the catcher at a fairly even rate, when a four seamer doesn’t drop so much it gives the illusion of hopping up in the strike zone.

Umm, yep. That’s right. I don’t know exactly what I was doing there- I think that whole paragraph was supposed to be about the splitter, and that it’s the same as a forkball. Or that a sinker and a splitter- I don’t know what the hell I was talking about. At any rate, a splitter doesn’t even really look like a sinker- it’s more like a change-up than a fastball. Sorry about that, Ronald C. Semone, and thank you for the correction, Snooooopy.

But as long as we’re listing other pitches, there’s also a thing called a knuckle-curve. Mike Mussina uses it, and I think maybe Randy Wolf has played around with it. It’s just a curveball thrown with a knuckleball grip- just the fingertips, in other words.

Then there’s a palmball, a really slow change-up type pitch, gripped with the palm on the ball. I don’t know for sure, but I think the palmball goes back pretty far into baseball history. Tony Fiore on the Twins last year threw a good palmball.

Here’s some info on different pitches…