Circle changeup

In baseball, a circle changeup (also called the "okay changeup", related to the thumb and index finger touching) is a pitch thrown with a grip that includes a circle formation, hence the name circle changeup. The circle is formed by making a circle with the index finger, holding the thumb at the bottom of the ball parallel to the middle finger and holding the ball far out in the hand. The ball is thrown turning the palm out (pronating the forearm).

Circle change 1
The grip used for a circle changeup

Throwing mechanics

A circle change can also be used to provide movement like a two seam fastball but without the stress placed on the arm by a traditional screwball. By placing the index and ring fingers slightly to the inside (that is, towards the thumb) of the ball and sharply pronating the forearm at release, a pitcher can make the ball move downward and inside. Pitchers with smaller hands will only place the index finger slightly to the inside (that is, towards the thumb) of the ball. A left-handed pitcher's circle change will break down and away from a right-handed batter. Effective circle changeups can reduce the platoon split a pitcher will experience.

To follow proper form, a pitcher releases the ball while keeping his wrist straight, then follows through fully. Additional change in velocity can be achieved by dragging the foot that would normally follow through fully with a fastball delivery. However, the most effective way to reduce the velocity of a changeup is by slightly reducing stride length. If the typical stride length for the pitcher's fastball is around 80-90% of pitcher's height, then the pitcher would need to reduce stride by 10-20%. By doing so, the pitcher eliminates the possibility of tipping off the pitch. Simply using a slower arm motion is undesirable, as it may tip off the batter, and will invariably result in less movement on the pitch. If this pitch is placed too high in the strike zone, it can be hit very hard. It is an effective pitch to throw early in the count to produce a groundball; it is not traditionally used to acquire a strikeout. By rotating the wrist (before the release) the pitcher can change the movement from resembling a fastball to resembling a curveball.

Like other changeups, an effective circle changeup must be thrown with an identical arm action to a fastball to avoid tipping off the batter.

Professional practitioners

Johan Santana, Pedro Martínez, Cole Hamels, Huston Street, Zack Greinke, Kyle Hendricks and Marco Estrada are pitchers who rely heavily on their circle changeup. Former New York Mets closer John Franco was able to generate so much movement on his circle changeup that it mimicked a screwball. Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine was known for using the outside corner of the plate with his circle changeup. Minnesota Twins ace Frank Viola also used the circle changeup to great effect, as well as former Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Leibrandt. Recently, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu used a circle changeup efficiently throughout his first MLB season, throwing a circle changeup that was gripped using the index finger on the seam of the ball and the thumb on the side of the ball to "choke" the ball. According to his autobiography, Nolan Ryan also developed his own circle changeup to add another off-speed pitch without having to throw a slider (as sliders are believed to more frequently cause injuries).

Barry Zito

Barry William Zito (born May 13, 1978) is an American former professional baseball pitcher and musician. He played 15 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants. His pitching repertoire consisted of a curveball (his strikeout pitch), a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a circle changeup, and a cutter–slider.

Zito attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles Pierce College, and the University of Southern California. Drafted three times while in college, Zito signed with the Athletics when they chose him in the first round of the 1999 MLB draft. A year later, he was in the major leagues, finishing fifth in American League (AL) Rookie of the Year Award. He struggled to begin the 2001 season but improved greatly down the stretch, finishing the year with an 11–1 win–loss record over his final two months. He won 23 games (while only losing five) in 2002 and won the Cy Young Award. His record was only 14–12 in 2003, but he still made the All-Star team for the second year in a row. In 2004, he had his worst season at the time, going 11–11 with a career-high 4.48 earned run average. He became Oakland's Opening Day starter in 2005 and finished fifth in the AL with 171 strikeouts. In 2006, he made the All-Star team and posted a 15–1 record when receiving two or more runs of support.

Following his seventh season with the Athletics, Zito signed a seven-year deal with the Giants in December 2006. At the time, it was the largest contract ever given to a pitcher. He posted double-digit wins in his first three seasons, and in 2010 he helped San Francisco win their first championship since 1954. However, he struggled the last month of the season and he was left off the postseason roster. After sitting out much of the 2011 season with a foot and ankle injury, he came back in 2012 and flourished, finishing with a 15–8 record, his best season in a Giants uniform. The same October, Zito helped lead the Giants to their second World Series title in San Francisco history by going 2–0 with a 1.69 ERA in three postseason starts. In his first career World Series start, he outdueled Tigers' ace Justin Verlander in Game 1, setting the stage for San Francisco's sweep to their seventh World Series title in franchise history. Zito struggled in 2013 but received a standing ovation from the fans in his final appearance as a Giant. Following the year, he became a free agent. Zito, a philanthropist, founded Strikeouts For Troops, a national non-profit that provides comforts of home and lifts the spirits and morale of injured troops as well as offering support to military families.

Breaking ball

In baseball, a breaking ball is a pitch that does not travel straight as it approaches the batter; it will have sideways or downward motion on it, sometimes both (see slider). A breaking ball is not a specific pitch by that name, but is any pitch that "breaks", such as a curveball, slider, or slurve. A pitcher who primarily uses breaking ball pitches is often referred to as a junkballer.

A breaking ball is more difficult than a straight pitch for a catcher to receive as breaking pitches sometimes hit the ground (whether intentionally, or not) before making it to the plate. A curveball moves down and to the left for a right handed pitcher. For a left hand pitcher, it moves down and to the right. And blocking a breaking ball requires thought and preparation by the catcher. The pitcher then, must have confidence in the catcher, and the catcher in himself, to block any ball in the dirt; if there are runners on base, they will likely advance if the ball gets away from the catcher. (Whether the pitcher is right- or left-handed will dictate which direction the catcher must turn his body to adjust for the spin of an upcoming breaking ball. This necessary movement may reveal the next intended pitch to the batter; therefore an experienced catcher must fake or mask his intentions when preparing for the pitch.)

If a breaking ball fails to break, it is called a "hanging" breaking ball, or specifically, a "hanging" curve. The "hanger" presents a high, slow pitch that is easy for the batter to see, and often results in an extra-base hit or a home run.

Don Mattingly wrote in Don Mattingly's Hitting Is Simple: The ABC's of Batting .300 that "hitting a breaking ball is one of the toughest things you'll have to learn" due to the ball's very brief window in the strike zone.

Changeup

A changeup is a type of pitch in baseball and fastpitch softball. The changeup is the staple off-speed pitch, usually thrown to look like a fastball but arriving much more slowly to the plate. Its reduced speed coupled with its deceptive delivery is meant to confuse the batter's timing. It is meant to be thrown the same as a fastball, but farther back in the hand, which makes it release from the hand slower while still retaining the look of a fastball. A changeup is generally thrown to be 8–15 miles per hour slower than a fastball. If thrown correctly, the changeup will confuse the batter because the human eye cannot discern that the ball is coming significantly slower until it is around 30 feet from the plate. For example, a batter swinging at the ball as if it were a 90 mph fastball when it is coming in at 75 mph means they are swinging too early to hit the ball well, making the changeup very effective.

Other names include change-of-pace, change or off-speed pitch. Although that term can also be used simply to mean any pitch that is slower than a fastball. In addition, before at least the second half of the twentieth century, the term "slow ball" was used to denote pitches that were not a fastball or breaking ball, which almost always meant a type of changeup. Therefore, the terms slow ball and changeup could be used interchangeably.

The changeup is analogous to the slower ball in cricket.

Cut fastball

In baseball, a cut fastball or cutter is a type of fastball that breaks toward the pitcher's glove-hand side, as it reaches home plate. This pitch is somewhere between a slider and a two-seam fastball, as it is usually thrown faster than a slider but with more motion than a typical fastball. Some pitchers use a cutter to prevent hitters from expecting their regular fastballs. A common technique for throwing a cutter is to use a two-seam fastball grip with the baseball set slightly off center in the hand. A batter hitting a cutter pitch often achieves only soft contact and an easy out due to the pitch's movement keeping the ball away from the bat's sweet spot. The cutter is typically 2–5 mph slower than a pitcher's two-seam fastball. In 2010, the average pitch classified as a cutter by PITCHf/x thrown by a right-handed pitcher was 88.6 mph; the average two-seamer was 90.97 mph.

Eephus pitch

An Eephus pitch (also spelled Ephus) in baseball is a very low-speed junk pitch. The delivery from the pitcher has very low velocity and usually catches the hitter off-guard. Its invention is attributed to Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1940s, although according to historians John Thorn and John Holway, the first pitcher to throw a big blooper pitch was Bill Phillips, who played in the National League on and off from 1890 through 1903. The practice then lay dormant for nearly 40 years until Sewell resurrected it. According to manager Frankie Frisch, the pitch was named by outfielder Maurice Van Robays. When asked what it meant, Van Robays replied, "'Eephus ain't nothing, and that's a nothing pitch." Although the origin is not known for certain, "Eephus" may come from the Hebrew word אפס (pronounced EF-əs), meaning "nothing".

The Eephus pitch is thrown overhand like most pitches, but is characterized by an unusual, high arcing trajectory. The corresponding slow velocity bears more resemblance to a slow-pitch softball delivery than to a traditional baseball pitch. It is considered a trick pitch because, in comparison to normal baseball pitches, which run from 70 to 100 miles per hour (110 to 160 km/h), an Eephus pitch appears to move in slow motion at 55 mph (89 km/h) or less, sometimes into the low-40s mph (66–69 km/h).

Fosh (baseball)

The fosh, fosh ball, or fosh change is a seldom used pitch in Major League Baseball described as "a cross between a split-fingered pitch and a straight change-up". It is designed to fool a batter expecting a fastball to have to contend with a slower pitch. The pitch has a grip like a fastball, but the index and middle fingers are spread slightly across the baseball, and the ring and little finger wrap around the side of the ball. If thrown properly, it has characteristics like a breaking change-up or an off-speed split-finger fastball.

The origin of the fosh is unknown. Mike Boddicker was the first pitcher known to throw it, having tried it in the 1980s. As pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox, Al Nipper taught the pitch to Jeff Suppan in 1995, and Tom Gordon and Roger Clemens in 1996. Other pitchers who have used it in a game are Jason Frasor, Trevor Hoffman, Johan Santana,Jason Bere and Carl Pavano, and Carlos Rosa.There are various etymologies for the term "fosh". According to The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers: An Historical Compendium of Pitching, Pitchers, and Pitches, three derivations are known. One is that Earl Weaver described it as "a cross between a fastball and a dead fish". Another is a description by David Nied, who said the term sounds "like the perfect word for the movement of the pitch". A third derivation, from Al Nipper, is that fosh is an acronym for "full of ...".

Guillermo Mota

Guillermo Reynoso Mota (born July 25, 1973) is a Dominican former professional baseball relief pitcher in Major League Baseball. In his career, he pitched for the Montreal Expos, Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants. Mota is 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) tall and weighs 240 pounds (110 kg). He throws and bats right-handed. He throws three pitches: a fastball, a slider and a circle changeup.

Mota was originally signed by the New York Mets in 1990 as an infielder. After several years in their organization, he was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the Rule 5 draft in 1996 and converted into a pitcher in 1997. Mota had a 2.96 ERA in 1999, his rookie season, but he struggled in his next two seasons and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to 2002. His struggles continued in his first year with the Dodgers, but Mota had a career year in 2003, as he had a 6–3 record with a 1.97 ERA in 76 games. He became the setup man to closer Éric Gagné in 2004, but was traded to the Florida Marlins midseason. Mota started 2005 as their closer, but Todd Jones took over the role when Mota got hurt in April. Following the year, Mota was traded to the Boston Red Sox.

Before Mota ever played for the Red Sox, however, he was traded again to the Cleveland Indians. He struggled in his time with the Indians in 2006 and was designated for assignment by them in August. The New York Mets acquired him, and Mota improved mightily upon joining them. Following the season, he became a free agent, but he again signed with the Mets. After struggling in 2007, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. He got off to a poor start with Milwaukee in 2008 but improved in the second half. Following the season, Mota became a free agent and signed with the Dodgers again. He had his best year since 2004 and became a free agent again after the season. For the first time in his career, in 2010 he signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants. After making the team out of spring training, Mota won his first career World Series despite struggling at times during the season. Following the season, he signed another minor league contract with the Giants and made the team out of spring training again. During the 2012 season, Mota became one of three players in league history to fail a drug test twice when it was shown he tested positive for Clenbuterol, a performance-enhancing drug.

Han Hyun-hee

Han Hyun-hee (Korean: 한현희; born June 26, 1993) is a South Korean relief pitcher who plays for the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO League. He bats and throws right-handed.

Jameson Taillon

Jameson Lee Taillon (born November 18, 1991) is a Canadian-American professional baseball pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball (MLB). Taillon was drafted by the Pirates as the second overall pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball draft.Fangraphs called Taillon the best high school pitching prospect since Josh Beckett. Baseball America compared him to pitchers like Stephen Strasburg.

Kyle Martin (pitcher)

Kyle Jared Martin (born January 18, 1991) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Saitama Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball. He has previously played in Major League Baseball for the Boston Red Sox. Listed at 6' 7", 230 lb., he bats and throw right handed.

Kyle McGowin

Kyle Keston McGowin (born November 27, 1991) is an American professional baseball pitcher in the Washington Nationals organization.

Mark Lowe

Mark Christopher Lowe (born June 7, 1983) is an American professional baseball relief pitcher for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. He previously played for the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, and Detroit Tigers. His fastball has been clocked as high as 101 mph. He also throws a slider and a circle changeup.

Pitch (baseball)

In baseball, a pitch is the act of throwing a baseball toward home plate to start a play. The term comes from the Knickerbocker Rules. Originally, the ball had to be literally "pitched" underhand, as with pitching horseshoes. Overhand throwing was not allowed until 1884.

The biomechanics of pitching have been studied extensively. The phases of throwing include windup, early cocking, late cocking, early acceleration, late acceleration, deceleration, and follow-through.Pitchers throw a variety of pitches, each of which has a slightly different velocity, trajectory, movement, hand position, wrist position and/or arm angle. These variations are introduced to confuse the batter in various ways, and ultimately aid the defensive team in getting the batter or baserunners out. To obtain variety, and therefore enhance defensive baseball strategy, the pitcher manipulates the grip on the ball at the point of release. Variations in the grip cause the seams to "catch" the air differently, thereby changing the trajectory of the ball, making it harder for the batter to hit.

The selection of which pitch to use can depend on a wide variety of factors including the type of hitter who is being faced; whether there are any base runners; how many outs have been made in the inning; and the current score.

Ron Darling

Ronald Maurice Darling Jr. (born August 19, 1960) is an American former right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) who played for the New York Mets, Montreal Expos, and Oakland Athletics. Darling currently works as a color commentator for national baseball coverage on TBS, as well as for the Mets on both SNY and WPIX; he also co-hosts several MLB Network programs.

During his 13-year career, Darling amassed a 136–116 won-loss record, with 13 shutouts. He had 1,590 strikeouts and a 3.87 ERA. In 1985, he was picked for the All-Star team.

Darling had five pitches in his repertoire: the slider, a curveball, a circle changeup, a splitter, and a four seam fastball. In the beginning of his career, Darling's weak point was control, and he finished three seasons in the top four in base on balls; as his career progressed, his control improved considerably. He was considered one of the better fielding pitchers of the time and won a Gold Glove Award in 1989. Darling had one of the best pickoff moves among right-handers. An above-average athlete, he was sometimes used as a pinch runner. In 1989, he hit home runs in two consecutive starts.

Ryan Madson

Ryan Michael Madson (born August 28, 1980) is an American professional baseball pitcher who is a free agent. He has previously played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Philadelphia Phillies, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. Madson won World Series championships with the Phillies in 2008 and the Royals in 2015. He is second all-time in postseason pitching appearances; only Mariano Rivera has pitched in more postseason games.

Madson throws three types of fastballs. His four-seamer and sinker both average 95 miles per hour. He also throws a cut fastball that averages 93 mph, and a circle changeup around 85 mph.

Screwball

A screwball is a baseball and fastpitch softball pitch that is thrown so as to break in the opposite direction of a slider or curveball. Depending on the pitcher's arm angle, the ball may also have a sinking action.

Carl Hubbell was one of the most renowned screwball pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball. Hubbell was known as the "scroogie king" for his mastery of the pitch and the frequency with which he threw it. Other famous screwball artists include Tug McGraw and Cy Young Award winners Mike Cuellar, Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Marshall, and Willie Hernández.

Slider

In baseball, a slider is a breaking ball pitch that tails laterally and down through the batter's hitting zone; it is thrown with less speed than a fastball but greater than the pitcher's curveball.

The break on the pitch is shorter than that of the curveball, and the release technique is 'between' those of a curveball and a fastball. The slider is similar to the cutter, a fastball pitch, but is more of a breaking ball than the cutter. The slider is also known as a yakker or a snapper.

Spitball

A spitball is an illegal baseball pitch in which the ball has been altered by the application of saliva, petroleum jelly, or some other foreign substance.

This technique alters the wind resistance and weight on one side of the ball, causing it to move in an atypical manner. It may also cause the ball to "slip" out of the pitcher's fingers without the usual spin that accompanies a pitch. In this sense, a spitball can be thought of as a fastball with knuckleball action.

Alternative names for the spitball are spitter, mud ball, shine ball, supersinker, vaseline ball (because originally, Vaseline was used to give the ball a little more break), and emery ball. A spitball technically differs from a standard emery ball, in which the surface of the ball is cut or abraded.

Vulcan changeup

In baseball, the vulcan changeup pitch (otherwise known as a vulcan or trekkie) is a type of changeup; it closely resembles a forkball and split-finger fastball. It is a variation of the circle changeup, and when mastered can be extremely effective. Much like a forkball, the vulcan is gripped between two fingers on the hand, but rather than the middle and index finger as with the forkball or split-finger fastball, it sits in between the middle and ring fingers to make a v-shape (Vulcan salute) when releasing to the catcher. It is thrown with fastball arm speed but by pronating the hand by turning the thumb down, to get good downward movement on it.

The pitch is uncommon in Major League Baseball. Ian Kennedy throws this style of changeup instead of others because he "found it more comfortable and had more movement". Among the others who have thrown it are John Gant, former relievers Randy Tomlin and Joe Nelson, and most notably former all-star closer Éric Gagné, for whom the vulcan changeup was considered one of his best pitches. Roy Oswalt adopted this pitch during the 2010 offseason and preferred it over the circle changeup.Nelson explained his choice for naming the pitch: "It was either going to be Nanu Nanu or the Vulcan. Spock just seemed like a cooler character than Mork." The pitch has been nicknamed the "Trekkie", because of the Vulcan symbol, from the television show Star Trek, that appears in the grip of the ball.

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