A game cannot just be saved by merely hitting balls into outer field for knockout homeruns or steals to home, but one other important means to help move the game to your team’s favor is by striking out the batting opponent with smashing pitches. After mastering the basic pitches such as the curveball, fastball and the change-up, add on to your pitching repertoire more advances hand balls such as the split-finger fastball, also known as the “splitter". One of the most famed pitchers who perfected the pitch is Bruce Sutter, a former Major League baseball player and 2006 Hall of Famer. He is undeniably the first baseball player to harness the true power of the splitter. He didn’t invent the pitch, but he did glamorize and refine the pitch to its greatest and “deadliest” potential.
Take inspiration from the Hall of Famer – and other pro-baseball players like Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Mike Pelfrey and Jose Valdverde - and easily use the split-finger fastball to find your own success on the field. Here’s how to throw the perfect splitter fastball.
The splitter is much like a fastball in such that it is pitched like a fastball and appears like one as well as it is delivered from the pitcher’s block. It turns into a splitter when it approaches the batter and suddenly breaks and dives towards the batter’s knees.
- Pitching a splitter. Though splitters are more comfortably pitched with players with bigger hands, it is still possible for petite-handed pitchers to effectively throw a split-finger fastball. In order to get some power and push in the ball you have to have a real grip on the baseball, which can only be done if the pitcher’s palm and fingers can stretch completely around the ball. Your middle finger and index finger must split in a V-formation or peace sign. Place the tips of the fingers outside of the red horseshoe seam. The palm firmly cups the rest of the ball. For a better grip, rub some chalk or sand into your hand.
- Tip from Bruce Sutter. Push the ball out front a bit by adjusting your grip. Instead of placing your thumb on the front seam, place it on the back seam. Another tip is to throw the ball with a slight back spin for more speed and curve. Throw the ball with the palm-side of your wrist when your palm and ball are directly facing the target. Your fingers should be directed upwards. If you remove the ball from your palm, the fingers should be slightly curled like a dinosaur claw. When doing this pitch make sure your wrists are locked into place. The split-finger pitch is recommended to young players to break pitches as it is a fairly simple pitch that does not put much strain on the shoulder and back. Pitchers often use this pitch when there are runners on the bases. The pitch will push the batter into a double play by having him hit a ground ball. The team can effectively react and run the play to avoid the opposing team to score homeruns.
Study the videos of the pros on YouTube to get a feel of how the split-finger ball is delivered. Study the grip, hold, throw and follow-through of the pitch. But aside from watching videos, make sure to clock in the time at practice. In time, you will master it. Good luck!