Step By Step: How To Throw a Changeup

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What's A Changeup?

Grip of the basic three-finger changeup.

The changeup is a basic pitch that every pitcher learns at the lowest levels of competition because good hitters will catch up to a fastball sooner or later. That makes the changeup a very powerful tool in your pitching arsenal. You can throw it at any count and even good hitters shouldn't see it coming—at least if you take sensible precautions to make sure they don't. But it can be a particularly handy weapon when you're behind in a count because hitter will most likely be thinking fastball. 

The theory behind a changeup is that it comes with the same arm position and motion as a fastball, but it's 10 to 15 miles per hour slower based on the drag on the ball. Changeups make any fastball seem even faster by comparison, but they can be somewhat difficult to master.

There are two kinds of changeups: the three-fingered changeup and the circle change.

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The Three-Finger Changeup

The three-finger changeup grip.

This pitch is appropriate for young pitchers because it's easy to grip.

Center your ring, middle and index fingers on top of the baseball across the seams, just as you would with a four-seam fastball. Your thumb and pinky finger should be on the leather under the ball. If your hands are large enough, see if you can put your thumb and pinky finger together on the bottom of the ball. This can help your control and give you a better feel.

The ball should be held deeply in your hand with equal pressure from all your fingers. Keep your wrist stiff and throw it straight down, hard, just like a fastball with the same arm speed and release point. Your grip should do most of the work. 

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The Circle Change

The circle change grip.

The circle change is a more advanced pitch with a similar grip. The difference is that the index finger and the thumb should form a circle on the side of the ball as if you were making the hand signal for OK. The middle finger, ring finger and pinkie finger are on the top of the ball across the seams, just as in the three-finger changeup.

The ball should be touching the “circle” on the thumb and index finger. This changeup is thrown the same as a fastball.

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Following Through

Pedro Martinez throws one of the best changeups in the majors. Getty Images

As with all of pitching, keeping your intentions secret is a big part of the battle. Keep the ball hidden in your glove when you're getting ready to throw or you might tip off the batter—or a baserunner or base coach—as to what pitch you're throwing. If the hitter is on to you, he can tweak his timing and nail the ball out of the park. 

Wind up normally and throw. The ball will likely stay high if you don't follow through.

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Practice, Practice, Practice

As with all things sports, the more you practice and the more you try to perfect your technique, the better you'll become. Stay consistent with your arm speed through all your pitches—this is important. If the hitter senses that you're slowing down, you could be in for trouble.