Inner Circle

The Importance of a Change Up in Softball

The most important pitch that a softball player who wishes to be successful in the sport and one she must learn and conquer is the changeup. For those unfamiliar, a changeup in softball is a pitch that is slower than the fastball. The fastball should be the first pitch any beginner pitcher is introduced to. Once a pitcher has mastered the basic fundamentals and mechanics of a fastball, the next pitch introduced should always be the changeup.

A changeup is a pitch that is slower than the fastball. The purpose of the changeup is to show the batter something different. Since it is impossible to throw a pitch faster than the fastball, the next best way to show a hitter something different is to slow the pitch down. Any hitter can catch up to speed. If a pitcher throws the same speed to hitter-after-hitter without changing speeds, there is a good chance by the hitters second or third at-bat, she will make contact.

The changeup keeps the hitters honest. Even if a pitcher throws a changeup and it’s not called a strike, it gives the opposing team something to think and talk about on their bench. The changeup should be eight to 12 mph slower than the fastball. It’s important for a change up to fall into this speed difference range because if the changeup is too fast, it will just be a slower version of the fastball. If the changeup is too slow, the hitter could re-load her swing.

A change up does not need to be thrown as a strike. The best changeups are the ones where the pitcher is able to make her motion look identical to her fastball. The changeup should also be released at the same release point as the fastball and should travel on the same height. It’s okay if the changeup drops and ends low. If you are going to miss on a changeup, you want it to be low. It’s hard for a hitter to see a speed change with the ball traveling at them, but if the changeup is released high and stays high as it travels, the hitter will pick up on it sooner.

As pitchers develop and become more advanced with their changeups, they should be able to throw it in any count and they may even have two signs for the pitch. One changeup sign may be indicated to throw it as a strike depending on the hitter and the count. The second may be to use the changeup as a waste pitch and purposely throw it lower and out of the zone. Again, this is a very advanced skill and takes mastered mechanics and body control. Next time you tune in to a college softball game, pay attention to the pitchers changeup.

There are hundreds of different changeup grips a pitcher can select. It is normal for a softball pitcher to try and go through a few different change-ups throughout their career. Softball player bodies are always growing and changing. It is very common that a pitcher may outgrow the first change-up learned as a 10U or 12U player. As pitchers get older, they may need to learn and develop a new changeup in order to keep the pitch hidden or to not give it away.

The changeup is the most important pitch in softball. The pitchers and teams who are still standing at the end of the season, at any age level, have pitchers with great changeups. As exciting as it is to learn and practice hard movement pitches, I strongly encourage everyone reading this article to shift the focus and work back to the pitchers changeup.

Fastpitch News ® (FPN) is dedicated to covering the sport of Women’s Fastpitch Softball. FPN provides news, analysis, opinions and coverage of College, High School, Professional and International Fastpitch leagues and organizations.


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