Baseball pitches illustrated

Arc of a bloop curve pitch

A fan's guide to identifying pitches

I'm a baseball fan. I've watched my share of televised games and attended a few handful. After all this, I was still in the dark about the difference between pitches. I knew a curveball broke downwards, but what exactly was a circle changeup?

The diagrams below are the results of skimming through baseball books and doing online research. This is not a complete guide. I've picked twelve of the more common pitches:

  • Fastballs: Four-seam, Two-seam, Cutter, Splitter, and Forkball
  • Breaking Balls: Curveball, Slider, Slurve, and Screwball
  • Changeups: Changeup, Palmball, Circle Changeup

Learning to identify pitches

The list of pitches might seem like a lot to keep track of, but remember that each pitcher utilizes only a selection of these pitches. For example, Pedro Martinez throws a curveball, circle-changeup, an occasional slider, and a fastball. Do a little research on the pitcher before the game.

Things to watch for that will help you identify a pitch:

  • Speed
  • Movement - the general direction the ball is moving
  • Break - a sudden shift in direction

There are a few other things that can help you identify a pitch: ball rotation, point of release, and grip. For a casual fan though, it might be a bit much and I don't illustrate or discuss any of the latter three items.

Reading the diagrams

Take note of the speed, movement, and break of the ball. Don't worry about where the baseball is shown in the the strike zone. You can throw a fastball in the middle of the strike-zone like the one illustrated, or you can throw one high and away from the batter. It's still a fastball. Location doesn't determine the pitch.

four seam fastball pitch diagram

Four-seam Fastball

85-100 mph

Fastest, straightest pitch. Little to no movement.

two seam fastball pitch diagram

Two-seam Fastball

80-90 mph

Also known as a Sinker. Moves downward, and depending on the release, will sometimes run in on a right handed hitter (RHH).

cutter pitch diagram


85-95 mph

Breaks away from a right handed hitter (RHH) as it reaches the plate. Mix of a slider and a fastball. Faster than a slider but with more movement than a fastball.

splitter pitch diagram


80-90 mph

Breaks down suddenly before reaching plate.

forkball pitch diagram


75-85 mph

Like a splitter, but with a less dramatic, more gradual downward movement.

curveball pitch diagram


70-80 mph

Commonly called a 12-6 curveball. The 12-6 refers to the top to bottom movement (picture a clock with hands at 12 and 6).

slider pitch diagram


80-90 mph

Breaks down and away from a RHH. Between a fastball and a curve.

slurve pitch diagram


70-80 mph

11-5 movement. Similar to a curve but with more lateral movement.

screwball pitch diagram


65-75 mph

1-7 movement. Opposite of the slurve.

changeup pitch diagram


70-85 mph

Slower than a fastball, but thrown with the same arm motion.

palmball pitch diagram


65-75 mph

Ball is gripped tightly in palm. Just like a changeup, this pitch is slower than a fastball, but thrown with the same arm motion.

circle changeup pitch diagram

Circle Changeup

70-80 mph

A changeup with 1-7 moment like the screwball.

PDF Download

All twelve pitch diagrams, minus the text notes, are collected onto a single page PDF.