7 Tips for Throwing a Better Changeup

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A good changeup can be a pitcher’s best friend. Nothing frustrates a hitter more than a good changeup. As one of my coaches told me, hitters don’t like to look stupid. Show you can throw that changeup for a strike, and they have to respect it. They’ll always have it in the back of their mind, and your fastball will appear that much faster.

But the changeup can also be one of the toughest pitches to master.

There are myriad ways to throw a changeup – different grips, hand positions, etc. But the basic idea is the same no matter how you throw it. It’s a deception pitch designed to throw off a hitter’s timing. Throw it well, with fastball tempo and arm speed (though not your best fastball arm speed), and you’ll get a lot of swinging strikes and weak contact.

7 tips for developing a better change up:

1. Play around with different grips
Decide what feels best in your hand. One of the things I’ve learned over the years playing for a lot of different teams is there’s way more than one way to throw or grip any given pitch. Guys in the bullpen would always share ideas, compare pitches, grips and strategies.

          There’s more than one way to throw an effective changeup.

In my first year of pro ball with the Indians, I was lucky to play with a young C.C. Sabathia. He had a filthy changeup and he basically just threw it like a palm ball (gripped it deep in his palm with all 5 fingers). On days I wasn’t starting I’d sit behind home plate with the radar gun charting pitches. CC was always fun to watch. His fastball was 94-97 MPH, and that changeup would come in at 83-84 MPH. Needless to say, he made a lot of hitters look silly.

Another teammate in independent ball used a grip I’d never seen before. He basically gripped it like a fastball, but kept his two power fingers (index and middle fingers) raised up off the ball at release. As a result the pitch came more off his ring finger and just tumbled like a forkball. Again, very unique approach, but it was a nasty pitch and it worked for him.

2. Once you find a grip that works and feels right, stick with it!
Consistency matters. You’re not going to develop a quality change up if you throw it with a different grip every time! Find a grip that works, and practice throwing it whenever you get a chance. It takes a lot of throws, a lot of repetitions, to develop the right feel for a pitch. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have good command right out of the gate, you need to keep throwing it for it to begin to feel natural.

When I first got to college, my changeup was awful. But over my first two years, my coach and I worked and worked at it, experimenting with different grips until we found one that worked, getting the right feel and then hammering it home. By my junior year, it was my out pitch, and the Braves scout who drafted called it my best pitch.

3. Get good at finding the grip without looking
This should be obvious, but I often see young pitchers digging around in their glove for the grip when they first learn the change up. That or they actually just get the grip outside of their glove. This is a no-no, unless you’re going to start with that grip on every pitch and change it inside your glove for other pitches.

If you dig around too much, hitters and coaches will pick up on it and the batters will be able to just sit back and wait. So practice getting that grip inside your glove with as little fiddling as possible.

You can easily work on this when you’re home watching TV. Put the ball in your glove and practice getting the right grip as quickly as you can. One tip is to always start with the seams of the ball pre-set the same way in your glove. Practice this enough and you should be able to get the grip easily with your eyes closed.

4. Try lying down
The quality of any pitch is dictated by how it leaves your fingers. One thing you can do to get comfortable with your grip is to lie on your back and toss the ball up in the air. Try to throw it up in a straight line, so you catch it right above your head.

Not as easy as you might guess, but it can really help you get the feel for the pitch and how the ball leaves your fingers. I used to do this a lot when I just needed some time to think between papers and homework assignments.

5. Take the pressure off your power fingers (index and middle fingers)
As a pitcher, your first two fingers are your power fingers. The ring finger and pinky are weaker fingers. So the more you can get your power fingers off the ball and position the ring finger on top of the ball, the more speed you’ll be able to take off the pitch. That’s the basic idea behind the circle change, it takes the index finger off the ball (and also tends to create more movement).

6. Throw the “O” for fade (pronation)
The idea of “throwing the O” specifically refers to the circle change (with the ‘O’ being the circle formed by your index finger and thumb), but can also be applied to other grips. Basically if you think about showing the ‘O’ to the hitter, you shift pressure to the inside of the baseball. Less force behind the ball, less speed on the pitch.

This is also called pronating and tends to create added movement on the ball (tailing or fading action towards your throwing arm side). Just be sure to think about throwing the inside of the baseball rather than aggressively turning your wrist as you throw.

7. Throw your changeup at greater than 60 ft
We talked a bit about this in my article on the benefits of long toss. Throwing at greater distances teaches you the intent to throw hard and also helps develop a better feel for throwing to a target. One big mistake a lot of pitchers make with the change up is slowing their arm down to take speed off rather than just trusting the grip. Ironically, this usually disrupts your natural timing and hurts your control. Not to mention the fact that hitters pick up on it and you lose the deception that’s so important for a good change up.

Fastball tempo is key! Throwing the changeup longer than 60 ft forces you to put something on it, maintain good tempo, and keep your arm speed consistent with your fastball. It also allows you to really see the action on the pitch and the difference in speed.

As with any big improvement, the biggest key for developing a quality change up is consistency. Again, there are countless ways to throw a good changeup. Find something that works for you, stick with it, and keep working on it until you master it.

What’s your favorite way to throw a changeup? Drop a comment below!