Pitchers, like poets, are born not made.” – Cy Young
C.C. Sabathia excels at it. Mariano Rivera saves it. Whitey Ford set the standard for it.
Of all things, we are talking about pitching in baseball. The art of being a pitcher takes practice, precision and patience. To develop as a good baseball pitcher, starts at a young age and begins with understanding the mechanics of pitching – how to pitch and not throw the baseball. Pitching also deals with understanding the actual baseball itself and how to grip it by the seams and the physics of the delivery of the ball.
Former Oriole and Yankee pitcher John Habyan credits many for his 11-year Major League success as a middle and long relief pitcher. It should be noted, that he also pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, California Angels and Colorado Rockies, but spent the majority of his career with the Orioles and Yankees.
“My father gave me good advice…he encouraged me and said, ´I´ll help you make a career out of this if you want?´ I then started to pitch with my father´s guidance,” said Habyan. “Parents today think they can help their kids in sports by just watching television, they don´t educate themselves. May father didn´t do that. We would sit down and read books on pitching. From my father´s guidance, I always had that confidence in my career. Sure it´s tough, but I always had that self confidence.”
When defining what a pitcher does, “Wikipedia,” the online encyclopedia, says it best:
“Pitchers throw a variety of pitches, each of which has a slightly different velocity, trajectory, movement and/or arm angle. These variations are introduced to confuse the batter in various ways, and ultimately aid the defensive team in getting the batters or base-runners out. To obtain variety, and therefore enhance defensive baseball strategy, the pitcher manipulates the grip of the ball at the point of release. Variations in the grip cause the seams to “catch” the air differently, therefore changing the trajectory of the ball, making it harder for the batter to hit.”
For instance, John Habyan put many years into perfecting his art of pitching. A product of St. John´s the Baptist High School in West Islip, New York, former head coach Buddy Corr would also emphasize the mechanics of pitching, strength and conditioning training. After school and practice, Corr would take Habyan to Jones Beach State Park in New York and have him do all type of sprints in the sand to build up his leg strength. The hard work paid off, he pitched St. John´s to the 1982 Catholic League Championship Title and soon found himself being looked at by collegiate and professional scouts.
Many professional scouts told him he would be drafted right out of high school and the Orioles already had him in their sights. Considered by many in baseball to be a standout player, he has won numerous awards to show for his success. He was Southern League Right-handed Pitcher of the Year, Triple-A Rookie Pitcher of the Year, pitched a 6-0 no-hit victory against the Columbus Clippers and appeared in the 1989 International League Playoffs.
“Now I realize the chance I took going pro,” Habyan said. “I always had that confidence and hard work ethic. Long and middle relief work is what I handled best. I owe much to Dom Chiti.” (Dom Chiti is currently a bullpen coach with the Texas Rangers).
Here´s a list of the most common pitches used by pitchers in baseball:
- Fastball: This is the most popular pitch used in baseball, with several different forms of the fastball used.
- Four-seam fastball
- Two-seam fastball
The cutter, split-finger and forkball are different forms of the fastball, with extra movement because of the trajectories and sinking of the pitch.
Other common pitches:
Like anything else, pitching is an art and takes time to perfect.