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How to Throw a Splitter

As most pitchers to play the game of baseball even at an early age, the two or three basic pitches in their arsenal are the two-seam fastball, the four-seam fastball, and some variation of a changeup.

As pitchers develop and get older, adding additional pitches allow for them to be more creative on the mound while mixing up what pitch might be coming next.

The ability to switch things up is what makes the splitter movement and mastering how to throw a split finger fastball so key.

Read on to learn more about the splitter grip, how to throw a splitter and what type of splitter movement you can expect to see.

Splitter – Background & Origin

The splitter or split finger fastball is an off-speed pitched used in baseball to look like a fastball but comes to the plate slower while also having a drop movement.

Sometimes confused for the forkball, the splitter is held similar but with not as wide of a grip or with the ball as deep between the middle and index fingers while positioning the ball at the fingertips.

A splitter or split finger fastball got its name based on the split finger fastball grip to hold the baseball. The two fingers are split apart on opposite seams, thus earning the pitch the name splitter.

Many credit the evolution of the forkball to create the split finger fastball. While the grips are similar, the ball is held in different positions within the two pitching grips.

And while no one knows for sure who invented the splitter or made the alteration to the forkball to adapt the split finger fastball, Fred Martin is sometimes credited with throwing the pitch while playing in the minors and eventually teaching it to other players such as Bruce Sutter.

How to throw a splitter?

Learning how to throw a split finger fastball is not difficult but may take some time to develop the correct positioning of the baseball between the index finger and middle finger.

  • The key to throwing a good splitter is figuring out the split-finger fastball grip. The ball is held with the two fingers splitting two seams on the baseball then it is thrown like a fastball.
  • After figuring out how to position it between the index fingers and middle fingers split, the right-handed pitcher will throw the pitch just like a fastball while holding the ball in the hand just a few second longer creating a delay to home plate with a dropping movement, while keeping the wrist stiff and faced towards the batter.

Movement, Speed, Pros & Cons

What does a splitter do? The splitter movement like a sinker or forkball, has a downward movement that is tended to drop of under that bat through the zone and down towards home plate.

The splitter movement is like the forkball and even the banned spit ball that was used a long time as the ball will have a backspin downward movement that forces batters into hitting it into the ground. A great splitter will approach the home plate like a fastball but will drop at the last minute making it difficult to place the bat in the middle of the ball.

It is difficult to put an exact number on it by some experts say pitchers throwing the split finger fastball can lose upwards of 10 percent of their velocity in compared to their standard two-seam or four seam fastball. However, some pitchers have been able to throw splitters in the mid to upper 80’s and low 90’s.

Pros/Cons of a Splitter

As it is with any pitch you are considering adding to your pitching arsenal, it is key you take the time to learn about how to throw it properly, its movement, and its pros/cons.

The splitter’s major advantages are the additional movement added to the ball, while also being a pitch that pitchers can learn at an early age. Experts and doctors don’t believe there is any harm in throwing the splitter due to the lack of twisting/snapping of the wrist that leads to arm issues.

However, some teams and medical staffs over the years have associated pitchers who throw the splitter with arm fatigue.

To throw safely, grip the splitter between the two fingers and throw it just like a fastball. Avoid snapping the wrist in any motion while allowing the grip of the middle and index fingers to change the movement on the baseball.

Do you need big hands to throw a splitter?

No pitch technically requires the pitcher to have a big hand, the same can be said for throwing a splitter. While longer fingers might allow a wider grip and the ability to hold the ball farther back in the hand, smaller hand pitchers have mastered the pitch successfully.

Who throws a splitter in MLB?

When you look around MLB of today many pitchers use the split finger fastball or splitter in their pitching arsenal including Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman and Jake Odorizzi while greats such as David Cone and Jack Morris also used the pitch. One other big-name star using the splitter is Shohei Ohtani who uses the pitch to strikeout opposing hitters.

Best splitter in the history of baseball?

Few have used the pitch better than Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter.

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