Changeup in Baseball: Grips, Mechanics, and Game-Changing Strategies

Pat Bloom

changeup in baseball

The changeup is one of baseball’s most deceptive pitches, designed to baffle hitters and disrupt their timing. Unlike a fastball, the changeup is thrown with a slower velocity and less vertical break, making it challenging for batters to distinguish between the two pitches.

This subtle difference often leaves hitters swinging early, expecting a fastball that never arrives. Devin Williams’ changeup, famously known as the “Airbender,” exemplifies the pitch’s potential.

With an astonishing 2800 RPM, it stands as the highest spinning changeup in baseball, far surpassing the MLB average of 1750 RPM.

This unique movement makes it nearly impossible for hitters to predict, showcasing the pitch’s effectiveness when executed with precision.

Understanding the mechanics and mastering the feel of a changeup can transform a pitcher’s arsenal, making it a critical skill for anyone serious about the game.

The Changeup in Baseball

The changeup is a crucial pitch in baseball, known for its deceptive speed variation and movement. It’s typically thrown by a pitcher with a grip similar to a fastball but with a different arm speed and release point, making it appear slower to the batter.

Here’s a breakdown:

Definition and Basic Mechanics

The changeup is a off-speed pitch in baseball, designed to deceive hitters by appearing slower than a fastball. Here’s a closer look at its definition and basic mechanics:


The changeup is a pitch thrown by a pitcher that mimics the arm action and delivery of a fastball but travels at a significantly slower speed. It’s intended to disrupt the hitter’s timing and induce early or weak swings.


The grip for a changeup varies among pitchers, but a common grip is the “circle change,” where the pitcher forms a circle with the index finger and thumb while gripping the ball with the remaining fingers. This grip allows for greater control and deception.

Arm Action

One of the key elements of a successful changeup is maintaining consistent arm speed and delivery as with a fastball. Pitchers aim to replicate their fastball motion to prevent hitters from detecting the change in speed until it’s too late.

Release Point

The release point for a changeup is typically similar to that of a fastball, with the pitcher extending their arm fully and snapping their wrist downward to impart backspin on the ball. This backspin helps the ball maintain its trajectory and minimizes any telltale signs of a changeup.

Reduced Velocity

The primary difference between a fastball and a changeup is the velocity. While fastballs can reach speeds upwards of 90+ mph, changeups typically range from 5-15 mph slower. This speed differential is crucial for fooling hitters and inducing swings off balance.


While some changeups rely solely on speed variation, others incorporate movement to further deceive hitters. Depending on the pitcher’s mechanics and grip, a changeup may feature sinking action, arm-side run, or even some slight fade, adding another layer of difficulty for hitters.


The changeup is a vital weapon in a pitcher’s arsenal, allowing them to keep hitters guessing and prevent them from sitting on fastballs.

By disrupting timing and forcing hitters to adjust to different speeds and movements, pitchers can gain a significant advantage on the mound.

Practice and Mastery

Mastering the changeup requires extensive practice and refinement of grip, arm action, and release point. Pitchers must develop a feel for the pitch and learn how to command it effectively in various situations.

Additionally, understanding when and how to use the changeup in conjunction with other pitches is crucial for success on the mound.

The Science Behind the Pitch

The changeup achieves its effectiveness through a blend of grip and hand action. A 10% speed reduction, ideal for most pitchers, comes from both the grip (5%) and the hand action (5%).

By applying more sidespin, pitchers can create horizontal movement towards the arm side, a technique often utilized in sinking changeups.

Different Grips for Throwing a Changeup

There are several different grips that pitchers use to throw a changeup, each with its own unique feel and movement.

Here are some of the most common changeup grips:


The C-Change grip requires the pitcher to place their thumb and middle finger on the top and bottom seams of the ball.

This grip forms a “C” shape with the thumb and fingers. The pitcher throws the “C” at the target, which can be challenging at first.

However, once mastered, this grip allows for substantial movement, making it difficult for hitters to make solid contact.

Additionally, the pitch’s deceptive speed change can disrupt a batter’s timing, increasing the likelihood of groundouts or pop-ups. Mastering this technique can significantly enhance a pitcher’s arsenal.

Circle Changeup

The Circle Changeup involves forming an “OK” sign with the thumb and index finger on the ball. The other fingers grip the ball along the seams.

This grip allows for a tighter rotation, resulting in more movement and greater deception. While more difficult to control, the Circle Changeup can be highly effective when executed correctly.

Fastball arm speed is crucial for disguising the pitch. The batter anticipates a faster pitch, but the ball arrives slower, leading to mistimed swings. Advanced pitchers often use this technique to keep hitters off-balance.

Three-Finger Changeup

The Three-Finger Changeup uses three fingers placed across the top seams of the ball with the thumb underneath for support.

This grip is beneficial for beginners due to its simplicity. It reduces the ball’s speed while maintaining decent movement, making it a reliable option for pitchers refining their offspeed skills.

In contrast, the Circle Changeup involves forming a circle with the thumb and index finger, which can provide increased deception. Mastering various changeup grips can expand a pitcher’s arsenal.

Characteristics of The Modern Changeup

The modern changeup in baseball has evolved to incorporate various characteristics that make it a highly effective pitch.

Here are some key features of the modern changeup:

Straight or Moving?

A modern changeup stands out by combining arm speed identical to a fastball with significant movement. The two key movements are armside run and sinking action.

Armside run involves horizontal movement toward the pitcher’s arm side. This movement, influenced by sidespin, typically displays 10-15 inches of run.

Sinking action adds vertical drop, making the pitch more difficult to hit. A changeup with more movement proves harder for batters to connect with compared to a straight one.

How Slow?

Speed reduction is another crucial characteristic. A modern changeup usually slows down by 8-12 MPH compared to a fastball.

This difference in speed occurs despite using the same pitching motion, deceiving batters and disrupting their timing.

For example, if a pitcher throws a 95 MPH fastball, the changeup would be around 83-87 MPH. The art lies in delivering the pitch without revealing the speed change through arm action.

How Hard?

While the changeup is slower, arm speed must remain consistent with the fastball. This consistency enhances the pitch’s deceptive nature.

A good changeup appears to come out of the hand at the same intensity as a fastball, fooling the batter until it’s too late.

Effective pitchers maintain arm speed, keeping hand tension low and allowing for the natural movement of the ball.

What About Cutting Changeups?

A cutting changeup combines elements of a traditional changeup with cutter mechanics. This pitch can cut slightly, moving away from the batter instead of running armside. It’s less common but serves as an effective variant, adding another layer of deception.

Pitchers use a grip similar to the traditional changeup but adjust wrist angle and finger pressure to achieve the cutting motion. This variation adds unpredictability, enhancing a pitcher’s arsenal on the mound.

How to Master the Changeup

Mastering the changeup in baseball requires dedication, practice, and a deep understanding of its mechanics and nuances.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to master this essential pitch:

Training Techniques for Pitchers

Pitchers should integrate specific drills into their practice routines to master the changeup.

Grip Drills

To get comfortable with different changeup grips like the Circle Changeup or C-Change, pitchers can practice holding the ball with the prescribed grip while working on their mechanics. They should focus on releasing the ball with a relaxed hand for optimal spin.

Long Toss

Pitchers can use long-toss sessions to build arm strength and refine their changeup delivery. By incorporating the changeup grip into these sessions, they’ll get accustomed to maintaining velocity and accuracy.

Flat Ground Throwing

Practicing on flat ground helps pitchers focus on the release point and follow-through without the added complexity of pitching from a mound. This can be particularly beneficial for fine-tuning the changeup’s spin and movement.

Simulated Games

Pitchers should simulate game scenarios during practice to develop confidence in using the changeup. This situational practice helps refine decision-making and pitch selection.


Many beginners grip the ball too tightly, causing excessive tension. This tension hinders spin and ruins the pitch’s effectiveness. Correct this by ensuring the ball is held with minimal pressure, keeping the hand relaxed.

Incorrect Arm Speed

Some pitchers reduce their arm speed when throwing a changeup, tipping off hitters. To correct this, pitchers should practice maintaining consistent arm speed that mimics their fastball.

Erratic Release Point

An inconsistent release point leads to poor control and predictable pitches. Pitchers should work on maintaining a stable and consistent release by focusing on their mechanics and throwing from flat ground.

Too Much Movement Focus

Overemphasis on movement can lead to loss of control. Pitchers should ensure their primary focus remains on accurate placement before working on additional movement like sidespin or vertical drop.

The Strategic Use of the Changeup

The changeup is not just about throwing a slower pitch; it’s about disrupting timing, keeping hitters off balance, and setting up other pitches.

Here’s how pitchers strategically use the changeup to their advantage:

Deciding When and Where to Throw It

Pitchers strategically use the changeup to disrupt hitters’ timing. When facing aggressive hitters, pitchers often throw changeups after fastballs to exploit the speed difference.

Locations vary down and away to right-handed batters and inside to left-handed batters can be effective. Additionally, pitchers often select changeups in two-strike counts to induce weak contact or strikeouts.

Impact on Hitters and Game Outcomes

Changeups significantly impact hitters, often resulting in weak contact or strikeouts. Hitters struggle to adjust to the slower velocity, especially when expecting a fastball.

The best changeups deceive hitters through consistent arm speed. Effective use of the changeup can lower a pitcher’s ERA, increase strikeout rates, and maintain a more unpredictable pitching arsenal.

This unpredictability often leads to better game outcomes, keeping hitters off-balance and less successful at making strong contact.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a changeup pitch in baseball?

A changeup is an off-speed pitch used in baseball to deceive the hitter. It is thrown with the same arm motion as a fastball but is significantly slower, thereby disrupting the hitter’s timing.

Why is the changeup effective?

The changeup is effective because it looks like a fastball coming out of the pitcher’s hand. The reduced speed tricks hitters into swinging early, leading to weak contact or strikes.

How should you grip a changeup?

Common grips include the circle changeup, where the index finger and thumb form a circle on the side of the ball, and the three-finger changeup, where the ball is held with the middle, ring, and pinky fingers.

Can a good changeup improve a pitcher’s ERA?

Yes, effectively mixing in a changeup can lower a pitcher’s ERA. By disrupting the hitter’s timing and inducing weak contact, pitchers can reduce the number of hits and runs allowed over time.


Mastering the changeup is crucial for any pitcher aiming to elevate their game. Its ability to disrupt hitters’ timing and induce weak contact makes it an indispensable tool in a pitcher’s arsenal.

By perfecting the grip and mechanics, and maintaining fastball arm speed, pitchers can keep hitters guessing and off-balance.

The strategic use of the changeup not only enhances a pitcher’s effectiveness but also contributes to better overall game performance.

Embracing this pitch can lead to lower ERAs and more successful outings on the mound. Additionally, incorporating varying speeds and locations when using the changeup can further confuse batters, making it harder for them to predict and adjust.

Coaches often emphasize the importance of consistent practice and game-time application to refine this pitch.

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Pat Bloom

I lead Washington University in St. Louis' baseball team, emphasizing skill development, strategic play, and sportsmanship. Our rigorous training and competitive spirit cultivate discipline and teamwork, preparing athletes for success both in baseball and academics. We embody the determination and sportsmanship that define our university's athletics. LinkedIn

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