The Guide To Watching Cardinal Pitching - Part III

The third and final installment of the Guide to Watching Cardinal Pitching. Today the split-finger fastball and the change-up and the Cardinal starters who throw them. Did you know, that Mark Mulder is the only Cardinal starter that throws a ...

Jerry Remy the Boston Red Sox broadcaster and former major leaguer claimed in his book, "Watching Baseball", Discovering the Game within the Game, that the split-finger (SF), fastball or splitter was the most difficult pitch for him to hit.

"When I was playing, I thought this was the worst pitch ever invented, the only chance I had was when the pitcher made a mistake and the pitch ended up belt high."

The split-finger fastball is thrown like a fastball, but when the pitch crosses home plate the bottom falls out and the pitch usually ends up out of the strike zone. The hitter is thinking he's hitting a knee high fastball, that ends up not being there.

The pitcher's grip for the splitter, is on top of the ball and close to the fingertips, and it is thrown with the middle and index fingers spread wide, forming a V along the seams.

You can identify the pitch by the speed and movement of the pitch. The ball appears to tumble out from between the fingers, slowing the ball down, without altering the pitcher's fastball arm speed and motion.

Paul Dickson in his book, "The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary", credits Roger Craig, a former pitcher, pitching coach and manager with inventing the pitch and he began teaching it at a boy's camp in 1974.

Dubbed the pitch of the 1980's, the spit-fingered pitch was made famous by the likes of Bruce Sutter, Mike Scott and Jack Morris.

This pitch has probably created more confusion than any other pitch out there.

Jerry Howarth (Baseball Lite, 1986) defines it as: "A pitch five major-leauge pitching coaches call a fork ball, five others call it a splitter, six more recognize it as a changeup and ten others won't recognize it at all."

To make things easy for you watching the Cardinals, Mark Mulder, is the only Cardinal starter that throws the split-finger fastball. This is the pitch he uses to get batters out. When he is on, Mulder has one of the best split-finger fastballs in the majors. He has good velocity and movement on the pitch, that on a major league scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, I'd rank Mulder's split-finger pitch around an 8.5.

The final pitch, "the changeup".

In Dickson's Baseball Dictionary, the change-up is defined as: A modern term for change of pace; specif., a slow ball thrown after one or more fastballs, or a let up pitch thrown to look like a fastball to upset the batter's timing.

It's thrown with the same windup and arm speed (seeing a pattern here?) of a fastball, but with reduced velocity and with the intention of deceiving the batter making it in the opinion of some as the most difficult pitch to hit.

The pitch is effective because it looks like a fastball but is slower. You throw it the same way, it moves the same way, it just comes in across the plate slower.

A good major league pitcher's change-up will be 10-15 MPH slower than his fastball. In theory the pitch shouldn't be that hard to hit, because it's an off speed pitch with little or no movement on it, but the truth is, for most hitters it's a difficult pitch to hit.

Here's the hitch though, if the batter is expecting the change-up and is sitting on the pitch, he'll probably knock it out of the park.

The most common change-up grip is, the pitch is thrown by making the OK sign with your hand by putting your thumb and index finger together to make a circle. Hence the term "circle change-up. Then put the baseball in the palm of your hand and grip it with your other three fingers.

The first time the term change-up was used was in an article in the Birmingham News on May 7, 1948, when describing a pitcher "He's got everything - speed, curve, change-up and plenty of heart."

As you might expect, all the Cardinal starters throw the change-up.

Mark Mulder has the most effective change-up of the starting five, with good movement and velocity and the willingness to throw the pitch at anytime, keeping the hitters off balance. On a one to ten scale, Mulder's change-up would be rated around an eight.

Matt Morris' change-up has average velocity with above average movement on the pitch. If there is one dig against Morris, it's that he doesn't throw his change-up enough. If you were to rate his change-up among major league pitchers, on the one to ten scale, his change up would be around a five or six.

Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan both have what you would consider an average change-up at best. Carpenter is effective with his change-up, because he is very good at being deceptive. He has the same arm movement, same arm slot, and same arm speed that keeps the batters off balanced. Jeff Suppan's change-up has good downward break on it.

Jason Marquis' has control problems with his change-up and the change-up is probably his least effective pitch. His change-up would be barely considered average among major league starters.

There you have it, the Three Part Series, The Guide To Watching Cardinal Pitching. If you missed the first two-parts, be sure to check them out at,

The Guide To Watching Cardinal Pitching - Part I

The Guide To Watching Cardinal Pitching - Part II

The next time you are at the ballpark or watching the game on TV, try calling the pitches, impress your friends,it can be a lot of fun.

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