What is a Changeup in Baseball and How to Throw It?

John Means

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what is a changeup in baseball and how to throw it

The changeup pitch in baseball is a deceptive and effective tool used by pitchers to keep hitters off balance. With its reduced speed and deceptive delivery, the changeup disrupts a batter’s timing and can lead to weak contact or swings and misses.

Mastering the art of the changeup is crucial for pitchers seeking to excel on the mound.

What is a Changeup?

The changeup is an off-speed pitch thrown by a pitcher to deceive the batter. It is typically delivered with the same arm slot, arm speed, and rotation as a fastball, making it difficult for the batter to differentiate between the two until it’s too late.

The key characteristic of a changeup is its reduced speed compared to the pitcher’s fastball, typically around 10-15 miles per hour slower. This speed differential is crucial in fooling the batter and disrupting its timing.

Purpose and Benefits of Throwing a Changeup

The primary purpose of throwing a changeup is to keep the hitter off balance and make their timing adjustment more challenging. By throwing a pitch that looks like a fastball but arrives at a slower speed, the pitcher can create confusion and force the batter to swing too early or off balance.

This can lead to weak contact or missed swings, increasing the pitcher’s chances of success.

The changeup offers several benefits to pitchers. Firstly, it serves as an effective complementary pitch to the fastball. The speed differential between the two pitches creates a greater contrast, making the fastball appear faster after the batter has seen the changeup.

This change in perception makes it more challenging for the hitter to time their swing accurately.

Secondly, the changeup is generally easier on the pitcher’s arm compared to high-velocity pitches like fastballs or sliders. Its reduced speed allows pitchers to decrease the stress on their arm while maintaining deception and effectiveness.

This can help prevent arm fatigue and reduce the risk of injuries, allowing pitchers to stay on the mound longer and perform at a high level throughout a game or season. Furthermore, the changeup can be a valuable tool for disrupting the hitter’s approach and keeping them guessing.

By incorporating a well-executed changeup into their pitch selection, pitchers can keep batters from sitting on specific pitches or speeds, making it more challenging for them to anticipate and adjust their swings.

Grip Variations for the Changeup

The changeup is a deceptive and effective pitch in baseball, often used by pitchers to disrupt the timing and expectations of the batter. Grip variations play a crucial role in the execution and effectiveness of the changeup. Here are some common grip variations for the changeup:

Circle Changeup

The circle changeup is one of the most popular changeup grips. To execute this grip, the pitcher forms a circle with their thumb and index finger by touching the tips of these two fingers. The remaining fingers wrap around the ball. 

This grip creates a backspin and generates arm-side movement, making the pitch appear like a fastball initially before dropping or fading away.

Vulcan Changeup

The Vulcan changeup, also known as the “split-change,” involves placing the ball between the middle and ring fingers, with the index and pinky fingers supporting the ball. 

This grip offers a comfortable feel and allows the pitcher to exert more pressure on the ball, resulting in decreased velocity and increased movement.

Fosh Changeup

The Fosh grip is a variation that provides increased movement and late sinking action. The pitcher places the index and middle fingers on the seam of the ball, similar to a two-seam fastball grip, but spreads the fingers slightly wider apart. 

This grip generates additional friction on the ball, creating downward movement and deception.

Three-Finger Changeup

In this grip, the pitcher uses three fingers (index, middle, and ring fingers) on top of the ball while the thumb rests on the bottom. 

The ring finger is slightly offset from the other two fingers, allowing for increased pronation upon release. This grip can provide good arm-side movement and change in velocity when executed properly.

Split-Finger Changeup

The split-finger changeup, similar to the splitter grip, involves spreading the index and middle fingers wide apart on the ball, placing them on the seams. The grip is deeper than a traditional fastball grip, and upon release, the fingers apply pressure to create downward movement and deception.

These are just a few examples of grip variations for the changeup. Pitchers may experiment and find variations that work best for their hand size, comfort, and desired movement. 

It is essential for pitchers to practice these grips extensively to develop consistent command and deception with their changeup, as mastering the grip variations can significantly enhance the effectiveness of this deceptive pitch.

How to Throw a Changeup in Baseball?

How to Throw a Changeup in Baseball?

To throw a changeup in baseball, follow these steps:

Step 1: Grip the Ball

There are various grip variations for the changeup, but one common grip is the circle changeup. Hold the ball using a circle grip by forming a circle with your thumb and index finger, with the tips of these fingers touching. 

The remaining fingers wrap around the ball. Experiment with different grips to find what feels most comfortable and effective for you.

Step 2: Maintain Arm Speed and Motion

One of the keys to a successful changeup is maintaining consistent arm speed and motion, similar to your fastball delivery. 

The goal is to deceive the batter by making the changeup look like a fastball for as long as possible. Focus on keeping your arm action and release consistent with your fastball.

Step 3: Reduce Grip Pressure

As you prepare to release the ball, consciously reduce the grip pressure on the changeup compared to your fastball. This helps create a looser grip and lessens the force applied to the ball, resulting in decreased velocity and increased movement.

Step 4: Pronate and Extend

As you release the ball, emphasize pronation and extension of your wrist and fingers. This action imparts backspin and allows the ball to come off your hand with the desired movement. 

Maintain a loose wrist and avoid snapping or pronating too early, as this can affect the effectiveness of the pitch.

Step 6: Aim for a Lower Release Point

To maximize the changeup’s downward movement, try releasing the ball slightly lower than your normal release point. 

This can enhance the pitch’s deception and make it appear like a fastball before dropping or fading away.

Step 6: Practice and Repetition

Developing a quality changeup requires practice and repetition. Work on throwing the pitch during bullpen sessions, long toss, and simulated game situations. 

Focus on consistency in grip, arm speed, and release point to develop command and deception with the pitch.

Remember, mastering the changeup takes time and patience. It’s essential to stay committed to refining the pitch and gaining confidence in its execution. With practice and experience, the changeup can become a valuable weapon in your pitching arsenal.

Tips for Throwing ChangeUp in Baseball

Here are some tips to help you improve your changeup in baseball:

  • Experiment with different changeup grip variations, such as the circle changeup, Vulcan changeup, or Fosh grip, to find the one that feels most comfortable and effective for you. 
  • Maintain consistent arm speed and delivery mechanics with your changeup, just like your fastball. The goal is to make the pitch look as much like your fastball as possible to deceive the batter. 
  • When throwing the changeup, consciously reduce the grip pressure on the ball compared to your fastball. This helps create a relaxed grip, resulting in decreased velocity and increased movement. 
  • Emphasize pronation and wrist action during the release of the changeup. Pronation involves rotating your forearm and wrist inward upon release, generating backspin and downward movement on the pitch. 
  • Consistency is key when developing a changeup. Work on repeating your grip, arm speed, release point, and follow-through with each pitch. 
  • Use the changeup in different situations and locations to keep hitters off balance. Vary the speed of your changeup to create greater differentiation from your fastball. 
  • Effective changeup usage often involves mixing up your pitch sequencing. Use the changeup in conjunction with your other pitches to keep hitters guessing and disrupt their timing. 
  • Regular practice and seeking feedback from coaches or catchers can help you refine your changeup. 

Practice the pitch in bullpen sessions, simulated games, and live situations. Pay attention to the movement, location, and effectiveness of your changeup and make adjustments based on feedback and observation.

Developing Command and Control in Baseball Changeup

One of the key elements of commanding the changeup is the ability to locate it effectively in different areas of the strike zone. By varying the location, pitchers can keep hitters off balance and create uncertainty.

It is essential to be able to throw the changeup for strikes, as well as locate it out of the zone to induce swings and misses or weak contact.

When locating the changeup, pitchers can aim for the lower portion of the strike zone or even below it to maximize the pitch’s downward movement. Placing the changeup in the same location as a fastball or mixing up the location between pitches can further deceive the hitter and disrupt their timing.

The ability to consistently hit specific spots with the changeup allows pitchers to dictate the at-bat and keep hitters guessing.

Establishing Consistency and Deception in Pitch Execution

Establishing Consistency and Deception in Pitch Execution

Developing consistency in executing the changeup is essential for pitchers to gain command and control. This involves repeating the same arm slot, arm speed, and release point for the changeup, just as they would with their fastball.

Consistency in these areas helps maintain the deception and makes it more challenging for hitters to differentiate between the two pitches until late in their decision-making process.

Furthermore, deception is a critical element in the effectiveness of the changeup. Pitchers can enhance deception by replicating their delivery, arm speed, and release point of the fastball when throwing the changeup.

By mirroring the mechanics of their fastball, they can create an identical look to the hitter, making it challenging to identify the pitch until it’s too late.

Effectiveness and Strategy

The changeup is a valuable pitch because it disrupts a hitter’s timing. By throwing a pitch that looks like a fastball but arrives at a significantly slower speed, pitchers can create uncertainty and make it difficult for the batter to time their swing properly.

The changeup’s reduced velocity forces the hitter to adjust their swing speed, often resulting in swinging too early or being off balance. This disruption in timing can lead to weak contact or swings and misses, increasing the pitcher’s chances of success.

Using the Changeup in Different Pitch Sequences and Situations

Strategic use of the changeup involves incorporating it into different pitch sequences and situations. The changeup can be effective as both a primary pitch and a complementary pitch.

When used as a primary pitch, pitchers can establish the changeup early in the game to keep hitters off balance and set up their other pitches.

It can also be employed as a “put-away” pitch, particularly in two-strike counts, where its deceptive nature and movement can generate swings and misses or induce weak contact.

In terms of pitch sequencing, alternating the changeup with other pitches such as fastballs, sliders, or curveballs can be highly effective. By varying speeds and movement, pitchers can disrupt the hitter’s timing and make it difficult for them to anticipate and adjust to each pitch.

The changeup can be strategically placed between faster pitches to create a greater velocity differential and increase its effectiveness.

Adjusting the Changeup Based on the Batter’s Tendencies

To maximize the effectiveness of the changeup, pitchers should pay attention to the tendencies and weaknesses of individual batters. By studying scouting reports or observing a batter’s previous at-bats, pitchers can tailor their changeup strategy to exploit specific weaknesses.

For example, if a batter struggles with off-speed pitches or has a tendency to chase pitches low and away, pitchers can adjust the location and movement of their changeup accordingly.

Additionally, adjusting the speed and movement of the changeup based on the batter’s tendencies can be advantageous. Some batters may have difficulty with changeups that have more sinking action, while others may struggle with changeups that have more lateral movement.

Common Mistakes and Troubleshooting

One common mistake pitchers may encounter with the changeup is an inconsistent or incorrect grip and release. This can lead to poor movement, reduced effectiveness, or difficulty disguising the pitch.

To address these issues, pitchers should pay close attention to their grip and release mechanics. They should ensure they are holding the ball in the desired changeup grip, such as the circle change or split change, with proper finger placement and tension.

Additionally, focusing on a smooth and consistent release point, while maintaining arm speed, can help improve control and deception.

Tips for Improving Movement and Effectiveness of the Pitch

To enhance the movement and effectiveness of the changeup, pitchers can consider several tips. First, focusing on wrist action and pronation can generate more late movement and increase the pitch’s deception.

Practicing and developing a relaxed and flexible wrist during the release will help maximize the pitch’s potential. Additionally, experimenting with grip pressure and finger placement can influence the movement and control of the pitch.

Finding the right balance between a firm grip and a loose wrist can lead to optimal movement and command.

Another important aspect to consider is the speed differential between the changeup and the fastball. Pitchers can experiment with varying the speed gap to find the most effective and deceptive changeup for their repertoire.

Adjusting the arm speed while maintaining a consistent arm slot can help further confuse hitters, making it more challenging for them to differentiate between the two pitches until it’s too late.

Adjustments to Make When Facing Different Types of Hitters

When facing different types of hitters, pitchers should be prepared to make adjustments to optimize the effectiveness of the changeup. For aggressive hitters who tend to chase pitches out of the zone, locating the changeup just below the strike zone can entice them to swing and miss.

On the other hand, for patient hitters who wait for their pitch, mixing up the changeup with other pitches and varying the sequencing can keep them off balance and prevent them from sitting on a specific speed or location.

Additionally, pitchers should consider the tendencies and weaknesses of individual hitters. Some batters may struggle with changeups that break away from them, while others may have difficulty with changeups that have significant downward movement.

Practicing and Refining the Changeup

To develop the changeup, pitchers can incorporate specific drills into their practice routine. These drills focus on improving grip, arm action, release point, and overall pitch execution.

Here are a few drill recommendations:

Grip and Release Drill

This drill emphasizes proper grip and release mechanics. Pitchers can practice gripping the ball in their desired changeup grip and work on consistently releasing the ball with the same arm speed and arm slot as their fastball.

This drill helps develop muscle memory and ensures a consistent and deceptive changeup release.

Target Practice Drill

Setting up targets at different locations within the strike zone allows pitchers to work on their command and control of the changeup.

By aiming for specific spots, pitchers can refine their ability to locate the pitch accurately and consistently. This drill also helps pitchers gain confidence in throwing the changeup in different situations.

Hitter Simulation Drill

This drill involves incorporating a live batter or a hitting device into practice sessions. By facing an actual hitter, pitchers can better simulate game-like situations and test the effectiveness of their changeup. This drill provides valuable feedback on the pitch’s movement, deception, and the batter’s reactions, helping pitchers make necessary adjustments.

Incorporating the Changeup Into Bullpen Sessions and Game Situations:

To refine the changeup, it is crucial to incorporate it into bullpen sessions and game situations. During bullpen sessions, pitchers can focus on repetition and refining their mechanics, grip, and release.

They can throw changeups at various speeds and locations, adjusting their sequencing and observing the movement and deception of the pitch.

In-game situations, pitchers can strategically deploy the changeup based on game circumstances, hitter tendencies, and their confidence in the pitch.


How do I grip the changeup if I have smaller hands?

If you have smaller hands, you may need to make slight adjustments to find a comfortable grip for the changeup. You can try reducing the spread between your fingers slightly or experimenting with variations of the grip that allow for better control and feel.

It’s essential to find a grip that allows you to maintain consistency and execute the pitch effectively, regardless of hand size.

Can I throw a changeup with a sidearm or submarine delivery?

Yes, it is possible to throw a changeup with a sidearm or submarine delivery. However, the mechanics and execution may differ slightly compared to a traditional overhand delivery.

You may need to adjust your grip and release point to accommodate your delivery style while maintaining the desired movement and speed differential. It’s recommended to work with a pitching coach or instructor who can provide guidance specific to your delivery style.

How can I increase the deception of my changeup?

Increasing the deception of your changeup can be achieved through a combination of factors. Maintaining consistent arm speed and release point with your fastball is crucial to disguise the pitch until late in the hitter’s decision-making process.

Additionally, varying the sequencing and location of the changeup in relation to your other pitches can further confuse the hitter. It’s also important to focus on the subtle details of your grip and wrist action to maximize the pitch’s movement and make it appear as similar to your fastball as possible.

What should I do if my changeup consistently hangs in the strike zone?

If your changeup consistently hangs in the strike zone, it may be due to an issue with grip tension or release point. Experimenting with grip pressure can help you find the right balance between control and movement.

Additionally, focusing on finishing the pitch with a downward pronation of the wrist can help create the desired movement and prevent the changeup from staying up in the strike zone.

Practicing drills specifically aimed at improving the release and downward action of the changeup can also be beneficial.


The changeup pitch is a valuable weapon in a pitcher’s arsenal, designed to disrupt a hitter’s timing and deceive them with its reduced speed.

By mastering the grip variations, refining mechanics, and strategically incorporating the changeup into pitch sequences, pitchers can enhance their effectiveness on the mound.

Practice, experimentation, and a deep understanding of the pitch’s nuances are key to unleashing its full potential.

Thank you for your time.

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John Means

John Means is a professional baseball player who has played in the major leagues for the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics. He made his major league debut with the Royals in 2009. He was traded to the Athletics in 2012. Baseball is his favorite sport. His passion about the game is evident in his play. Now he write blogs about baseball and other things whenever he has some free time. LinkedIn

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