Learning good pitch recognition is a vital part of becoming an elite softball hitter & recognizing softball pitch types effectively.
In this guide, youâ€™ll understand what pitch recognition is and how developing superior pitch recognition skills will give you an edge while in the batter's box.
Youâ€™ll also learn the different types of pitches that pitchers throw, and how to recognize each one based on rotation, the pitcherâ€™s movement, and grip.
What is Softball Pitch Recognition and Why Is It Beneficial?
Pitch recognition refers to the batterâ€™s ability to identify the pitch thatâ€™s being thrown.
Sports Science has compared a top college softball pitcher's 70 mph fastball to the average 90 mph Major League fastball.
On average, a baseball is released approximately 60 feet 6 inches from home plate, resulting in a reaction time of roughly four-tenths of a second for the hitter to recognize spin, speed, and location as well as ball or strike.
By comparison, that 70 mph softball is released from an average distance of 37 feet from the plate (after the pitcher's stride out), resulting in 300 milliseconds of reaction time for the batter. In other words, a softball batter has 10% less time to react and make a correct decision.
Though pitches in baseball might be of a higher velocity, the shorter distance of the mound from home-plate makes it that much more crucial for a softball player to execute superior pitch recognition skills.
Batters with a keen sense of pitch recognition can pick up movements by the pitcher to determine which type of pitch is coming their way. They can then use this knowledge for two things:
1) To decide if the incoming pitch is a ball or strike
2) To decide if they want to swing at the pitch or not
Batters can train their pitch recognition by watching pitchers over and over again, looking for movements that tip-off certain pitches.
Sports scientists have proven that athletes who respond quickly to ballistic movements do so through repetitive training, not because they have inherently faster reflexes.
If youâ€™re aiming to improve your sense of pitch recognition, then you have to train and run drills to do so â€“ just like any other aspect of the game.
Pitch recognition isnâ€™t just beneficial, itâ€™s essential for playing at elite softball levels.
Even if you have rock-solid hitting mechanics and get tons of reps in every day, you wonâ€™t advance without honing your recognition skills.
Identifying pitches accurately and adjusting your swing accordingly is the difference between being a good hitter and being an exceptional one. You donâ€™t need naturally good reflexes to improve this skill, either.
All it takes is patience, determination, and a lot of training while identifying what your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to visual acuity.
Before we get into how you can identify pitches better, letâ€™s look at the different types of pitches you might see in the batterâ€™s box.
Different Types of Fastpitch Softball Pitches
The types of pitches in softball vary from those thrown in baseball. High-level softball players can have between six and seven different pitches at their disposal and they rarely throw fastballs.
Apart from fastballs, the most common pitch types in softball are:
- Drop ball
- Rise ball
- Change-up or off-speed pitch
Not every pitcher can throw every single one of these pitch types perfectly.
Theyâ€™ll usually have two to three that they rely on heavily while adding the others in to keep the batter off-balance.
StatistiSoftball pitchers donâ€™t throw many fastballs, because in most cases, theyâ€™re not as effective as their other pitches.
If a pitcher has a choice between a fastpitch sitting on the outside corner and a fast pitch that starts from the outside corner and cuts out of the strike zone as it approaches the batter, which do you think sheâ€™ll choose?
Good pitchers have excellent control over their pitch location, so theyâ€™re able to place a fastball (or any other kind of pitch) wherever they want in the strike zone.
Consequently, fastballs are typically only used when a pitcher is behind in a count or a batter is going to take a pitch.
Now that we know the possibilities for pitch types, letâ€™s look at how you can recognize each one by studying rotation, movement, and grip.
Pitch Recognition â€“ Rotation
- Drop ball â€“ Drop balls have the same rotation as fastballs, but drop balls rotate a little bit faster. They have a topspin, rotating from 12:00 to 6:00.
- Rise ball â€“ Rise ball rotation is the opposite of drop ball. Rather than topspin from 12:00 to 6:00, it has a backspin, going from 6:00 to 12:00. The backspin is what allows the ball to rise slightly.
- Curveball â€“ A curveball, which moves toward the outside part of the plate on a right-handed batter, spins sideways. It goes from 8:00 to 9:00.
- Screwball â€“ The screwball breaks inside on a right-handed batter and has a gyro spin.
- Change-up and off-speed pitch â€“ There are more than a few ways to throw change-ups in softball. A push change will have little to no spin, like a knuckleball in baseball. The flip change has a backward rotation. An off-speed pitch can be a slower variant of any of the pitcherâ€™s other pitches and can be difficult to pick up on.
Pitch Recognition â€“ Movement
- Drop ball â€“ There are two common types of drop ball â€“ the peel drop and the turnover drop. The peel drop will resemble a fastball release, except that the pitcher pulls her elbow back so the ball â€œpeelsâ€ off her fingers. For the turnover, the pitcherâ€™s hand starts under the ball and turns the ball over completely on release, so her hand finishes over the top of the ball.
- Rise ball â€“ The pitcher must get her hand fully underneath the ball for it to rise properly. On the snap, sheâ€™ll have her hand under the ball and rotate as if sheâ€™s scooping up some dirt or turning a doorknob. Her hand usually finishes up into her chest.
- Curveball â€“ To throw a curveball, a pitcher must step across her body with her front foot. She also snaps the ball sideways on release, finishing with the arm pinned to the waist and palm facing upward.
- Screwball â€“ The pitcher turns her hand outward, almost inverting her snap for a typical fastball. Sheâ€™ll finish with her hand a little ways away from her body and level with her chest.
- Change-up or off-speed pitch â€“ For the flip change, the pitcher will keep her hand over the ball and flip her wrist on her snap.
Pitch Recognition â€“ Grip
- Drop ball â€“ Again, the drop ball has the same grip as the fastball. The pitcher will place the pads of her fingertips across the top of the â€œCâ€ seam on the ball. - Rise ball â€“ Pitchers grip rise balls on the â€œUâ€ of the seams. Theyâ€™ll place their index finger just beside the right seam of the â€œU.â€
- Curveball â€“ There are two typical curveball grips in softball, a four-seam, and a two-seam. The pitcher will usually place two fingers along the seams where they run parallel to each other.
- Screwball â€“ For the screwball grip, the pitcher places the tips of her index and middle fingers on the upside-down â€œUâ€ seam.
- Change-up or off-speed pitch â€“ A common grip is a circle change, which has the pitcher grip the ball just like a fastball while tucking her index finger toward her thumb to form a circle.
By studying spins, releases, and grips for each type of pitch, youâ€™ll soon learn to recognize which one is coming your way in the batterâ€™s box.
Final Thoughts on Recognizing Softball Pitches
Training pitch recognition isnâ€™t a quick fix. It takes practice, watching pitchers over and over and drilling yourself on properly identifying spins, release points, and grips.
If youâ€™re willing to put in the work, though, you can take your hitting to the next level by taking time to train and improve your softball pitch recognition skills.
Train Your Pitch Recognition
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