PITTSBURGH – Welcome to the world of Fast-Pitch Softball Pitching; where one pitcher can have a Drop, Curve, Drop Curve, Screw, Rise, Fastball, Changeup and Off-Speed pitch. Where Fastballs are rarely thrown and used in games, and a pitcher can have one Drop Ball hit your waist and the very next Drop Ball hit your knees.
From the pitch types, to how those pitches can move, even the use of those pitches; pitching in softball is entirely different from baseball.
Today, we will take a deeper dive into why pitchers in softball have so many ‘arrows in their quiver’, so to speak, and also take a look into the different spin direction of each pitch and why it occurs.
Different Pitch Types & Why They Matter
Pitchers in softball can end up having a large number of pitch types. It’s not uncommon for a pitcher to have six to seven pitch types they can choose from.
The most common pitches for an average young pitcher to throw are the Fastball, Change-Up and Drop Curve. As they get older, and some move on to college, they’ll start to add in other pitches such as Screws, Drops, Curves and Rises.
They may also start to learn the other less common pitches such as a Backdoor Curve, Scrise and another Off-Speed pitch.
Aside from having a wide variety of pitch types in their arsenal, the pitcher can move those pitches differently throughout the zone.
Let’s say you have a pitcher who throws a Drop Ball.
As a batter, you may move up in the box to hit that pitch before it drops. An experienced pitcher with a good Drop Ball can change her release slightly to make that Drop Ball drop earlier and take that advantage away from the batter.
A good Rise Ball pitcher can move her pitches up and down in the zone. She can throw a Rise Ball perpendicular to the batter’s waist and have it jump up to her chest. Or she may have a batter who likes pitches high in the zone, so she instead throws it at the batter’s chest and has it jump up to her head.
The ability to move pitches throughout the zone like this can turn one pitch type into two or three different pitches.
Why You Don’t See Fastballs As Much As You Think
In younger levels of Fast-Pitch, you’ll see pitchers frequently using their fastball.
Here the pitchers are still perfecting their throwing motion and learning new pitches while also increasing their velocity. When you move up through the competition levels, and pitchers learn more and more pitches, the fastball becomes just another option and not the main pitch.
Pitching in softball is a game of movement. A pitcher’s Drop Ball, Curveball and Screwball all may be just as fast as her Fastball.
Why throw a Fastball low in the zone when you can throw a Drop Ball that’s just as fast and may appear low in the zone, but will move before a batter gets a chance to hit it?
Fastballs are thrown and do exist at higher levels, but just not as much. You may see a Fastball as the first pitch to get ahead in the count early, if the batter is going take the pitch, or if the pitcher is struggling for a strike.
However, when a pitcher frequently throws (and masters) other pitchers like the Curveball, Drop Ball, etc… one of those pitches then becomes that pitcher’s “go to” pitch. She may throw her “go to” Drop Ball three or four times in an at bat, and you’ll never see the Fastball.
If she can throw the Drop inside, outside and down the middle and make it drop in the front or the back of the zone, you’re seeing a different pitch each time.
A Deeper Look Into Spin Direction
With the underhand throwing motion in softball, the spin direction will show very differently from that in baseball.
So what should each pitch’s Spin Direction look like?
• The Fastball is thrown with topspin and should have a 6:00 spin direction.
• The Drop Ball has a 6:00 spin direction with topspin.
• A Rise Ball is thrown with backspin to help the ball rise. This means the result will likely be between 10:00 to 1:00 spin direction.
• A Screwball is released like turning a doorknob and therefore is extremely common to read as Gyro spin.
• A “Scrise” can show a Gyro spin as well since the release is that of a Screwball (Screwballs have a tendency to rise on their own, so some pitchers may say they throw a “Scriseball” rather than a Screwball, but rarely will a pitcher have both).
• A Curveball is a flatter curve than in baseball and can read around 8:00 to 9:00 for spin direction.
• A Drop Curve will curve as well as drop, and have a spin direction around 7:00.
• A Backdoor Curve will have a similar spin direction as a normal Curveball (the Backdoor Curve appears to come inside on the batter or at the front kneecap, and then cuts into the zone to come across the middle as a strike).
– The graphic below further illustrates the movement of each pitch (from the catcher’s point of view)