HOW TO THROW A Two-Seam Fastball
It is very common for pitchers growing up to learn only the four-seam fastball. It is understandable because it is the most basic grip around. Fielders use it for the "straightness" of the ball coming out of the hand. As a pitcher, however, being "straight" is not a good thing! So, while the four-seam fastball has its place, I encourage everyone to add a two-seamer to their repertoire and learn to command it.
The two-seam fastball is a pretty easy pitch to learn. The problem most people have when they first throw it is the inability to control the pitch, mostly because it feels different coming out of their hand (the feeling of seams on their fingertips) or because they try to do too much (i.e. manufacture movement instead of trusting it). As with every pitch, it is important to throw it a lot while playing catch. The more you can develop a "feel" and an understanding of how grip, pressure, and release point affect the movement and location of a pitch, the better off you will be. The reason younger pitchers tend to struggle more with command is because they merely have not thrown as much nor had as many experiences!
It is called a two-seamer because as the ball rotates on the way to the target there are only two seams cutting the air (as opposed to four seams on a four-seamer...simple enough!). The four seam fastball is more balanced in flight, keeping the ball straighter.
So, there are two ways to grip a two-seam fastball: perpendicular to the narrow part of the seams and parallel to the narrow part of the seams. Personally, I highly prefer a parallel grip. Thumb placement is directly under your index and middle finger (although I have seen some pitchers who keep their thumb a bit more toward the index finger side of the baseball...depends on feel and personal preference). Feel free to play around a bit with the spacing and pressure of the two fingers on top of the baseball. I teach my pitchers to keep their fingers on the inside of the two seams, with light pressure on the index finger to help the ball come out of their hand in the proper manner.
When you throw the two-seam fastball, as always, it is important to stay on top and release it out front. Once you try turning your wrist or changing your arm action to hopefully add the tail and sink that a two-seamer should have, you will likely lose some of the effectiveness of the pitch. With slight pressure on the index finger, the ball should come out of your hand and tail (toward a right-handed hitter for a right-handed pitcher and toward a left-handed hitter for a left-handed pitcher). A very good two-seamer will also have an element of sink (downward action) which is helped by staying on top of the baseball with your index and middle fingers.
Generally, a two-seam fastball will lose 2-3 MPH from the four-seam fastball, but the additional movement more than makes up for the loss in velocity! Ask any hitter if they would rather hit something straight or something moving toward or away from them and I guarantee they would choose straight! The more you play catch with this pitch and throw it in bullpens, the more comfortable you will get in understanding how it will move. This understanding will help you command it and, once you have that command, you can do many things. My personal favorite (as a right-handed pitcher) is "back-dooring" it to a right-handed hitter or "front-dooring" it to a left-handed hitter. This is done by starting it off of the outside corner and having it run back to catch the corner (back door) or the opposite (front door). The ability to do this can be very frustrating for a hitter...Greg Maddux was one of the best ever at utilizing the two-seam fastball. I encourage you to look up some video of Maddux pitching if you are younger and never had the opportunity to watch him pitch!
If you are a pitcher who is reading this and you only care about velocity readings and how fast your four-seam fastball is, I advise you to consider how many high-level pitchers get by only throwing that one type of fastball. The answer? Not many. Learn a two-seam fastball and begin mixing it in as soon as possible! You will be doing yourself a favor and your defense will love the ground balls!
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