Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jamil. Jamil Wonders, “Baseball pitches” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jamil!

Do you have a favorite pastime? Do you enjoy playing outside? How about reading or watching movies? Maybe you love to play music or create beautiful works of art. Or perhaps you like to take part in America’s favorite pastime—baseball!

A lively game of baseball can be very exciting. That’s true whether you’re watching from the bleachers or standing on the pitcher’s mound. Speaking of pitchers, have you ever WONDERed about all the different pitches in baseball?

If you’re watching from the stands, it can be difficult to tell the difference between pitches. After all, the ball moves so fast! To tell pitches apart, pay attention to their speed and movement. It also helps to watch for a break, or sudden shift in direction, in the pitch. Most baseball pitches fit into three categories: fastballs, breaking balls, and changeups. 

Fastballs are...well, fast! Of this group, the fastest is the four-seam fastball. It can race toward the batter at up to 100 miles per hour. This pitch is also very straight, which helps with its speed. It accounts for about 35 percent of all pitches thrown in Major League Baseball (MLB). Four more fastball pitches are the two-seam fastball, cutter, splitter, and forkball. These all curve down, left, or right before reaching the hitter.

However, no fastball pitch curves as sharply as the four breaking ball pitches. This category includes the curveball, slider, slurve, and screwball. The curveball, also called a 12-6 curveball, moves in a swift downward motion as it approaches the batter. The slider is the fastest breaking ball pitch and breaks away from a right-handed hitter just before reaching the plate. 

Finally, changeup pitches are thrown to look like fastballs but travel much more slowly. Why would a pitcher want to throw a slow pitch? It catches the hitter off guard. Expecting a faster pitch, the hitter might swing too soon and miss. This category includes the changeup, palmball, circle changeup, and eephus. 

Of course, not all pitches fit into these three categories. After all, baseball players have been adding their own special flairs to pitches for decades. One example is the knuckleball. This rare pitch is very slow and moves unpredictably. If thrown well, it also doesn’t spin, which causes it to break downward.

How exactly do baseball players achieve these different pitches? It’s all about how the pitcher grips the ball. The position of a ballplayer’s fingers on the baseball will affect the speed and direction of its spin. This determines the resulting speed and movement of the pitch, as well as whether the pitch breaks.

Have you ever thrown a fastball? How about any of the other types of pitches in baseball? Maybe you’d rather watch from the bleachers. If so, pay close attention—you may still be able to pick out the different pitches. Even slight differences in speed or movement can make a pitch much harder to hit!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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