Thursday Throwing Tips
I have had youth baseball players come to me and say that their coach wants them to learn to throw the split finger fastball and/or a cut fastball. I tell them that youth baseball coaches must understand that what may be good for major league players is not always good for youth baseball players.
More than one major league coach has told me that the split finger fastball and the cut fastball are harmful to the arm.
Cut Fastball and Split Finger Fastball Definition and Danger
Whether curve balls are good for youth baseball pitchers’ arm has been an ongoing debate for years, with the latest information seeming to be that it is no harder on the arm than the fastball. Maybe time and more study will tell and a definitive answer will come on that debate. I do believe that a safe way to throw the curve, the full hand with four fingers on top of the ball to prevent a possibly harmful wrist snap, exists.
On the other hand, there is no safe way to throw the split finger fastball or the cut fastball. A split finger fastball is thrown with the index and middle fingers separated widely, to be on the side of the ball, with the thumb set directly under the ball. The split finger fastball has been around for years, so there is some evidence that it is harmful to the arm. The main reasoning, which makes sense to me, is that with the split finger fastball, no fingers remain on top of the ball, so a great deal of the strain of throwing goes on the pitcher’s elbow. Young pitchers do not have the muscle development and strength to withstand that added pressure on the arm, so they should stay away from it.
The latest craze with major league pitching is the cut fastball, made famous by the great Mariano Rivera. The cut fastball has late subtle movement that is less than a slider and gripped with the index and middle fingers off set slightly from the middle of the ball. That grip may seem innocuous but once again, without fingers staying on top of the ball, more strain goes on the pitcher’s elbow. Additionally, there is the thought that overtime, the cut fastball may take some velocity off the fastball, which is not good, especially for young developing pitchers.
Cut Fastball and Split Finger Fastball Recommendation
Youth baseball pitchers should continue to perfect the basic pitches – fastball, regular changeup, and safe curve ball – until their bodies are more developed, around junior or senior year in high school. At that time, experimenting with the cut fastball and split finger fastball is OK.
Getting back to my original point, just because major league players are doing something, does not mean it is best for young, developing players. Such is the case with using a cut fastball and the split finger fastball.