Baseball Splitter (FS)
All throughout baseball, pitchers use a variety of pitches to try and attempt to get hitters out. Some pitches are designed to be fast, while others aim to keep hitters off balance. One of the more unique pitch types that is used is known as a splitter. The remainder of this piece will discuss the splitter in greater detail.
Officially, a splitter is defined as an off-speed pitch where the pitcher splits his two fingers on opposite sides of the ball while gripping it. If a pitcher throws the splitter with the same effort as they put into their fastball, it will start out looking like their fastball but then drop sharply as it gets to home plate.
When thrown while, splitters are often quite effective, as hitters do not see them often and thus are not used to hitting them. In fact, only 1.5% of all of the pitches thrown in the 2022 MLB season were splitters. There are a few different variations of splitters that are thrown throughout the league, and those are discussed below.
How to Throw a Splitter
The first key to throwing a splitter is to split your middle and index fingers on opposite sides of the ball within your grip, and the ball should not touch your palm. Additionally, your thumb should be on the bottom of the ball. The wider your middle and index fingers, the more effective the splitter will be. Your arm angle upon the release should aim to match your fastball, so the hitter cannot notice any difference.
Lastly, your release speed and the placement of your hand should also match your fastball for the same reason. This will allow for the ball to have the same backspin as a fastball, but with more downward break and at a lower speed, thus throwing the hitter off their timing.
One common variation of the splitter is to throw it at varying speeds. Some pitchers will throw a splitter that is faster but has less downward break. Others will throw their splitter at a slower speed but break down to the ground much more sharply. Finding the right balance between break and speed is what creates the most effective splitters.
Moreover, some pitchers will throw the splitter with their index and ring fingers splitting the ball, with the middle finger resting on top of the ball. This will cause the ball to not only break downward, but also break to the right or left, creating some slider-type movement. These types of splitters can be even more effective than regular ones when thrown effectively, but they are harder to consistently throw.
History of the Splitter
When it comes to the origin of the splitter, it actually evolved from a similar pitch in the forkball. The forkball has been around since the 1920s, and it is thrown almost identically to the splitter. The only major difference is a splitter is held a little easier in the grip, while a forkball is held much more tightly. Additionally, pitchers snap their wrists more when throwing the forkball.
The player who really popularized the splitter was Hall of Fame Closer Bruce Sutter, who pitched in the 1970s and 1980s. Sutter’s success helped the pitch to grow in popularity. While it is not as prevalent in the United States anymore due to the arm problems it can cause, the pitch is still thrown with plenty of regularity in countries like Japan.
Best Splitter Pitchers
Some of the best pitchers in MLB history at throwing splitters are:
- Roger Clemons
- David Cone
- Ron Darling
- Kevin Gausman
- Shohei Ohtani
- Curt Schilling
- John Smoltz
- Marcus Stroman
- Bruce Sutter
- Masahiro Tanaka
What is a splitter in baseball?
The splitter is an off-speed pitch that pitchers use to keep hitters off-balance. It gets its name from the grip it is thrown with, as pitchers split their index and middle fingers on opposite sides of the baseball when they throw it. When thrown with the desired effect, the splitter will look quite similar to the fastball, but it will have more downward break (and sometimes horizontal break) and be at a much slower speed.
How is the splitter thrown in baseball?
Hence the name, the splitter is thrown when pitchers split their middle and index fingers on their grip of the baseball. Once the grip is established, pitchers throw the ball with the same effort and with the same arm angle as their fastball. This creates the illusion that the pitch will be the fastball to the hitter, but it comes in at a slower speed and with a sharp downward break that makes it challenging to hit.