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Working with son on LL pitching I noticed something odd about the spin of his 4 seam fastball. I took a suggestion and used a black marker to make a dark black stripe on a baseball so I can make out the spin direction better.

We tested it out and to my surprise, the 4 seamer wasn't anywhere close to spinning on 12 to 6 o'clock orientation (as it comes to you from an overhead pitch). Sometimes it would be as bad as a gyroball (i.e. you saw NO stripe as the ball flew to you. LOL, it's a gyroball!) His best friend is a better and harder throwing pitcher and he played with the ball and he wasn't close to a 12 to 6 spin direction either.

So what is going on and should it be corrected? Maybe I should first ask whether it is correct to assume that proper spin direcion is needed to get movement on the ball.

I don't see many posts on using a striped ball to look at spin so that's why I am wondering if it is important at all.

It seems we teach proper grips and wrist action but we never check to see if the right spin is imparted.

Any advice would be appreciated, thanks. - Confused Dad

P.S. One more question, on a 4 seamer do pitchers snap the wrist hard to impart spin or just let it roll off the fingers? I keep hearing how a sinker is a fastball but with downward wrist snap but I just cannot picture how that would impart topspin. Thanks again.
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I wouldn't worry too much about what spin he is imparting on the ball. Most little league throwers put a gyro spin on the ball. My 13 year old still puts a semi-gyro spin on his fastball. This happens because of two things usually- a low arm slot and good early arm pronation. In the big leagues, natural sinkerball pitchers are also imparting a semi-gyro spin on the ball, thus why it sinks.

The truth of it is, not very many pitchers put a true perfect backspin in relation to the ground on the ball. If they did, their pitches would be perfectly straight as an arrow and that is not a good thing. Backspin is naturally created by the flip of the wrist when a person throws whether they think about it or not.

A sinker ball is achieved in several different ways by different pitchers. A lot of it depends on the pitchers arm slot. The lower the slot, the more the ball will sink and fade due to the spin in relationship to the ground. More over-the-top pitchers have to use different grips to achieve this same result by throwing the ball and imparting less spin across the seams. A Good split finger fastball and even a cutter can be a good "sinkerball" type of pitch.

Don't get confused thinking a gyro type spin is bad on a baseball. If a pitcher can throw his fastball with more of a gyro spin and can throw it with good velocity he is a heavy favorite to be the much sought for sinker ball pitcher. The gyro type of spin is imparted at the very last 100th of a second as the ball leaves the pitchers hand. What happens is that the arm starts to pronate (palm side starts to rotate outwards towards 3rd base for a right hander) right at release point. As the wrist begins its final snap, it is in a more rotational movement due to the early pronation which gives the pitch the gyro spin. From the pitchers view the pitch will gyro in a clockwise direction and opposite from the batters position. The advantage with this pitch is that most of the time the spin will be slightly off center causing the ball to move more in one direction than another but never quite the same. This of coarse can't be noticed until it gets up around 65-70 mph.

Don't worry about the actual spin rotation. Worry more about velocity and arm strength. A lot of times, as kids grow their spin will change naturally as the hands and arms grow and mature. I would say that about 8 out of 10 kids below the age of 11 put a gyro spin on the ball. Don't worry about it.
Thanks for the response.

I do think spin direction is important even at this age. An off-axis spin seems to indicate the kids are pronating or twisting their wrists when they don't intend to. While the safety issues are probably minimal I do think it may affect their consistency and accuracy.

But that's an assumption that I would like some comment on. Does a proper spin (on a 4 seamer) promote accuracy and consistency? Whether overhand (12-6), 3/4 (10-4) or sidearm (9-3), should the spin direction follow the angle of the arm slot?

On the gyroball, at least on wikipedia, it's stated the gyroball is intended to have no movement at all. Which makes sense since a bullet does the same motion to minimize in flight deviation.

P.S. I heard many folks say a four-seamer is intended to go straight as an arrow.
FWIW, my opinions are:

1. Yes, you are supposed to have backspin such that the rotation is a true 4-seam rotation. There are drills that help teach this and reinforce this. If a kid isn't doing it, he may not be alone, but that's no reason not to teach him to throw properly. Or the other kids, for that matter.

2. It may not be pure 12/6 rotation. Depending on arm angle it may be tilted a bit. But it should be true to the 4-seam aspect irrespective of the angle of release.

3. 4-seam rotation is more true than 2-seam rotation or a ball just thrown with disregard for grip. But no throw is completely straight, and all throwers are genetically unique such that everyone's ball will move a little bit differently from the next guy's. Such things keep it all interesting!

The angle of the spin axis of fastballs is directly related to the arm-angle of the pitcher at his release point.

12-to-6 spin usually characterizes the topspin of an over-the-top curveball while 6-to-12 spin characterizes the backspin of an over-the-top fastball.

However, very few pitchers have a true "over-the-top" arm-angle at release. Guys like Sandy Koufax, Hideo Nomo, Trevor Hoffman, etc have very high arm-angles at release, but even these guys aren't really at 12 o'clock. 11 o'clock for the RHPs and 1 o'clock for the LHPs is more accurate.

So, anyway, for true "over-the-top" fastball release of a striped ball the stripe would appear as vertical on the face of the ball.

A pure 3/4 arm-angle at release would show the stripe on the face of the ball at a 45 degree angle.

A side-armer's release would show the stripe as horizontal. Check out this clip of a side-armer's split-finger fastball, for instance:
the gyro spin is created by pronation of the arm before release.


Agree with everything except: The gyroball is released very much like a slider, with partial supination to get the counter-clockwise spin (catcher's perspective) that you see in the clip. The pitcher's hand goes into pronation after release of the ball, but that happens normally after every pitch.
Just a thought. You may want to double check his grip. Check it on video or watch closely without telling him what you are looking for.
Young guys tend to tuck the ball into the palm, which deadens the ball, reduces the spin somewhat, and are throwing, in essence a change-up.
If the ball is not buried in the palm, check to see that his ring finger is not tight against the side of the ball, which will also affect spin and velocity. If his hands are small, have him try getting three fingers across the seams and getting the ball out of the palm some. He will get more spin and velocity may go up a notch since he is not clutching the ball with the ring finger. Keep an eye on where he positions his thumb also, likely its alongside the ball.
Good luck.

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