Palmballs are off-speed pitches that are thrown with a closed hand. The pitch does not have the speed of an ordinary fastball, but instead is slower than a changeup. It is thrown with a closed fist instead of open hand. Palmballs are difficult to control and throw, so they are best used as a deceptive or off-speed pitch to confuse hitters into chasing a pitch that will break away. Pitchers who throw palmballs include Tommy John, Warren Spahn, Randy Johnson, David Wells, and Tim Belarmino.
What Does the Palmball Pitch Do?
This is a pitch that looks like a fastball but it has less velocity than expected. As I said before, the pitch is thrown slower than the hitters expected fastball and this causes the hitter to swing at the pitch.
How to Grip / Throw a Palmball Pitch?
The palmball requires the starting pitcher or reliever to tightly grip the ball in their palm to start. Once the ball is tightly gripped in the palm, they use their thumb and index finger to grip it tightly. The fingers are used to grip the ball, instead of their hand. Finally, they release the ball like a traditional fastball, but the grip slows it down. The grip and the lower speed make it similar to a traditional fastball.
How Similar is the Pitch to Other Changeups?
It’s not a four-seamer but a fastball with a palmball. It’s not a changeup but a fastball with a pitch.
This palmball is the first sign that his changeup has arrived. If he is going to throw a ball at 80 mph or less and it’s a fastball, it’s a changeup. When he throws a ball at over 80 and it’s a fastball, it’s a palmball.
Why Don’t More Pitchers Throw the Palmball Baseball Pitch Today?
If not thrown properly, the pitch can have major issues. It can come across as being thrown with no control and just as a fastball, which can be quickly crushed by a Major League hitter. Also, with movement on the pitch, an opposing batter can easily pick up the speed and timing of the palmball. This can be a huge strike out pitch for teams that focus on speed and deception, thus the decline in popularity for the pitch over the past two decades.
The Best Palmball Pitchers in MLB History
Throughout Major League and Minor League Baseball history, plenty of pitchers have thrown the palmball pitch. While pitchers today don’t typically throw that pitch as often, it is still present in the game at times. Here are some of the all-time best pitchers in the game to use this pitch in their pitching arsenal.