The Toughest Pitch To Hit??? Written By Troy Olson
As I sit here in my house with the temperature hovering around -5 degrees, it is very obvious that softball season is a long way off. The funny thing is I have already heard people talking about the upcoming season, granted here in Wisconsin there isn't much else to do other than ice fish and catch a basketball game or two. Well during one of these conversations I heard an interesting statement being made, someone said the hardest pitch to hit is a riseball that's why my kid is learning to throw it. This got me to thinking, was the riseball the ultimate pitch in the game of Fastpitch Softball?
So I started with some of my own research, I surveyed a variety of people with an age of 20-71 years old. I talked with men and women, college players, local league guys, players who had won state tittles, players who are on Team USA, International players and retired old duffers from many years ago. I had preconceived ideas about what would come from this question, but the results and answers from these survey subjects were amazing.
The test was of many different kinds of players 55% of them had pitching experience, in our sport very few people only pitch unlike baseball. 25% of the subjects had some catching experience and 20% are utility players/out fielders. I wanted to get the biggest range of players possible, its tough with everybody jumping around from pitching or playing middle infield to catching in this sport we just have athletes that are able to play a lot of different positions on defense.
Well in my test I found that 5% of the people responded with curveball, this was a huge surprise to me as a curveball typically stays on the same plane but does move in or out. The average age of these people were 39 years old, and they caught and played infield.
The next pitch was the dropball with 19% of the vote, once again I didn't expect this pitch to be even mentioned before I started this research. The interesting thing here was that the pitcher with the most International experience chose this pitch, he may also be the best hitter in the group as well. So I had to contact him ask why, his reason for this answer was that at his level of play this pitch is the hardest to hit out of the park. If I miss with the dropball it goes in the dirt, if I miss with a riseball and leave it thigh high its hit over the fence. I had often felt like this myself and had this discussion with some of my buddies, but it was an interesting take from someone at the highest level of our sport. Average age of the subjects for the dropball was 34 years of age.
The runner up pitch was the riseball with 33% of the vote, and an average age of 30 years old. I found this young age to be a very surprisingly low number. So this got me to thinking even more, were these younger guys that everyone knew had played baseball and they fed them a steady diet of riseballs? Or has our sport became madly in love with rise? It seems like every highschool girl claims to throw a riseball, which I think is the toughest pitch to master. Has our sport got to the point where we only throw hard pitches, have we fallen into a trap of watching Adam Folkakrd on youtube throwing 80+ MPH riseballs and we are all trying to duplicate this??? It just raises many questions to me…
Well first place goes to the changeup with 43% of the vote. Here the average age was 45 years old, and this group of players had the most experience of all the other groups. When I talked with these players it was stated that its easier to hit a pitch on location that is relatively the same speed, than it is to get your hands out front and be off balance. These players were not afraid of pitch location as much as they were scared of pitch speed. I find this to be true in my batting as well, once I get fooled with a good change up, I really feel out of sync in the box. Don't get me wrong you have to have a good changeup or great hitters will see it coming, all great hitters are always trying to see what you are throwing.
So as you can see from this data if you want to pitch and be successful you better be able to switch speeds. I think a lot of times we spend too much time focusing on top speed of pitchers and not enough time coaching or teaching how to pitch. There is a huge difference between throwing and pitching, but we will leave that for another article……