The Change-Up: How To Throw It
1. The Circle-Change
The circle-change's grip can be held in different ways depending on the pitcher. The pitch changes in the depth of the palm/fingers, the location of the middle and ring fingers, the location of the pinky (really just a support finger), and the makeup of the actual "circle."
Some pitchers get more movement with the deep grip, not so much in the palm as in the fingers a la Cole Hamels and Edinson Volquez:
This, like with the palm ball or some unique grips, creates more time in the palm of the ball and therefore gives a delayed release that rolls off the fingers and, when the arm pronates, can move in on a righty.
More pitchers favor the looser grip positioning the ball at the fingertips, giving some pitchers less of a grip on the ball and more squirts/falls out of their hands, losing velocity on the way, like Johan Santana, shown here (you can see the separation from the palm well in the first picture):
The placement of the middle and ring fingers also differs, as shown with Hamels (gripping those two fingers evenly spaced from the others):
Eric Gagne splits his two fingers more (more on this in the vulcan):
Greg Maddux, a master of the change, grips his circle-change with his index curved over the thumb:
while Hamels prefers to overlap his index finger over their thumb a bit and Santana separates the two.
2. The Vulcan Grip
Not many MLB pitchers use the Vulcan change-up grip. Eric Gagne uses a combination of a Vulcan and circle-change to success (well, for some time…now he sucks), but other than that not many current MLB pitchers use the grip. The Vulcan is almost a splitter with the middle and ring fingers - more on that here:http://www.thecompletepitcher.com/how_to_throw_vulcan_changeup.htm.
Good view of Gagne's grip here:
3. The Palmball Grip
The palmball is gripped deep in the hand. Trevor Hoffman uses the grip very successfully, but besides him very few pitchers use this grip, the only ones I know of are Aaron Sele, Keith Foulke, and formerly Jim Corsi. The palmball has little spin and because of the grip deep in the hand the ball almost squirts out of the hand, the ball's main push forward coming into the center from the outside losing all spin and just propelling the ball forward.
Hoffman grips his palmball with almost all his fingers pointing up but with the ball deep into the pocket of his hand:
There was a discussion forum about his grip on this site: http://www.letstalkpitching.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=2702
Matt Herges also uses the palmball grip. A view of his grip and release is here (thanks to xv84):
You can see that the ball rolls off of his finger as he releases it. The balls comes out of the palm of the hand and, as the hand is pushing down, the ball rolls up out of the palm and off the fingers — the middle finger first, as it is the longest.
For those of you who don't know, pronation of the forearm is when the forearm and hand are turned away from the rest of the body. When pitching, pronation forces the pitcher to pitch on the inside of the ball and therefore creates spin going left to right from a RHP. The sinker is another pitch that uses pronation.
Aaron Cook exhibits pronation and throwing from the "inside" of the ball from this overhead view here (thanks to Hutch and the sinker/2SF forum):
Pronation creates the spin going away from the lefty and sometimes adds a little top spin onto the ball (think of the ball being pushed from 10 o' clock on a watch). http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200809143472341 (the second batter is a perfect example of the changeup fading away from the lefty batter by a righty pitcher, thanks to K-Rod).
With the palmball grip, however, pronation is not always used. Since less spin is put on the ball the pitch becomes more similar to a knuckler (but definitely not the same pitch, mind you), and the ball moves on its own. Hoffman does pronate his arm a bit, and thus his pitch does move away from the lefty but with the ball squirting out of the hand of the pitcher the pitch's movement is not solely supplied by the pronation. Herges throws his palmball with pronation:
You can see his change fall off and roll away the left-handed batter with a trail here:
The change-up is an off-speed pitch, used to follow up a hard fastball or change direction opposed to a slider or curve that dives down and away from a right-handed batter. The change is a widely used pitch and many people believe that it is the best pitch to teach young pitchers because of the lack of strain on the arm (in the case of the palmball which is most specifically taught — pronation is an unnatural motion - try it).
Most pitchers use the change to back up a hard fastball and to go along with their curve (Rodriguez, Santana, and Hamels exhibit all three pitches — a hard fastball, a curve down and away to a righty/down and in to a lefty (in the case of a RHP — Santana and Hamels are lefties), and a change away (and sometimes down) to a lefty/in to a righty).