Can You Pitch Underhand in Baseball?

Can You Pitch Underhand in Baseball?

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In baseball, a pitch is the gesture of throwing the ball toward the home plate to begin play. Historically, the baseball was thrown underhand and overhand throwing was prohibited until 1884. Today, most pitchers choose to throw the ball overhand to take advantage of height, elevation and gravity, to generate as much ball speed as possible. Pitching underhand is not against the rules of baseball, but it is largely considered to put the pitcher at a disadvantage.

Despite that it is not against baseball rules to throw underhand, many players choose not to do so and you will rarely see a pitcher throw underhand. There is a range of reasons why a pitcher will largely choose an overhand rather than an underhand throw. In most cases, an overhand pitch allows the pitcher to use the advantage of gravity, meaning that they can throw longer pitches. 

Keep reading to find out more about pitching underhand in baseball. 

Throwing underhand in baseball

Throwing underhand is allowed under baseball rules, however, you will rarely see a pitcher throwing underhand. There is a range of reasons to explain why throwing underhand is considered to be less effective than throwing overhand. 

Most pitchers will choose to throw overhand, instead of underhand, because it means that they can take advantage of gravity and thus throw further. They make use of the raised mound and throw overhand. It is likely difficult for a pitcher to throw a baseball underhand more than 70mph. 

Almost all teams look to create all-around pitchers. They want their pitchers to throw in a range of ways. They rarely develop knuckleballers or submarines because they are difficult pitches to teach and hard to catch. Underhand pitching also requires a long run-up. If there are runners already on the base, the pitcher needs to be fast. 

Is it illegal to throw underhand in baseball?

There is no rule in baseball that requires a pitcher to throw the ball overhand, and it is not illegal to throw underhand. Throughout the history of the game, there has been a range of sidearm, and submarine or underhand pitchers.

However, most players choose not to throw in this way largely because it is unconventional and colleage coaches do not usually understand the mechanics of the movement. The mechanics of an underhand throw are completely different from an overhand pitch. It is not impossible to succeed in baseball with an underhand pitch motion, however, it is likely more difficult. 

Successful underhand pitchers

Christ Hayes, a minor baseball league player, threw the ball underhand. He couldn’t throw his ball faster than 70mph. Hayes came close to competing in majors. In the game, almost every pitcher chooses to throw overhand to take advantage of their own height, the elevation of the mound as well as gravity in order to generate as much ball speed as possible. There are only a few pitchers that have reached significant career heights throwing underhand, such as Hayes. 

According to the statistics, Hayes had unbeatable control of the ball and registered twenty-one unintentional walks in over one hundred and fifty innings over the course of two seasons. He has only ever conceded seven home runs during that same two-season period. 
However, before 1884, throwing the baseball overhand was prohibited. 


The pitcher, Juan Marichal was known to pitch overhand, sidearm, and underhand and had six twenty-win seasons and a career ERA of 2.89. Dan Quisenberry chose to pitch in a sidearm movement at the beginning of his career and progressed to a submarine movement later on. He finished his career with an ERA of 2.55. Rolando Arrojo used a variety of deliveries including overhand, sidearm, and submarine during his rookie season, and achieved an ERA of 3.56. 


Benefits of pitching underhand


Despite that a pitcher may not be able to throw an underhand pitch as far or as fast as an overhand pitch, an underhand throw may be more accurate in some cases. in general, an overhand throw that is slightly faster than the speed necessary to meet the target, no matter the location is the most accurate. However, an underhand throw is regarded to be better in cases where the pitcher is intending to reach a nearby location above his shoulder.

Thus, underhand throws may be more consistent when a pitcher is pitching toward shorter targets. Overhand throws are largely more consistent when combined with higher speeds and further targets. In general, the most accurate pitch in baseball is a shallow throw overhand, which is slightly quicker than the minimum speed required to reach the target, no matter the location. 

Underhand pitching in softball

Most of the best softball pitchers throw the ball underhand and that is why they are often regarded as having a “rubber arm.” They can continue to pitch for the entire duration of the game without their arm becoming tired and can even repeat the process the next day. 
However, softballs weigh about thirty percent more than a baseball, making them potentially easier to throw faster than a baseball.

A baseball pitcher will likely not be able to throw their lighter ball as fast as a softball pitcher. Some of the best softball pitchers are known to throw the ball at over 100mph. It is also important to consider that a softball is thrown from around forty feet, whereas a baseball is thrown from sixty feet, which makes a significant difference. 

Softball pitchers in the past were not supposed to pitch quickly. The game was designed to be played indoors during the winter and was slower-paced than baseball. Thus, the game progressed differently from baseball. There is also no pitcher’s mound in softball, removing the advantage of gravity. The movement of a good underhand throw in softball is significantly different from a good baseball throw. 

Related Questions

What types of pitches are prohibited in baseball?

According to the rules of baseball, an prohibited pitch is defined by a pitch that is delivered toward the batsman when the thrower’s pivot foot is not touching the plate. 

What is the rarest pitch in baseball?

The rarest pitch in baseball is likely the screwball. This pitch is designed to move in the opposite way of almost every other breaking pitch. This is one of the rarest pitches in the game, largely due to the pressure that it can place on the pitcher’s arm and shoulder. Most pitchers avoid this movement today due to fear of injury. 

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