Why Are Softball Pitches Thrown Underhand? (3 Reasons)
If you are a softball player or a fan, you probably know something about baseball as well. One of the most noticeable differences between the two is that the pitcher throws underhand in softball. This is odd, especially if you don’t know about the reasons behind it. Let’s take a closer look at the subject.
Softball pitches are thrown underhand because it’s the only legal way. Originally, softball was created indoors, requiring a slower pace in the game, so slow pitches were easier to do from underhand. Also, the softball pitch distance is only 43ft and at 60ft baseball makes it easier to throw underhand.
So there are more than one reasons why softball players throw from underhand. Depending on how you look at it, there are historical, rule, and performance reasons behind it.
Related: 7 Best Softballs For Practice (#6 Will Stir Up Training)
Why are Softball Pitches Underhand?
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why softball pitches are underhand. I’ll start from the beginning as it is a vital part to understand.
The origins of softball date way back to 1887, when George Hancock invented it as an indoor baseball. It quickly spread out across the United States, and it wasn’t long before it was already played outdoors more than indoors.
Funny enough, softball’s original name wasn’t softball, as is the case in many sports. Arguably, softball’s original name was either kittenball, mushball, or indoor baseball. These days, the most accepted guess is kittenball. Anyways, in the 1920s, it was fully known as softball.
So, what does this have to do with pitching underhand? As softball was a variation of baseball meant for indoors because of the winter, there was much less space to play the sport. This is why softball fields are smaller, the pitching distance is shorter, and the speed couldn’t be as fast as baseball because it would have hit the back end and sides of the indoor hall.
In the modern days, the Official Softball Rule 6 section 3a states that the pitching delivery must be an underhanded motion, with the hand below the hip and the wrist not farther from the body than the elbow.
That being said, it isn’t legal to throw overhand in softball, only underhand.
Also, part of the reason why there even is such a rule is the history of softball. As softball was originally included only with underhand throws, it has remained so to this day as it has always been so.
3. Pitching distance
Finally, the pitching distance is one of the reasons why players throw underhand in softball.
As I gave a little hint above, a softball pitching distance is shorter than in baseball. In fact, a softball pitching distance is only 43ft, whereas it is 60ft in baseball. This is a considerable length difference, so it is easier to throw underhand for this reason.
Naturally, pitching is easier in slowpitch softball than it’s in fastpitch. The underhand pitch, among other things, is why there are more slowpitch softball players than fastpitch, as the entry-level is lower.
Are Softball or Baseball Pitchest Fastest?
Now that you know the reasons for softball pitches and why they are always underhand, you might be wondering, are they faster than overhand throws?
In general, overhand baseball pitches are 15 to 30mph faster than underhand softball pitches. This is because you can generate more power on an overhand throw, even when fastpitch softball pitchers use the windmill motion.
Baseball pitchers often reach more than 90mph on a radar gun, whereas softball pitches land between 60 and 70mph.
Given that baseball pitching distance is 13ft longer than a softball, the baseball players throw at a much higher speed. On the other hand, most baseball players are men, whereas most softball players are women, so the average strength difference should be considered.
What Is the Fastest Underhand Softball Pitch?
The pitch speed in softball games can vary between pitchers and even more between slow and fastpitch softball. All pitches given, what is the fastest softball pitch of all time.
The fastest recorded underhand softball pitch is 77mph (123.9kkm/h) by Monica Abbott on June 16th 2012, playing for the Chicago Bandits against the Carolina Diamonds.
Imagine throwing a ball at the speed of 77mph from underhand! This is beyond skilled, which is why she is recorded on the Guinness World Records as well.
Is Underhand Pitching Safer Than Overhand Pitching?
It is widely accepted among many athletes that throwing from the underhand is safer than overhand. However, given that so many softball pitchers go to the doctor’s office is it true?
Against assumptions that underhand pitching is safer than overhand pitching, it isn’t necessarily so. A recent study by the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery shows that the stress on both throws are biomechanically very similar, ruling out the hard assumption that underhand pitching is always safer.
This is especially true as baseball pitchers often have the maximum number of innings they can pitch because they are more capable pitchers on a baseball team. However, this isn’t so in softball, and the coaches often use the best pitchers, meaning that one softball pitcher can pitch over a hundred times during a single match.
Think about making the windmill motion as fast as you can with a softball on your hand, and multiply that by a hundred or more.
However, when comparing a regular underhand pitch like in slowpitch softball to an overhand pitch. Underhand throws are certainly safer than doing a powerful overhand pitch in baseball.
Is an Underhand Pitch Legal In Baseball?
So overhand pitch isn’t legal in softball. Let’s reverse the process and see whether an underhand pitch is legal in baseball?
According to official baseball rules, underhand pitching is legal. However, it is rarely seen in baseball because it is more optimal to throw from an overhand from the 60ft pitching distance. Also, underhand throws aren’t conventional in baseball, and it has become a norm that all pitches are overhand.
Think about if softball didn’t have the overhand pitch rule. I would imagine that the underhand pitch would still be the mainstream one as it has always been so. The same thing applies to baseball as it has always been so that the pitcher throws overhand.
A variation of underhand pitch is called a submarine pitch, meaning that the ball is released just above the ground, yet not underhanded. This is more common in MLB than a traditional underhand pitch. Some famous players of the submarine pitch include Dan Quisenberry, Kent Tekulve, and Gene Garber.
My Favorite Softball Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Here are my top softball equipment recommendations that I think will take your game to the next level.
- Bat: My favorite certified fastpitch softball bat is the Easton Ghost. This bat has a double-barrel construction which is incredible if you are looking for a great feel and are a fan of satisfying pop and sound. The handle is a great bonus as it’s great to hold on to and very thin. The technology used for this bat provides great durability and flexibility. This bat comes in various styles and sizes.
- Softball: The best softballs, in my opinion, are the Franklin Sports Official Softballs. These affordable yet official featured balls are perfect for practice if you want to train with a similar ball as in a real game. These balls have the official 12-inch circumference and weight. The yellow color makes it easy to spot, and the flat seams enable minimal air resistance so that they will fly consistently and far.
- Glove: Rawlings Liberty Advanced Fastpitch Glove should be introduced to every softball player. The 12.5″ size makes it a breeze to catch and secure softballs. The glove is very comfortable as it’s made from full-grain leather, and the pull-staps will perfect the fit. The design is breathtaking as well. Be prepared for a little break-in time tho.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.