Q&A on the News

Q: I’ve been listening to Braves games on the radio and numerous times the announcers describe fastballs as either a two-seam or four-seam fastball. What is the difference? How do they know what has been thrown?

—Ben Wiechman, Alpharetta

A: A pitcher generally holds a two-seam fastball on the baseball's seams where they are the closest. If properly thrown, the ball will sink when as it approaches the plate, which results in more ground balls, Braves radio announcer Don Sutton told Q&A on the News. Sutton won 324 career major league games and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. "A two-seam pitcher can throw more in the middle of the strike zone, but they're low strikes, which they hope will become ground balls or double plays," Sutton said. "With the sinking action, two-seam fastballs are hard to hit in the air." Four-seam fastballs are gripped going across the seams to create a "spinning, rising action," he said. Four-seam pitchers want to locate their pitches inside on the batter or away from him. "Hitters tend to hit more fly balls, but it's more of a strikeout pitch," Sutton said. He said he can tell the pitch by its flight to the plate, saying if a fastball "dives or dips, it's a two-seamer," but if it appears to "rise or sail, it's a four-seamer." Sutton said Braves reliever Jonny Venters throws a "devastating" two-seam fastball and closer Craig Kimbrel throws a four-seamer. "Kimbrel can tell the hitter it's coming, but it's at 98 or 99 mph, so even if they know it, there's not a lot they can do with it," Sutton said.

Andy Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or emailq&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).