Difference Between Arm Style and Wheel Pitching Machines

Investing in a new pitching machine for the team you coach is a big deal. It will open up a whole new world of possibilities for you and your team. With the right pitching machine, you can not only train your batters but also your fielders and even pitchers in some cases.

I have seen many of my friends struggling when buying a new pitching machine. The first major roadblock in their decision is choosing between an arm style and a wheel style pitching machine

. Without getting a proper understanding of the two designs, making the right choice is undoubtedly difficult.

Though the operating principle of both styles of pitching machines is quite easy to understand, its impact on the overall performance of the machine requires a deeper knowledge of the subject.’

Still, the core difference between the two pitching machines is –

The arm-style pitching machine uses a 360-degree spinning steel arm that delivers fastballs – you don’t get a lot of variety in these machines.

The wheel style pitching machine uses wheels (one – two – three) instead of a spinning arm – you can get a lot of pitching variety in these machines.

So, that’s the gist. Sure, you can flip a coin and let fate decide which pitching machine is right for you.

Or you can just follow along as I give you a complete rundown of all the major differences between arm style and wheel style pitching machines.

Once you learn all the kinks with the two variants,

you will be able to pick out the top-quality pitching machine for your team.

Arm Style Pitching Machines

Arm style or sometimes called arm action pitching machines makes use of a mechanical arm to throw the ball. The first pitching machine ever created featured this design. However, that does not mean that the design is outdated by any means. Even to this day, many manufacturers have adopted this design in their products.

Typically, arm-style machines feature a heavy-duty frame and can handle a lot of beating due to their fully mechanical design. They also rely on a lot fewer moving parts compared to a wheel-style pitching machine. But unlike wheel-style machines, an arm-style machine is typically only limited to throwing fastballs.

The good thing about this design is it allows the batter to see more of the ball as it is being pitched. So, you will be able to react and swing at the perfect moment. It also throws the ball at a natural curve which simulates the feel of playing against a real pitcher.

But the truth is, despite their popularity among little leaguers and high school baseball players, arm-style pitching machines have fallen out of favor with professional players. Because of their limited pitch capabilities, they are rarely used by big-league players.

Since this type of pitching machine is so affordable, small coaches often pick them up to train younger athletes. I used to train with one, and now that I myself have a few players under my wing, I regularly use one for different drills.

I have used a couple of arm-style pitching machines in the past, but my favorite one to date is the Louisville Slugger UPM 50 Black Flame. Here is a quick review of this pitching machine.

Favorite Pick: Louisville Slugger Black Flame Pitching Machine

Louisville Slugger

If you were to ask me what the best pitching machine for youth is, I would immediately point to my Louisville Slugger Black Flame. It is an entry-level option with decent speed and excellent pitching accuracy. You should be able to pick one up for under 300 dollars any day of the year.

It features a versatile frame that is strong enough to handle any abuse you throw at it. Despite its sturdy design though, the weight of the frame is quite light. So, taking it apart and moving it around is pretty effortless. And on the plus side, it can use any type of baseball or softball.

When it comes to velocity, it might not be the fastest one out there. Still, since you are mostly training young players with it, its 50 miles per hour maximum velocity is not bad. On the slow side, it can come down to about 18 miles per hour which is fantastic when your hitting drill involves slow pitches.

In practice though, I could get a velocity of up to 60 miles per hour when I was using a light baseball with it. You can adjust the speed easily by positioning the spring on the power pedal. If you want to learn more on how to adjust the speed, check out our complete review of this pitching machine.

The throwing accuracy of the UPM 50 along with the trajectory adjustment option is superb. Each pitch from the machine will hurl the ball inside the strike zone which is good for practicing consistent hitting. Apart from simply throwing fastballs, you can also set it up to throw flyballs, groundballs, or line drives.

In terms of flaws, there is not much to complain about with the unit if you are using it solely for young players. More experienced players will soon outgrow its entry-level pitching speed of only 50 miles per hour. And the fact that it is a manual machine can also be a bit of a nuisance to coaches that prefer a hands-free experience.

Still, the performance that it delivers for the price is hard to find elsewhere. Sure, it will not compete with an automated machine in terms of flexibility or speed, but if you do not mind operating this pitching machine yourself, then you will be fully happy with your investment.

Wheel Style Pitching Machine

Wheel style pitching machine is the one to look out for if you like shiny new toys. Instead of using a mechanical pitching arm, this type of machine uses rotating wheels to propel the baseball towards the target. Wheel-style pitching machines can come with one, two, or even three spinning wheels.

The main advantage of this style of pitching machine is that it can throw different types of pitches such as curveballs or sliders. A single-wheel pitching machine is lighter and also a lot less expensive compared to a three-wheel machine. However, three-wheel pitching machines are capable of throwing a wider variety of pitches.

Wheel-style pitching machines are mostly used by professional players to train against different types of pitches. These machines are capable of hurling the ball faster and more accurately than a throwing arm-style pitching machine. They also typically cost a lot more.

In addition, wheel-style machines are mostly automated and since they have a lot of moving parts, it requires a bit more attention and maintenance from time to time. Don’t get me wrong; a good wheel-style pitching machine will still serve you well for a decent time. However, you might need to lubricate it from time to time.

There are many brands that specialize in manufacturing high-quality wheel-style pitching machines. Hack Attack, for instance, is a professional-grade manufacturer that consistently produces machines for MLB professionals. Personally, though, I prefer Jugs as the brand tries to keep the cost low while giving you decent performance. When it comes to this type of machine, I always recommend going with the Jugs BP1 if you want to get the best value for your money. Here are my two bits on this fantastic wheel-style pitching machine.

Favorite Pick: Jugs BP1 Baseball/Softball Combo Pitching Machine

Jugs BP1

The automatic Jugs BP1 pitching machine is an amazing investment because of its pricing and the performance it delivers at that price. You can usually find a BP1 at any store within 1500 to 1700 dollars which is an absolute bargain when you consider the price of competing products.

The frame of the unit is strong but also a bit heavy. And naturally, it is not as portable as the black frame. The total weight of the unit is around 75 pounds and if you want to move it around, I would recommend taking it on a vehicle. Thankfully, the assembly and disassembly of the machine are quite effortless.

It gives you a maximum pitching velocity of 70 miles per hour with a standard pitching machine softball or baseball. With lighter balls, you should be able to get even faster pitches.

And for slow pitches, the velocity comes down to 15 miles per hour which is much lower than the Louisville Slugger Black Flame.

Though the speed is excellent, that is not the highlight of this pitching machine. That honor goes to its 360-degree swivel arm design. With this feature, you will be able to throw the ball in any direction which allows you to take your full team through different fielding drills.

The accuracy of each individual pitch with the machine falls right on the target. Since it does not use a throwing arm, you will not get that natural throwing trajectory. So be sure to use the console to adjust the trajectory and pitching target from time to time to keep your players on their toes.

Unfortunately, the Jugs BP1 does not feature an automatic ball feeder. So even though it is an automatic machine, you will have to feed the ball yourself before each pitch. If you prefer though, you can attach an automatic ball feeder to it and get a fully automated experience.

With an automated pitching machine such as this one, there is always a risk of clothes getting caught on the wheels. That is why most modern wheel-style machines feature some sort of safety mechanism to prevent it. But you will not find any on the Jugs BP1, which is a bit of a letdown.

At a moderate budget though, the Jugs BP1 might still be the best choice out there. It comes with a lot of high-end features despite not featuring that premium price. The lack of modern security features like those found in premium-grade pitching machines is not too big of an issue if you are monitoring the machine yourself at all times.

Which One is Right for You?

The truth is, you can go with either one. I have used both arm style pitching machines and wheel style pitching machines and depending on the type of drills I was doing, both worked great.

The main advantage of the wheel-style pitching machine is definitely the ability to throw different types of pitches. It really comes in handy when you are training players against specific pitching conditions. Since arm-style machines are mostly limited to straight pitches or fastballs, you will not get a lot of flexibility with them.

The price of arm-style machines is also something to think about. Though there are super expensive arm-style pitching machines out there from brands like Iron Mike, most of the usual ones are pretty cheap. So, if you want an affordable solution – arm-style machines are always a good pickup.

Wheel style pitching machines also require regular maintenance and if you want to keep your machine in peak condition, you need to put in a lot of elbow grease. Arm style machines on the other hand are built like a tank, and typically do not require as much attention.

Ultimately, it comes down to the preference of the coach and the player.

As long as you use the pitching machine wisely, it really does not matter whether you are going with an arm-style pitching machine or a wheel-style pitching machine.

Hopefully, my guide could leave you with enough information to weigh your options and pick out the perfect one for your needs. Cheers!

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