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The curveball has gone by many names over the years: “the hammer,” “the deuce,” “Uncle Charlie,” just to name a few. Perhaps the reason for this is because the curveball is an important pitch for all pitchers to master, though it can be tricky. If you throw a good one, the hitter stands little chance of hitting it. If you miss the mark, though, you may just end up seeing the hitter’s home run trot.
Before we get into learning how to throw a good curveball, it’s important to note that young pitchers shouldn’t attempt this pitch unless under the proper supervision. A hard limit should be put on the amount of curveballs youth pitchers throw in any given session. Throwing a curveball involves twisting the wrist at the release point, which puts additional stress on the tendons in the elbow and shoulder.
Here we’ll discuss the following essential questions about the curveball:
A curveball is a type of pitch that’s harder for most batters to hit. Velocity, movement and command are the three components of any pitch. A curveball is different from other pitches for a few reasons. It’s typically 10 mph + slower than a fastball, has dramatic downward movement and should be thrown low in the strike zone.
The point of the curveball is to create topspin, which gives the pitch its late diving action. A fastball or changeup has backspin and stays straight.There’s an element of deception that good pitchers develop, and the curveball pitch is among the most deceptive in any pitcher’s arsenal.
There are three primary types of curveballs: the 12-6 curveball, knuckle curve and slurve, or sweeping curve. Which type of curveball you throw depends mostly on your arm angle, but there’s also different ways to grip the ball. If your release point is directly above your shoulder, you’ll get a curveball that breaks straight downward, and if you release the ball farther away from your body, the curveball will have sideways movement as it dives.
The first step to throwing a curveball is to release the ball at the same point and arm angle as you would a fastball. Since most pitchers release the ball above the head, the 12-6 curveball is the most commonly thrown curveball. Remember, deception is key, so it’s important to not tip the hitter off to what you’re throwing.
First you need to grip the ball properly. When gripping a curveball, start by positioning the baseball in your hand so the two seams are parallel with your fingers. Place your middle finger slightly to the inside of the right seam, with your index finger resting right next to it. Your thumb should grip the seam directly below your index finger, so your hand creates a backward C. As previously mentioned, the knuckle curve is thrown with the same grip, only your index finger is curled and pressed against the baseball, creating a tighter break.
The next thing to focus on is your throwing motion. When you’re going through your pitching motion, your elbow should create a 90-degree angle when your hand reaches its release point. Your elbow should be raised higher than your shoulder. If your elbow is at an angle greater than 90-degrees lower than your shoulder, you will put undue stress on it which can cause injury. Everything from the windup to the follow through should be the same as your fastball, except for the release point.
Finally, you’ll release the ball at the perfect moment. At the moment of releasing your curveball, rotate your wrist so your index and middle fingers are pointing toward your head. Your middle finger should be driving the seam it’s pressed up against downward so your thumb rotates upward. It’s important to release the ball with the same arm speed as you would for your fastball so the hitter isn’t tipped off and so you can get the ball to spin as fast as possible.
The curveball has been given several nicknames over the years. Here are some of the most popular ones you might hear today:
Kids should not throw curveballs until they are well into their teenage years. When throwing curveballs, the snapping motion you make with your wrist puts stress on the tendons in your elbow and shoulder. If your hand isn’t large enough to properly grip the ball, that stress is drastically exaggerated.
Throwing curveballs can hurt your arm for several reasons. In addition to those just listed above, if you don’t throw it properly you could also end up injured. Remember to keep your elbow at an angle no greater than 90 degrees, and it needs to be raised above your shoulder.
A curveball breaks downward because it’s thrown with topspin, whereas a fastball is thrown with backspin. Imagine putting the baseball on the ground and rolling it forward and you can visualize what topspin looks like.
A common issue for many pitchers, even professionals, is having a hard time getting “on top” of their curveball. You should be releasing your curveball close to your body in order to maximize the tension between your middle finger and the seam, which increases the spin rate and, thus, the curveball’s break.
A hanging curveball is a curveball that doesn’t break or isn’t thrown low enough in the zone. Because it’s thrown at a slower velocity than a fastball, a hitter has a few more precious moments to react to it. If the ball doesn’t break or doesn’t break enough, it’s much easier for a hitter to make solid contact.
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