Teaching The Curveball

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Youth pitching program
ATTENTION PITCHERS: One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not. To get to the next level, preparation matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.

If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my proven programs for pitchers of all ages.

Rich Hill curveball pitching gif
Rich Hill curveball

When it comes to throw a curveball, a pitcher should find and use a grip which feels comfortable and is effective for him, and one that gives him a good sharp breaking curve.

If a pitcher already has a good curve, I generally won't try to change it on him, but we will work on spotting the pitch with a goal of throwing a strike 70% of the time.

The curveball I teach is a true curve. I believe it is an effective breaking pitch and, if thrown properly, should not cause too much stress on the elbow.

How to grip a curveball

  1. The curve ball grip may vary from pitcher to pitcher. Much depends on hand size, grip strength, finger length and feel. A pitcher with big hands and long fingers has an advantage because he can keep the fingers on top of the ball and the ball won’t slip out as often.
  2. I prefer teaching a four seam rotation curve because it allows for faster rotation and therefore the chance for a sharper break.
  3. The ball is gripped slightly deeper in the hand than the fastball, but do not choke the ball. Leave a space between the first finger and the thumb.
  4. The pressure points on the ball are:
    • The outside finger pad of the middle finger is up against the wide seam
    • The crook between the first and second joint of the ring finger stabilizes the ball.
    • The pressure point of the thumb on the ball is along the inside bony surface of the first joint.
    • The first finger should just lay on the ball and be close to the middle finger so the ball can roll over it quickly. A few pitchers will actually lift the first finger upon release.
  5. We teach a very firm grip with the middle finger pad and thumb, but yet a pitcher must maintain a loose and flexible wrist. The forearm muscles should not be tense during the acceleration phase.

The mechanics of throwing a curveball

Arm action and release point:

  1. At the start of the motion, the arm action should be just the same as on the fast ball. Use a full range of motion, don’t short arm the back swing or curl the wrist.
  2. The pitcher should attempt to get the hand up high in the cocked position with the elbow at least as high as the shoulder. This way the pitcher will be accelerating in a downward plane.
  3. As the shoulder starts to externally rotate, the palm of the hand will turn inward to partially face the head. The fingers will now be on top outside - not behind - the ball as on a fastball.
  4. During the acceleration phase, the elbow will lead slightly longer and the shoulder will internally rotate later. At this point the pitcher should think of great hand speed and wrist snap in a forward, inward plane. The hand speed must overtake the elbow to release the ball with a good overspin.
  5. The hand should be higher then and well outside the elbow at release point. Do not curl the wrist inside the forearm, this reduces ball velocity.
  6. The pitcher should bend at the waist getting the head and shoulders over the stride leg. Try to visualize reaching out in front of the body directly to the plate.
  7. Upon release of the ball, relax the hand, wrist and arm to allow the arm to pronate naturally. This will reduce some of the stress on the shoulder and elbow joints.
  8. On the curve ball, and slider, do not attempt to get full arm extension on the follow through. Short arm the follow through quickly downward and outside the lead hip.

Body action:

  1. One of the secrets to a good and consistent to curve is not to rush the motion. Make certain the head and shoulders get over the lead leg and the hand speed overtakes the elbow and pull downward.
  2. Do not drive the back knee forward as hard as on the fast ball. Many pitchers like to drag the pivot foot to allow them to flex earlier at the waist.
  3. It is important to use good leads arm action, driving down and back giving great velocity of the hips, then shoulders. Keep the front shoulder closed as long as possible.
  4. During the release and follow through, many pitchers create such a violent downward force that they lose sight of the ball on the way to the plate, but pick it up again well before it reaches the hitting zone.
  5. As on the fastball, a pitcher may have to use a jump step to recover his balance to field his position.

Common problems with the curveball

  1. Over throwing it.
  2. Short arming the backswing and coming out of a low cocked position.
  3. Over extending the elbow by releasing the ball in a 12-6 vs a 1-7 rotation.
  4. Not short arming the follow through, over extending the elbow.
  5. Wrist hooking during the backswing or curling the wrist during acceleration
  6. Choking the ball too deep in hand
  7. Throwing across body
  8. Hanging the curve - pitcher throws up hill, low elbow in the cocked position, or rushes motion ahead of arm

The differences between a true curveball and a slurve

Instead of the pitcher flicking the thumb up through the ball upon release, the thumb is pulled down through the inside of the ball.

Wrist still should flex inward as well as downward to avoid hyper-extending the elbow.

Learning different pitches

Remember this: Even though this site describes a method of throwing five or six different pitches, it does not mean any pitcher should attempt to learn or throw all these pitches.

High school and college pitchers should try to master just three pitches. Even many major league pitchers are successful with three basic pitches. Some may add a specialty or fourth pitch as they get more experienced.

Youth pitchers 14 and under should concentrate on developing the fastball and learning to throw it to spots, plus learning to change speeds on the pitch.

Pitchers who haven't reached puberty should not throw breaking pitches competitively due to their lack of muscle, ligament and bone development. The breaking pitches create more stress on the elbow joint and bicep in young pitchers may not be developed enough to properly decelerate the forearm.

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Youth pitching program
One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not. To get to the next level, preparation matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.

If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my proven programs for pitchers of all ages.

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