Everybody wants to throw hard, and don’t get me wrong, velocity is great. But if you really want to be a top pitcher and get to that next level, keeping hitters off balance is the name of the game. That means being able to change speeds and move the ball around the zone.
In a previous post, I talked about the importance of being able to elevate your fastball. Well once you’ve got that in your arsenal, think about adding a good 12-6 curveball… The two pitches were born to go together – the hard fastball riding high and the nasty hook breaking down can be a devastating combo for opposing hitters.
To help hammer (forgive the pun) home the point, here are…
If throwing it for a strike, a 12-6 curve (or 1-7 or 2-8, I use the term loosely) starts out higher, out of the strike zone. Unless they’re sitting on it, a lot of hitters will give up on it before it breaks, and you can drop it in for a called strike… assuming the umpire doesn’t give up on it too – never a given, especially at the youth levels![h5]2. It can be a great put-away pitch:[/h5]
Getting ahead in the count is the best recipe for success. But if you don’t have a pitch you can throw to finish ‘em off, those 0-2 counts can quickly become 2-2 and 3-2. A nasty curve that starts out looking like a strike but breaks down out of the zone can be a great pitch to get hitters to chase.[h5]3. It’s one of the toughest pitches for a hitter to square up:[/h5]
You’ll often hear of a good curveball “falling off the table.” This basically refers to the good sharp downward movement you get. One of the reasons this is so tough to hit is it doesn’t travel along same path as the bat swing – it changes planes, north to south. When you take a look at a hitter’s swing path, you can see how a hitter’s timing has to be perfect to make solid contact.[h5]4. A good curveball can be a great change of speed:[/h5]
As I’ve mentioned before, pitching is all about disrupting a hitter’s timing. Typically a curveball is around 15 MPH slower than your fastball. If you mix in a good curveball and show you can throw it for strikes, you can really wreak havoc with a hitter’s timing. Once you get a good feel for it, you can even play around with changing speeds on your curveball (something to discuss in another article).[h5]5. You’ll get you more swings and misses on your fastball:[/h5]
Because guys have to respect your curveball, your fastball will appear that much faster. Let’s say they swing through a nasty 12-6 curve that disappears down in the zone. If you work fast, they’ll still have that pitch in their mind when you go into your next delivery. Elevate your fastball and it’ll have that “jump” on it, and they’ll swing right through it. This is where that high fastball, 12-6 curveball becomes a lethal combo.[h4]Recommendations:[/h4]
Learn to throw the curveball the right way when you’re young. For more of my thoughts on that read this article:
Start out playing catch, work on getting your fingers over and around the ball. Watch this video of Cliff Lee’s curveball to see what I’m talking about.
Note: great video, but don’t let the title mislead you – they call it a Knuckle Curve here, but really this is a traditional 12-6 curve held with a knuckle-up grip. The Knuckle Curve is another pitch entirely – again, a topic for another article…
See it in your mind first. Understand the break you want on the ball. Giving yourself that mental blueprint will speed the learning curve. Check out this interview to see how Bert Blyleven (one of the best curveballs of all time) learned to throw his curveball as a kid by listening to Sandy Koufax pitch on the radio…
How did he do that? He learned to see it in his mind.
“I used a lot of visualization the way that Vin Scully described Koufax’s curve,” Blyleven said. “I didn’t think curveball, I tried to create that drop because that’s the way Scully described it — dropping off a table.”
Start slow. Start throwing it too fast early on and you won’t get the right feel for it. I’m talking about starting out even 15-20 feet away – just grab a bunch of baseballs, a net, and go to work. Once you get consistent and can get that good 12-6 rotation, then you can start backing it up.
And for more Free Curveball training tips, head over to CurveballMastery.com for a Free Video where I’ll show you my #1 Coaching Secret for throwing a Big League Curveball.