pitching-tip-12-6-curveball

 
So since my recent posts on the benefits of a good curveball, I’ve been getting a ton of questions from guys looking for coaching tips on how to throw a good one. If you missed them, you can check them out here:

Why Most Young Pitchers Should Learn to Throw a Curveball
5 Ways a Good Curveball Can Make You a Better Pitcher
 
So in today’s Video Lesson I show you…
[h5]3 Musts for Throwing a Good 12-6 Curveball[/h5]
(and don’t miss the 4:40 mark, where a bee basically flies right in front of my face and lands on my head. Notice I’m completely unfazed… I’m in the zone!)

One of the things that really helped me in my career was having a good 12-6 curveball. In this video I go over the 3 basic things you must have to throw a good, traditional big league curveball. The 12-6 curve is great for a lot of reasons. It changes planes, is a good change of speed, and gives the hitter a totally different look.

Where does it get it’s name? Think about the hands on a clock – the curve is generally a north/south pitch (or 12 to 6 on the clock). Now it’s also worth mentioning that in most cases, the action on the traditional curveball isn’t really 12 to 6… depending on your arm angle, the action is usually more 1 to 7 or even 2 to 8.

The biggest problem with the traditional curveball is that many young pitchers never learn the proper way to throw it. A lot of people think the curveball involves twisting or snapping the wrist. This leads to all kinds of issues that I highlight in the video.

If you want to have a nasty 12-6 curveball (and throw it as safely as possible) it really comes down to three things: 1) a good grip, 2) good hand position and wrist position, and 3) a strong middle finger. In the video, you’ll also see the killer mistakes you want to avoid when learning to throw this pitch.

Hope you enjoy it! And if you do, I hope you can do me a favor… Share this post with anyone who could benefit from learning to throw a curveball the right way!

And for more Free Curveball Training, head over to CurveballMastery.com for a Free Video where I’ll show you my #1 Coaching Secret for throwing a Big League Curveball.

Well it’s Father’s Day, so today’s post is dedicated to all the baseball dads out there. When you think “baseball” one of the first things that always jumps to mind is “fathers and sons.”

We always remember those moments like when your dad took you to your first major league ballgame or maybe took you to the local field to take batting practice (nowadays it’s probably the indoor batting cage, I guess). And when you’re a kid, your dad’s usually the first one who shows you how to throw. And after that, learning to appreciate all the nuances of the game is one of those things that’s passed down from generation to generation…

I’m about to fly off on a tangent, so let me bring it back in…

I want to talk about one of the really cool things that makes baseball different from any other sport, and why there’s no sport than can compare when it comes to building that father-son bond.

[h4]I’m talking about the simple act of playing catch with your dad.[/h4]

(growing up in the northeast we always called it “having a catch” but after playing with guys from all over the country I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea of “playing catch”).

There’s just something magical about it, the ball going back and forth between you… no words need to be spoken, just the popping of the glove…. like an invisible string connecting you.

You tend to take it for granted as a kid, but looking back now I realize how lucky I was growing up. I was lucky to have a dad who always took the time to throw with me out back. I was lucky to have a dad who always supported me and had my back. Heck, If I went up to him tomorrow and asked him to have a catch I know he’d jump up and go hunting for our old gloves. (excuse me, getting misty here…)

[h5]“Hey Dad… Wanna have a catch?”[/h5]

 
As I got older, I was lucky to have a lot of great father-son baseball moments.

[h5]But let me just share two that really stand out:[/h5]

 
First you should know that my Dad grew up in Chicago, was and remains a huge Cubs fan (been waiting a long time for that World Series). And he’d tell me stories about going to day games there when he was a boy. Nothing beats the friendly confines – if you’ve never been to a game at Wrigley, get it done!

Well I ended up playing college ball out in Chicago-land, and wouldn’t you know it, when our season was over I got a call about a Cubs pre-draft tryout at Wrigley Field. Pretty cool for a college kid to get out on that field… I remember checking out the ivy, that old iconic scoreboard, the flags blowing out above the bleachers.

And then I remember looking out into the stands and seeing my dad… and I thought about what must have been going through his mind. He was actually getting to see his son pitch in Wrigley Field, where he used to watch his favorite players, guys like Ernie Banks and Fergeson Jenkins, play when he was a boy.

I don’t even remember how I pitched. I just remember it being a pretty magical moment.

No footage on hand, unfortunately, but here’s a cool random video of fathers and sons playing catch at Wrigley Field – it really picks up a couple minutes in… pretty awesome thing they did there.


 

[h5]And then maybe my favorite father-son baseball moment is one that didn’t actually take place on the baseball field.[/h5]  
But if it weren’t for baseball, it probably never would have happened. It came during my second year of pro ball, and I was playing for a team down in Columbus, Georgia… I never knew heat and humidity like that – all you had to do was step out your door and you were drenched.

So the thing about Columbus, GA is that it’s basically home to Ft. Benning. And my grandfather (who unfortunately died too soon, and I never got to meet) was an officer in the US Army, and Ft. Benning is actually where my dad lived for a good part of his early childhood. So in a way, baseball had brought me back to where it all started.

When I think about it, I never really knew too much about my dad’s childhood growing up. All I knew was he worked hard and always did his best to support us and provide for his kids. But I never gave as much thought to it as I probably should have, what it must have been like growing up on Army bases, his dad off in the Korean War, and being moved around the country before finally returning to Chicago.

So when I was playing in Columbus, my folks came down to see me, and we spent a day together visiting Ft. Benning. And we just walked the grounds. And I could almost feel the memories going through my dad’s mind… he didn’t say that much, but he would point out little things like “that’s where my friends and I used to pretend we were soldiers” or “that’s where I used to watch the cadets do their parachute training.”

I saw my father in a different light that day. I got a little glimpse of what life must have been like for him as a kid. It was a pretty special experience for me, and one I’ll never forget. And I never would have had that moment with my dad if it hadn’t been for baseball.

[h5]Happy Father’s Day, Dad.[/h5]

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…

[h4]5 Ways a Good Curveball Can Make You a Better Pitcher:[/h4] [h5]1. It can be a great freeze pitch:[/h5]

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:

Why Young Pitchers Should Learn to Throw a Curveball

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.

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