Gotta love watching good pitching. And if you’ve been watching playoff baseball this year one of the things that stands out is just how many guys are throwing really good curveballs… Wainwright, Kershaw, Verlander, Sherzer, (not to mention newcomer, Wacha)… the list goes on.
The other day, Doug Fister put on an absolute clinic with his curveball. Watch…
The pitch shown below came at a key point in the game. He’d missed his location a couple times, but you could tell he had Drew set up for the curveball… the question was, would he have the confidence to throw it for a strike. And then bam, he dropped that bender over the plate and got the strikeout.
They say a picture’s worth 1,000 words… Can you say Filthy?
Okay, so now let’s discuss some key lessons you can take away from this clip.
1. It’s not about “Turning the Doorknob”One big mistake guys make when learning to throw a curveball is thinking you want to twist your wrist. There’s even a coaching cue about turning the doorknob. And that’s not it. To really throw a good curveball, you just want to be on the side of the ball with your hand, and then get over the ball well with your middle finger.
If you “turn the doorknob” you end up with your palm facing up. Notice Fister here getting over the ball through pitch release (as opposed to twisting and getting under it).
2. The Curveball can also be a good change of speedOne of the main benefits of a good curveball is that, not only do you fool the batter with the big movement, but it’s also a lot slower than your fastball – usually get somewhere around a 15 MPH speed differential. Just watch how out in front the batter is here on the curveball. So in a way, your curveball can be like having another changeup. It’s all about upsetting the hitter’s timing…
3. Don’t change your arm slot to “get on top” of your CurveballAnother big mistake guys make when trying to throw the curveball is changing their arm slot to “get on top” of the ball. And it’s true that if you’re naturally a high arm slot guy you’ll usually have an easier time throwing a 12-6 Curveball. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still throw a good downward breaking curveball with a lower arm slot.
Take a look at Fister’s arm slot. It’s not over the top – more like 3/4, similar to his fastball. And partly as a result, the break isn’t exactly 12-6… it’s more like 1-7 with a little side movement. But this isn’t a bad thing…
Big downward movement plus a little side to side = NASTY!
4. Righties can use their Curveball against lefties (and vice/versa)Typically, you think of righties throwing breaking balls more to righties, and using the changeup more to lefties. But as you can see here, because of that great speed differential, a good curveball can be effective no matter who you’re facing.
Here’s what Fister’s teammate, Max Sherzer, said earlier this season about how the curveball’s helped him against lefty batters:
“I’ve been tinkering with the curveball since last year… I’ve been trying to find a pitch that slows down everybody. It’s 15 mph off my fastball. I feel like everything else is kind of hard and it doesn’t change the hitters timing. I was able to throw it but the consistency on it wasn’t quite where it needed to be… By doing that it allows me to have a fourth pitch and a pitch that really slows down and disrupts the hitters timing. That pitch by itself can help play up every other pitch that I have.” – 5/20/13 Baseball Tonight Podcast
At another point this year, fellow Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello put it this way:
“We are different styled pitchers,” Porcello said, “but we both were kind of battling the same thing. Our changeup, slider, fastball were all hard, and the speed difference was not enough to keep those lefties off-balance.”
So there you go. A true Big League Curveball can be a devastating pitch when thrown well. So pay attention and watch how the best in the game throw theirs… And sit back and enjoy some of this great playoff baseball – you’d be amazed how much you can learn just by watching good pitching!