Here’s a video clip I came across of Adam Wainwright actually demonstrating how he thinks about throwing his curveball. Overall, I he does a really nice job explaining it.
And just a general rule of thumb I picked up in my pro ball days:
When a guy with a filthy pitch you’d like to master talks about how he throws it… you better listen.
Soak it up. Try it out. You never know what little adjustment is going to make the difference for you.
Now that said, I wanted to point out something a little whacky about the video…
What Wainwright thinks he’s doing on his curveball (what he feels like he’s doing) and what is actually happening are two very different things.
Check it out. Can you find the part I’m talking about?
See, the thing to keep in mind is that it all starts with an understanding of what you want the ball to do – how you want it spin, the shape and size of the break.
It starts with getting that clear in your mind.
And to get the right feel for how you do that, you want to think about getting over the ball with your middle finger just the way Wainwright explains in the video.
Here are a few other key things he hits on:
[list_item]You don’t want to change your arm slot to “get on top” of your curveball (all your pitches should come out of the same window)[/list_item]
[list_item]The shape of your arm path is going to influence the break on your curveball[/list_item]
[list_item]And then he says… Follow through with your hand into your body almost “like you’re cutting yourself in half”[/list_item][/circle_list]
Interesting… if you go to the 1:40 mark, you can see Leiter question him on this.
So no pronation (hand turning palm out) after ball release… instead, think about pulling back in towards your body. Okay, now let’s take a look at this slow motion clip of him throwing his curve in a game.
Wait, could I be seeing things? I thought the hand wasn’t supposed to do that on the curveball.
Isn’t that what he said? And after all, he’s one of the greatest curveball pitchers in the game!
Maybe I’m missing something, let me check it again…
Okay, I’m pretty sure I’m seeing that hand pronate and turn out right after ball release.
Alright, hopefully you can tell I’m just having a little fun with this. The way Wainwright explains how to throw a curveball isn’t really wrong when it comes down to it.
In fact, it’s the same way I was shown to throw a curveball as a young pitcher and it worked out pretty well for me.
But the thing to understand is that, while the feel for throwing this pitch well is that you want to come over it with your hand (almost like making a big letter C in the air), when you actually throw this pitch full speed, it’s physically impossible to do that.
That’s right. It is physically impossible to throw a good curveball (with anything on it) exactly the way he describes in the video.
The wrist and hand are going to turn in after every pitch, no matter what…
But here’s the important thing.
It doesn’t matter.
In fact, it happens so fast, one of the greatest curveball pitchers in the game isn’t even aware it’s happening. It’s a byproduct, a result… it’s not the goal.
I remember when I got to college and my pitching coach told me that you pronate naturally after every pitch, I didn’t believe him.
I knew for sure I didn’t do that on my curveball. I was thinking about getting over it with my middle finger, pulling in on it. Yet it was happening right under my nose… But! And this is key…
[h4]What really matters is the intent on the pitch![/h4]
The goal when learning this pitch should NOT be to pronate on your curveball… just know that if thrown well it’s going to happen naturally.
But you still need that feel, that INTENT, of getting over it with a strong middle finger, pulling on that seam just like Wainwright explains in the video.
Let that intent, that picture in your mind’s eye, guide you.
And then when you speed it up and throw it full speed it looks like this…
Notice the middle finger pulling in on the ball as it leaves his hand? That (along with good arm speed and hand/wrist position) is how he throws such a nasty deuce with good tight spin.
So what’s the lesson here? Well, basically this: “feel” trumps all.
[list_item]Start slow by getting a good feel for the ball[/list_item]
[list_item]Develop the feel for consistent arm path (maintaining good hand position)[/list_item]
[list_item]Start to see good shape and break on the pitch (and know what that feels like)[/list_item]
[list_item]Then lastly… gradually crank it up[/list_item][/circle_list]
Also, just a quick side note. You may notice Wainwright’s index finger on his curveball. He doesn’t even have it on the ball… not too many guys in the big leagues do this, but it just shows you how important the middle finger is on your curveball.
It’s what is usually called the “curveball starter grip”. But it’s totally valid (clearly), and it can be a good way to start out when learning to throw a real big league curveball.
It’s even one of the grip options I go over in the Curveball Mastery System You can grab your free CB Grips Cheat Sheet right here (for a limited time):