Curve Ball for an 11 Year-Old Pitcher


#1

Hello.

My son, who is 11, recently attended a winter baseball pitching camp for 11-14 year-olds. There they introduced the beginner curve ball. My son was very excited to learn the pitch. Now I’m aware of the controversy around throwing curve balls at this age, but given that it’s winter, and he won’t be pitching outside of bullpens with dad I thought it would be OK to let him practice this pitch. He is aware of the risks of the curve ball at this age too and knows to practice the pitch sparingly.

First, is there anything wrong with doing this?, If not, what would you recommend be the best way to go about practicing it? Should he practice throwing a curve ball with his throwing motion or pitching motion first? He’s only worked on it a few times, most recently out in the cul-de-sac where he throws on flat, slightly downward-slopping ground against a ATEC Pro Pitcher’s Practice Screen and Stand.

Finally, what should I watch out for mechanically when he practices this pitch vs. other pitches?

Thanks!


#2

Does he have a good change up? IMO would be better to learn a good change at 11 yrs old than learning a curve. Not sure about a “beginner curve”; heard of throwing like a football. Would prefer to find a good instructor to teach him how to properly throw a curve when he’s ready.


#3

Thanks for the reply. Yes, he does have a good change up. He also can throw a two-seam and a cut fastball. He doesn’t have a lot of velocity for a kid his age as he’s on the thin side, but he’s fairly accurate and gets some movement on his pitches.

I understand the point about having an instructor show him how to throw a curve, but not sure I know what you mean by when he’s ready? Is that typically an age threshold they have to reach say like 13-14? Just now quite clear what you meant. I know there are a lot of different schools of thought on the curve.


#4

A lot of others on this board are more knowledgeable & can probably provide a better answer but I’ll give you an opinion. My understanding is a curve thrown correctly causes no more stress on the elbow than a fastball. Injuries can result from not throwing properly therefore my rationale for using an instructor or someone with knowledge & experience to teach correctly; I have neither so I found an instructor for my son. When you mention he is below average with velocity; I believe it’s another good reason to wait a little while on the curve. Good curves (& even not so good ones) can make an 11 year old look like a stud on the mound. The downside is he will be likely to rely on his curve and never develop his velocity. Have a kid in our area who’s pitched since he was 9 and always had success as a junk pitcher, also hard to wait on because he threw so slow. Played in the local league and was a perennial all-star through this past season leading up to 9th grade tryouts. Ended up not making team; coach told him due to arm strength. Spent summer working on velocity with instructor and my understanding gained about 8 mph, still only mid 60’s. Trying out this fall, hope he makes it (good kid). Guess what I’m saying is he would be better off today if he’d focused on velocity & less on the junk. Posting videos on this site could be a useful way to get some feedback on some adjustments he can make. If you’re in a position to do so; finding a good instructor is a good investment if he wants to play High School baseball.


#5

Indeed, there are almost as many schools of thought about the right age to throw a curveball as there are pitchers; they range from those coaches who would rather their pitchers eschew the breaking pitch altogether and stick with the fastball (sometimes not even a changeup) to those who say that whenever the kid is ready s/he could learn the pitch with the proper instruction. I remember when I was eleven years old; while playing catch with some other kids during recess in fifth grade I discovered that I had a natural, honest-to-gosh sidearm delivery and a nice little curveball that came attached to it. I figured, well, I have a curveball, let me see what I can do with it. I took my time and worked with it, experimented with several different ways to throw it and found that when I threw it with a sharp karate-chop wrist snap I got a very nasty break. I worked off that and picked up a very good knuckle-curve, and I also acquired my very first changeup—the so-called “Bugs Bunny” (and a very good one it was too). So I would say that if the kid really wants to learn the curveball he should find a really good instructor, perhaps even a major-league pitcher or pitching coach with expertise in that pitch, to teach him the right way to throw it. And don’t worry about the fastball; the velocity will come. Just remember—one has to throw all his/her pitches with the same arm angle and the same arm speed! :baseballpitcher:


#6

Pcarnette,

It’s as simple as this; any pitch that is supinated (driven with the forearm supinataing) where the thumb ends up or to the outside causes the elbow to find it’s end of range of motion ballistically, that causes the Ulna to crash into the Humerus. These pitches effect any age group, causing many types of bone, connective tissue and soft tissue damage.

All curves are intuitively supinated!!! Because of forearm flyout and supination.

There is only one type of safe pronated Curve and it takes someone who understands the difference between the 2 types to be able to teach it. You will not find many many professional coaches who know and understand this information, maybe 1 in a 1000, but I even doubt this.
Here at LTP, Kyle Bodie understands the information and can help.

Things to look for and understand.

  1. Highest of arm slots with shoulder and head tilt.
  2. forearm drive ”inside of vertical”.
  3. Hand over the top of the ball and fingers towards the glove arm side.
  4. Elbow pops up thru drive and release
  5. Voluntary pronation of the forearm releasing with thumb driving down. Do not confuse this with end of range of motion supination then involuntary snap back to pronation after release!
  6. Ball imparts true 12/6 rotation and sometimes over rotation.

Here is one of my clients performing a motor skill drill to learn the pronated curve by throwing a foot ball end over end to get the feel of proper drive and release.

Here is another client performing another motor skill drill (bucket lid throws) to teach the arm action and release of a pronated Curve.

Before he throws this pitch (Curve), make sure he is well practiced to get it right because a supinated curve is one of the most injurious of pitch types.

Good luck.


#7

yardbird:

You are too nice. I think you are the best source for that.

But since we’re on the topic, what do you think?


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#8

Yardbird, What’s the difference between the pronated curve & a screwball? Seems pretty similar.


#9

Another option would be to throw a knuckle curve thrown like a fastball. Yes, including the pronation of a fastball. I’ve found this to be a good and relatively easy pitch to get the hang of.

A couple of videos to check out on you tube are Fred Corral’s instruction on how to throw a knuckle curve and Cliff Lee’s knuckle curve in slo motion.

There’s really no need to get bogged down in all of the scientific mechanical cues. Give the kid the ball, show him the grip, remember to throw it like his fastball, and let it rip. He will have to get used to the grip and learn to control this pitch but he can get really good results.


#10

Good advice, turn22.
I will never forget the day when, at age 16, I caught up with Eddie Lopat after a game in which he stifled the Indians 2-1, and I just wanted to ask him something about the slider. His response was to draw me aside, away from the mob of fans near the Yankees’ clubhouse entrance, and show me how to throw a good one. He showed me the offcenter grip he used, demonstrated the wrist action (much easier than a curveball), then handed me the ball and said softly, “Go ahead—try it.” I got the hang of it in about ten minutes, during which time he watched me and made some notes—including the fact that I was a true natural sidearmer with a consistent release point. No abstruse gobbledegook. He showed me how it was done and invited me to try it for myself.
Best way to learn a pitch—the rest was up to me, and in several months I was comfortable enough with the slider to use it in a game: I got a bunch of strikeouts with it. It became my go-to pitch. 8) :slight_smile:


#11

Amen, Zita.

While I’m not opposed to scientific study, I do believe that we can sometimes lose the spirit of the game by getting bogged down with analysis.

I do believe certain things are true and will not change;

  1. Standing on a mound 60’ 6" away from the plate that’s being protected by a guy with a big ole stick is an awesome yet sometimes nerve wracking place to be.

  2. Pitchers will continue to get injured, as will other athletes. It’s part of the risk of playing the game. I don’t think it matters much who’s mechanics one is using, Marshall, Nyman, House, etc. or a hybrid. Injuries are injuries and they are going to happen.

  3. Throwing the crap out of a baseball 90 to 100 times a game plus warm ups is going to in itself cause stresses on the body, strains and injuries, Deal With It.

  4. If you’re not going to throw the crap out of the ball and get the most out of your God given talent and get the most out of training blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifices, then get the hell out of the way cause there are thousands who are willing to do what it takes to get there and stay there. Injuries or not.

  5. Gurus will remain gurus. They will have their fervent followers, some blindly, and all preaching their own brand. Whether it be promises of higher velocities, less injuries, more stamina, or walking on air, in the end the thing that matters more than any of their rhetoric is the Athlete himself, Believing in himself and using that belief to push himself as far and as hard as it takes to reach HIS dreams.


#12

Satchel Paige couldn’t have put it more succinctly. He said, “You have to believe in yourself. When you believe, you do.” 8)


#13

Some wise input in the link above from Dr. Kremchek re: curve balls and caring for youth arms.


#14

Good article. Problem is no matter how many experts put these numbers out and add their educated opinions to the charts, parents and coaches are going to ignore them and subject kids way too young to pitches they shouldn’t throw, super high pitch counts and have them throw way too frequently.

[quote]Fastball - Any age
Change up - 10 y.o.
Curveball - 14 y.o.
Knuckleball -15 y.o.
Slider -16 y.o.
Forkball -16 y.o.
Screwball -17 y.o.

A knuckle curve is permitted at any age after the pitcher has mastered a good change and is taught the proper mechanics and grip to throw this pitch. It is really not a curve in the sense that it does NOT involve any torque or rotational force on the arm or wrist as do other breaking balls. [/quote]

I personally like this chart. Whether you look at it from injury prevention in young kids or skill progression, IMO it’s a good representation of when pitches should be added to arsenals.
Fastball- Learning to throw the ball with intent
Change up- Learning to change speeds without changing arm speed or intent
Curve Ball- Learns to throw breakers only after that solid base of fastball change is established
Slider etc.- More advanced pitches learned after solid base should have been established.
Knuckle curve at any age- Agree not an injurious pitch, but should be taught after the base of fastball change is established.


#15

Agree to an extent; in posters situation still believe his son would be better served working on increasing velocity than toying with a breaking pitch. To put in context go back to his prior post on another subject. He’s stated son has below average velocity for his age. He’s stated he believes cause of low velocity is he’s on the thin side. I believe there are plenty of guys with thin builds on every level to prove this notion wrong. So far as ages for certain pitches, not a bad guide but I’d say every kids different. Poster says change is good. Is it thrown with same motion & arm speed as fastball or is he throwing a “lob”? Curve ball is relatively easy for kids to learn, would rather my own kid to learn to “throw the crap” out of the ball & worry about the other stuff later.


#16

You’re so right! Every kid is different. There are some who couldn’t get the hang of a curveball if they stood on their heads—and who, perhaps, might do better to leave it alone for at least a while and work on another breaking pitch. And there are those like—well, take little ol’ me, a shrimp of 5’4", who discovered at age 11 that I had a natural, honest-to-gosh sidearm delivery and a nice little curveball that came attached to it. I figured, well, I’ve got a curveball, let me see what I can do with it—and I took my time, worked around with it, learned how to change speeds, picked up a very good knuckle-curve and a great changeup (the “Bugs Bunny”), and went on from there. There are kids with tremendous velocity, and there are those who become very good snake-jazzers. There are all kinds, and one thing the pitching coaches who are worth their salt and peppers need to learn to do is take each one on his (or her) own merits and work with them.
This kid you speak of might think of acquiring a good knuckle-curve, which doesn’t place any strain on the arm and shoulder and will give opposing batters no end of conniption fits. 8) :slight_smile:


#17

Pitcher17,

Yes and how observant you are? This shows you understand the information very well, I commend you!! I have never run into anyone else that put it that way by getting it right! Bravo!!!

“Overspin” on a pronated curve ball does produce a slight screwball effect and when attained absolutely buckles a batter always, I have seen this in only a few pitchers who have perfected the technique and is very desirable to develop.
Most of the time we only get 12/6 action with the highest RPM’s that can be attained with any pitch.

We do teach a screwball for our –20 pitches like the P.Curveball but it often has a lot more lateral movement because of the Hybrid leg lift does not allow for fully upright drive and full drive rotation that it takes to produce a true maxline dropping screwball but it buckles batters also.

Great question P17!

KyleB,

Nice work Kyle! I would suggest 3 changes in your approach, not saying what we see in the video is what you are asking of the client?

  1. The grip needs to be 3 point equilaterally contacted by moving the thumb one inch lower and not opposite of the middle finger.
    The grip he is using would be considered conventionally taught and intuitive.
    Have him create a finger width gap between the crotch of the index/thumb and the ball! He is performing what we call chocking the ball that causes debilitating friction at the crotch area between the index and thumb at the upper and inner palm.

  2. At the start of the rotational acceleration phase (basically where the video starts), his elbow is bent to much causing ball exit (ball pops up) vertical action instead of more directionally (linear) started then dropping .
    He should start with his elbow at 90 degrees, that would cause lesser flyout and lateral movement of the balls sortie.

  3. Wrist should be in the flexed position and radial flexed position in order to the powerfully Ulnar flex the forwards acceleration phase and get the hand on top of the ball that would allow complete pass thru of the elbow articulation with lesser chance of the
    the olecranon process of the Ulna bone to slam into the olecranon fossa on the Epicondyle of the Humerus bone.

While these 3 improvements would produce more RPM, lesser chance of injury and intuitive flyout, I think you have produced an outstanding effort here that may be enough to get it done. Keep up the good work, guys like you will be the only ones eliminating injurious force applications going forwards.

I especially enjoy your overhead video’s, for they are the holly grail in mechanical breakdown, please bring more here!

Turn 22,

When using scientific instruments like high speed video, shows that the knuckle curve is driven in supination, therefore very injurious to the elbow in many ways.

I have talked to Fred Corral and he also could care less about injuries by complaining about the information that he does not or refuses to understand.

I disagree completely! Not understanding the reasons why injuries occur is why they replicate on a continuing basis. Your suggestion is exactly why this scenario keeps repeating itself

Unfortunately it will be the Hyaline cartilage between the Olecranon process of the Ulna and the Olecranon Fossa of the Epicondyle that will “let it rip” by way of supination that causes this ballistic crash. These rips enlarge these bone masses and cause osteoblasts to form between the rips that grow into bone spurs that break off and become loose impediments within the elbow, not to mention the lose of range of motion and severe inflammation to have to recover from continually.

This is the typical reaction of “scienfobics”(that think they are not) who do not learn why pitching injuries are caused yet at the same time use seat belts and ask batters to use helmets to lessen the chance of injury.

You are a prevailing thinker like most who do not understand the information or in spite ask others to ignore the information that would make a huge difference in youth pitchers and throwers.

This is true of the conventional injurious ballistic force application that House and Nyman teach or allow and not true with non-injurious “state of the art” ballistic force application that Dr. Marshall teaches.

Got tired of dealing with the problem and made a change for the betterment of youth pitchers and it worked.

So when someone suggests scientific physiological information that will actually help youth pitchers avoid these injuries and still “throw the crap out of the ball”, train aggressively while taking advantage of their “God given talents” your going to continue to post messages to ignore the information because you who refuse to look at or believe the truthful scientific information has the opinion that it does not work?

Why the wolf response every time? I’ve noticed everybody that go out of their way to fight this info have had to deal with injuries in their past with themselves or their family?

Dr.Kremchek is a surgeon, not a Kinesiologist and has no information as to why these injuries occur like all Ortho’s who use these ridiculous non-scientific survey numbers like ASMI uses. The sooner they get out of the dugout the better.

All these pitches can be safely thrown at any age if pronated.

Pitch counts are only the realm of youth pitchers who are still developing girth and length in bone and proper growth at the joint ends that all supinated pitches produce evenly and much lesser when pronated.

Youth pitchers should not be held back in learning all the pitch speeds and directions if they are pronated and commanded.

Zita,

I wonder if you would have pitched over the top had you not been influenced by the “junk man” and were influenced by Allie Renolds instead? Then you would be calling it natural instead.

Eddie Lopatinski’s (the junk man) career ended because of severe debilitating arm injuries, one of which one was discussed here earlier, caused by throwing supinated “junk”, Loss of range of motion. Here is a quote from his doctor thru Eddie who says “he put me thru all kinds of gyrations and said you have 30 percent mobility in the arm and you have severe tendonitis”. This is exactly what Dr.Marshall teaches us all that will listen. Eddie also suffered from shoulder injuries also and missed a lot of several seasons from this preventable mal-mechanical use. Ironic ain’t it?

I think this information is worth a listen to for youth pitchers who wish to avoid these problems.


#18

Sorry, I dropped off the face of the Earth. To answer your questions, his ectomorph build is probably not as big a deterrent as I make it out to be. While he has a ways to go, he has learned to throw with more intent; but he does seem a lot weaker than his peers in terms of strength.

Mechanically, he is pretty sound for his age. He certainly is advanced in terms of his mechanics compared to his fellow rec ball players. I know he can rush his delivery at times, which causes his arm to drag.

I sincerely think his change up is good. I don’t really notice any major mechanical changes when he throws this pitch vs. a fastball. He averages 46 mph with his fastball, and his change drops to 39 mph. So it’s a nice dip in speed.

I like the pitch-type/age chart presented above. I think it is sound. He hasn’t done much with baseball this winter, so I was looking for something new to grab and rekindle his interest a little bit. He was genuinely excited to learn the curve. I think I’ll push the knuckle curve instead, which is thrown like a fastball, correct?

With a four-seam fastball, change up, two-seam fastball, cut fastball, and a knuckle curve, he’ll have plenty to play with on the mound even though he rarely really relies on anything but the four-seam fastball unless he knows the batter has trouble staying back.


#19

[quote=“pcarnette”]
I know he can rush his delivery at times, which causes his arm to drag. [/quote]

This is an issue my son had at one time. Best I can remember pitching coach said he was over striding. Shortened his stride and solved the problem. May not be same issue for your son. Posting video will be helpful, lots of knowledgeable people on this site (not me) that can analyze and provide good feedback.

[quote=“pcarnette”]
With a four-seam fastball, change up, two-seam fastball, cut fastball, and a knuckle curve, he’ll have plenty to play with on the mound even though he rarely really relies on anything but the four-seam fastball unless he knows the batter has trouble staying back.[/quote]

Sounds like a good plan. Still don’t think there is a magic age to learn a breaking pitch. My son started at 13 after a year with a pitching instructor. I never brought up the subject, instructor let me know when he thought my son was ready. Do know that instructor wanted to work on mechanics, intent, velocity, and a good change up before moving on. My views are shaped by what he taught. Instructor did have him throw a pitch he called a cut fastball for several months before introducing curve. My understanding is he held with a curve ball grip and threw like a fastball. Don’t know if he did it to get him acclimated to the grip prior to learning the curve but I will say he picked up the curve quickly. Best of luck!


#20

And decelerated with pronation. Every pitch not thrown in your Marshallite mechanics is injurious according to you. Injuries can happen even with your mechanics.

Well, I guess we can add Fred Corral to your list of demons who can’t possibly compare to your Guru.

No, Injury prevention has it’s place, but at some point players need to focus on more than the possibility of injury and strive to succeed. I’ve seen very little success in your methods.

And again try to scare the curve ball right out of the kids hand with your overly scientific explanations. We all know you’re smart and know all the terminology.

Again, No, this is the reaction of someone interested in developing pitchers and can recognize that pitching is in itself an athletic position where injuries can occur. It is part of the risk of athletic endeavor. You, Dr. Marshall nor anyone else is going to eliminate risk.

See that’s where you’re wrong. I do understand the information. I just do not necessarily agree with the extent of doom and gloom you seem to place on everyone who disagrees with you or Marshall. Even though I agree with different philosophies, I choose not to demonize you or Marshall, as you do to everyone who dares disagree with you and Marshall.

[quote][b]This is true of the conventional injurious ballistic force application that House and Nyman teach or allow and not true with non-injurious “state of the art” ballistic force application that Dr. Marshall teaches.

Got tired of dealing with the problem and made a change for the betterment of youth pitchers and it worked.
[/b][/quote]
That is your choice and your opinion. I choose to follow a different path. Where you see injurious paths I see successful paths. The proof is in the pitchers.

[quote][b]So when someone suggests scientific physiological information that will actually help youth pitchers avoid these injuries and still “throw the crap out of the ball”, train aggressively while taking advantage of their “God given talents” your going to continue to post messages to ignore the information because you who refuse to look at or believe the truthful scientific information has the opinion that it does not work?

Why the wolf response every time? I’ve noticed everybody that go out of their way to fight this info have had to deal with injuries in their past with themselves or their family? [/b][/quote]
Why should I give credence to your tenets which I disagree with. The wolf response is your game not mine. Every time someone dares post an alternate opinion to your Kool Aid ramblings it is you that cry wolf warning against definitive horrible injury.

So now you know better than the medical community. I’m sure Dr. Kremchek has more knowledge of kinesiology than you give him credit for. It must be tough and lonely to be smarter than the rest of the baseball world.

[quote][b]All these pitches can be safely thrown at any age if pronated.

Pitch counts are only the realm of youth pitchers who are still developing girth and length in bone and proper growth at the joint ends that all supinated pitches produce evenly and much lesser when pronated.

Youth pitchers should not be held back in learning all the pitch speeds and directions if they are pronated and commanded.
[/b][/quote]
Follow the chart Dr. Kremchek put out and yes the pitches all can be thrown safely.

[quote][b]Zita,

I wonder if you would have pitched over the top had you not been influenced by the “junk man” and were influenced by Allie Renolds instead? Then you would be calling it natural instead. [/b][/quote]
Zita or anyone else doesn’t need to be answered for but; It is ridiculous not to recognize different and natural arm slots.
Oh wait, all pitchers must throw over the top, right?