Curve/sliders in Little League


#1

My son is 11 years old, left-handed, 3/4 arm motion that baffles some kids, and has been given plenty of opportunities to pitch this year, and it is exciting to see him excited.

Overall, he has worked hard on his mechanics, and throws with a great deal of accuracy. He is not the fastest pitcher in his division, but he is certainly one of the most accurate. He plays in the AAA division, and gets a lot of strikes, fly balls, and ground outs.

Next year, he’ll be moving to the Majors division and by the looks of it he’ll need to add more to his pitching arsenal to remain effective.

I can definitely work with him on his speed and strength. Perhaps faster, accurate pitching would be sufficient for his first year.

But I am wondering if he need to add a different pitch. For the last three years, all I worked with him was one pitch: a four seam fast-ball, and his mechanics. He throws nothing else.

My rationale is that if he got the mechanics right early on, then the other things like pitch variations can be added later when he mentally and physically more mature. So far, it seems like a good decision.

I also hear a lot of coaches and parents in the Majors talk about their son(s) throwing curve balls or sliders. I want to find out if it is even possible to get a ball to curve (or move in the air) over a distance of 46 feet.

Is this really possible, and does it make sense to introduce my son (who’ll be twelve next) to start work this off-season on a slider/curve?


#2

Absolutely.

I think it was.

If he doesn’t learn it correctly from someone…he may learn it wrong from someone else. Teaching him doesn’t mean he’s throwing it too many times per game. I believe in what I call the “theory of reasonability”. My sons both learned it early and had great arm health because they A) learned proper throwing fundementals first (Looks like you have worked hard on that) B) Threw the pitch properly and with controlled (Not not fanatical control…just being reasonable about it) frequency.
The American Sports Medicine Institute completed a study in which they found the curve to be not injurious.
I believe the NPA sides towards a reasonable approach to it (No more than 20% I believe)…Roger has that info.
They are going to throw it from this point forward in your sons baseball life. It isn’t essential that he learn a breaking ball until high school out of necessity but most pitchers will learn and use some form of breaking pitch before then. Obviouly they use it to an almost cartoonish level in the LL world series so high level kids in the age group at the distance do use the pitch with regularity.


#3

Yes, the NPA says throw the curve correctly and limit the number thrown and you should be ok. But understand that it is very difficult to determine if a kid is throwing the kid the curve correctly without the use of high-speed video. Without high-speed video, it’s a bit of a gamble. You can’t go by what the kid says he’s doing because he will honestly think he’s doing it correctly even if he may not be.

But my opinion would be to have your kid start learning a change-up. The change-up is usually more difficult to learn than the curve and I think kids who start working on the change-up at a younger age will develop a better change-up in the long run.


#4

I’m with you, jd.
There was an interesting article in a recent Sporting News in which St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright talked about learning the curve ball when he was in Little League. His older brother taught him the pitch, and he took to it with no trouble and has been successful with it for years now. Adam says that if you learn to throw the pitch correctly—and, in fact, that goes for just about any pitch—you will never have any trouble or arm problems.
Of course the kid needs a changeup. Babe Ruth, who knew a thing or two about pitching, once said that a good change will cause batters more grief than just about anything else, and there really is no minimum age at which to start learning one of those. I personally recommend the palm ball, which was a favorite of mine—it was the first changeup I acquired; it’s not difficult to pick up, and because you throw it with the same motion as a fast ball it can be a very deceptive delivery. And when it gets to the point when a kid moves from 46 feet to the regulation distance of 60’6" he’s going to need an extra pitch or two.
And when he has the fast ball and changeup well in hand he can start thinking about working on a curve ball, and thus he will have the basic triumvirate of pitches.
In addition, let him continue to work on good mechanics, on control and all the rest of it. :slight_smile: 8)


#5

Does your son have natural movement on the ball? It seems that most lefties do. Maybe a two-seem would also be a good pitch to add, and of course work on accuracy and velocity.

My son is almost in the same boat, but a year behind. He is a lefty, 3/4 thrower who has good velocity and movement when he is on his game. One of his issues is that he is small. I have often wondered if it is possible for him to throw a change up because his hand is too small to get the ball off his palm. More correctly, maybe he hasnt really been able to throw a true fast ball because the ball is touching his palm due to short fingers. What do you think?

Aaron


#6

Guess what! He IS throwing a changeup—a palm ball. What you’re describing is a standard grip for that pitch.
You say he seems unable to throw a fast ball because he has a small hand. I’ve known a few major league pitchers who were in the same situation, and they did all right with a few breaking pitches that did not require an orangutan-sized paw. They were finesse pitchers who relied on control, command, deception and just plain savvy—they couldn’t overpower the batters with sheer speed, so they outsmarted them and out-thought them. One such, believe it or not, was Yankee pitching ace Ed Lopat, who didn’t have a large hand. He had everything else, and what I learned from him—he was my pitching coach for almost four years—was priceless.
Your son could start experimenting with a couple of pitches that don’t require a big hand. For example, there’s a variation of the circle change in which instead of trying to form the complete circle he could use a backwards “c”—a half-circle—with that thumb and forefinger, and he could use more wrist action, which might give him a bit more speed on that pitch. I used to do that, and I also had my middle and ring fingers closer together, the way I had the index and middle finger for the slider. And he shouldn’t worry about how fast he is or isn’t throwing—he should, instead, concentrate on control and on general good mechanics. And if he can learn to get his whole body into the action—drive off the lower half, using the legs, the hips and the torso in one continuous motion as best he can, he could generate more power—and perhaps more speed—in his pitches. It’s worth a try, isn’t it? :slight_smile:


#7

Thanks folks, that was some informative advice. Looks like a change-up is the best second pitch to work on for now.

Just FYI, currently he throws about 48-50 mph, and the ball usually drifts in to a right-handed batter.


#8

If your son is a lefty and his pitches drift in to right handed batters, then he may be supinating (i.e. getting his hand outside the ball) and that is hard on the elbow. Don’t want to be doing that.


#9

My left son has the “Don’t mess with me, I am a lefty” attitude. For the past several years I had tried to get him to throw “over the top” but his arm comes down 3/4 or even lower when he is fielding. Is this a bad thing? I am a righty so hard to coach him…

Aaron


#10

When I hear things like this, I immediately ask the parent/coach why? It could be upsetting but it is usually more like “I don’t feel he looks like he’s throwing it right”. Unfortunately the cue “over-the-top” at a very young age more often than not, translates to just plain old bad posture in his throwing…generally looking like his body (For a lefty) took a sharp right turn (Some kids end up looking like contortionists), in a failed attempt to attain the image a kid will have of "over-the-top (Like the ball is coming from his arm extended straight up as in he’s raised his hand at school). Changing a natural arm slot is bad business, unless there is a distict purpose (Injury, pain things like that).
Now getting him to a more fundemental base of operations…thats the goal and focus you should have…and if he ends up with a lower arm slot…cool…he’ll join the ranks of some fine pitchers…including Walter Johnson, Randy Johnson and Pedro.
If my hypothisis is correct then my suggestion to you would be to get him to some camps/clinics put on by your local colleges/universities or even high schools. The throwing motion, when taught in a fundemental way at a young age does absolute wonders for a kid, his confidence and overall arm health, I cannot recommend it more…even above personal instruction at this point.
My sons both attended clinics early and often and I never had to deal with arm injury, “bad habits”…intimidation (When you are instructed by D-1 coaches and players and pro’s it is hard for little Timmy up the street to be overly impressive :wink: ).


#11

JD,

Are you saying that I should not attempt to correct his throw to a more “over the top” or even 3/4. It seems when he is pitching his arm seems fine, but infielding it drops significantly. He has a lot of juice on the ball with a really different rotation, like a 3/4 rotation. I never was a ball player so I am learning as I go here. I would LOVE to get him in some clinics and am currently researching where to go here on Staten Island (beleive it or not it seem like there is not much to offer that is close by here.)

I only want to do what is right for the boy so I do appreciate any and all advice. (I will try to get some video uploaded in the near future.)

Thanks!

Aaron


#12

Well what would you be correcting is my question?
An arm slot is “generally” where the kids body throws the ball most comfortably, in essence what you are asking is should you move his arm slot where it doesn’t naturally go. Like I said the most important thing is to deliver the baseball in the most fundementally efficient way the kid can. Things like; hand behind the ball, getting to the “power position” with proper timing and in, as the NPA describes it, “equal and opposite”, keeping good posture, developing good momentum which consequently leads to a proper “kinetic” chain where power is developed from the ground and expressed/released at the finger tips, this is the pathway to great arm health and success off the mound.
Try the CCNY network, they seem to have some decent programs (My son pitched against West Chester…shut em out but hey :lol: …my kid is good 8) ). I’m certain they offer clinics to pay for those opportunities to come to Fla and get whooped. :wink:


#13

CCNY…OK I will check that out. He has played only REC ball so far but think that with the right coaching (obviously not me) that he could excell as a ball player. Your description of proper kinetic chain is way over my head which is why I decided to utilize this board. Thanks again!

Aaron


#14

[quote=“isaacsdad2001”]My left son has the “Don’t mess with me, I am a lefty” attitude. For the past several years I had tried to get him to throw “over the top” but his arm comes down 3/4 or even lower when he is fielding. Is this a bad thing? I am a righty so hard to coach him…

Aaron[/quote]

I’m not sure if the above was in response to my comments about your son supinating but, if it was, the fix is not to throw over the top. There is no change in arm slot necessary. In fact, as JD pointed out, you don’t want to change is arm slot. What’s needed is to simply keep the hand behind the ball


#15

Congratulations on all the hard work you are doing with your son. It certainly sounds like he is blessed with a dad who will take him down the right path.

I noticed there was a limited response to one of your questions. You asked if a ball could really move in the limited distance of 46 feet. The answer is unquestionably, YES.

My son is also 11 and started throwing a curve last year. Incidentally, his opinion is that this pitch produces less stress on his arm and elbow than does a fastball. He throws it with a karate chop type of motion and produces a fast counter rotation when the ball leaves his fingers. There is no snapping or twisting of the wrist at all.

I doubted that a ball could curve, or move in that distance also. But I can reliably tell you that it can and will break. His ball has a sharp movement of about 8 inches just before the plate.

In the same vein I wondered if a 2 seam fast ball would be able to tail in in that distance. This is a higher velocity pitch so I think that the shorter distance is a challenge for movement, although there is not nearly as much expected movement as with the curveball. He does have difficulty getting this pitch to move sometimes, and when it does it moves about three inches in and about 2 inches down. The pitch will not move for him unless he tries to increase his rate of spin and “brush” the inside of the ball when he releases. I can report though that there is another pitcher on his team that only throws a two seam fast ball and that he is just about a mile or two per hour lower in velocity and that his ball moves consistently to his arm side by about 4 inches to the side and about 3 inches down in the 46 foot distance. Both pitchers are right handers.

I think part of the key to maintaining the movement on my son’s curveball is to not over throw it. His fast ball is pretty consistenly between 62 and 58 but his curveball is always (when things are going right) at 48 or 49. If he is putting it across at even 2 or 3 miles per hour faster it does not experience the sharp late break and will act more like a slider or perhaps even just hang.


#16

Definitely agree. There’s a smaller 10 YO in our league that has a devastating curve. He doesn’t throw hard, but he has wonderful control with his fastball and then plops his curve the drops out of the strike zone. The curve sets up the fastball, and location can freeze the hitter.


#17

So much good advice here. I have written about my son before…he is now a VERY young 11 and is playing Majors this year as a full-time player although he hasn’t pitched a lot this season.

Without going back and quoting the questions, yes, as an umpire I have seen some absolutely wicked 46’ curves. Sometimes the first one turns me sideways when I’m behind the plate!

As for the arm slot, that has been a big issue with my son until this season. He was trying to go too much over the top, literally causing his head to turn sideways getting out of the way of his arm. Guess how many strikes he threw that way? The big thing to get through to a young pitcher is that it’s not just his arm he throws with, it’s his body, and the best way I have found to educate my son and other pitchers is demonstrate that shoulder rotation is what is important, and that can best be done with a “natural” arm slot.

Finally, I’m a lefty but usually coach righties, including my son. What i have found is that it’s not so hard because when you teach you can “mirror image” someone of the opposite hand. Bottom line is that I am jealous of all the good young lefy pitchers out there!


#18

Many moons ago I had a pitching coach—an absolutely incredible lefthander named Ed Lopat, who was one of the Yankees’ legendary Big Three rotation—who firmly believed that one should never, never mess with a pitcher’s natural motion, whatever it is. I was a natural, true sidearmer, and he worked with me and showed me how to make the most of it. I had picked up the crossfire on my own, and he helped me refine it, and he also taught me a number of breaking pitches and things he felt I needed to know. He knew I didn’t have a fast ball to speak of, so he worked with me on various aspects of strategic pitching.
What came attached to my sidearm delivery was a nice little curve ball, which I threw with a karate-chop wrist snap, and I had a lot of success with it, and when later on I acquired a knuckle-curve he helped me refine it. I ended up with a very good arsenal of “snake jazz”, including a slider which I nicknamed Filthy McNasty after a character in an old W.C. Fields movie because that was exactly what it was, and along with all the stuff I had he gave me some valuable advice on sharpening up my control, moving the ball around, and throwing strikes.
I would say that your best bet is to leave the kid’s arm slot alone and concentrate on good mechanics and posture and all those fundamentals that all pitchers should know. Every pitcher has a natural motion, and as Mr. Lopat—whom I will always remember for how he helped me—said, you work with that natural motion and show the kid how to take full advantage of it. :slight_smile: 8) :baseballpitcher:


#19

if you learn to throw the pitch the right way it wont hurt ur arm. and also you shouldnt it as your main pitch. just once in a while. plus when your older youll already know. i know how to throw a slider. but i cant. cuz i dont pitch fast enough yet. im only 13