Go with the natural slider or work on the curveball

Hi Everyone,

My 11 y.o son has experimented a little with a curveball but with fairly inconsistent results. He just can’t seem to get a good feel for it. It requires a a lot of concentration and effort.

On the other hand, he seemed to pick up the slider without any effort at all. Just a slight change in the grip and a modest amount of supintation in the wrist, and it was there. I could see the red dot and he had some pretty good movement. It just came to him very easily.

When he gets a curveball right (1 pitch out of 6), the results are pretty dramatic - a lot of movement with good bite. The movement on the slider is less dramatic and more horizontal, but he can thow it more much more consistently (5 pitches out of 6).

My question is whether, in light of the limited results, he should abandon the effort to throw a curve and just work on refining the slider that seems to come so naturally.

Thanks.

Doublebag.

My opinion is that 11 is too young to abandon the curve. Many kids are not even taught the curve until 13-14.

And, you should know that the slider is considered by many to be harder on the arm than any other pitch because it combines supination with fastball forces. In fact, many recommend waiting until 17-18 to throw the slider.

In any case, make sure that your son limits the number of breaking pitches he throws to no more than about 20-25% of his total pitch count.

I have to agree with doublebag here. The kid is much more comfortable with the slider, so he would do well to stay with it. What he should do is what Ed Lopat told me: “Throw it like a curve, but roll your wrist, don’t snap it”, and that means just turning it over rather than the full-blown karate-chop wrist action such as I used. The reason so many people have problems with the slider is that they throw it incorrectly, which he seems not to be doing. So let him work with that pitch and refine it—he might have a good solid strikeout pitch there, just as I had. 8)

Zita,

I think the issue with young pitchers throwing the slider is that they lack the functional strength to either maintain the supination angle or to pronate it (i.e. roll it over, as you say). Instead, the supinated hand/forearm angle results in additional supination. And it often takes high-speed video to verify if the kid is throwing it properly or not. Without this, it is a gamble.

Maybe so, Roger—I agree that in most cases a young pitcher would be well advised to wait until about age 16 before going after the slider; but there have been instances where a kid picks it up naturally, is comfortable with it and is indeed throwing it correctly, so I see no reason why he shouldn’t continue to use it.
It’s important that this kid not overuse that pitch, and so he should work on developing a good changeup to go with his fast ball. The fast ball-slider-change is a very good combination which a lot of major leaguers have been using with great success—for example, Yankee pitcher Vic Raschi had those three pitches and didn’t need a curve ball. C.C. Sabathia does very nicely with that combo. And there are others. :slight_smile:

Roger and Zita, thanks for the advice.

I think we’ll work with the slider some more and come back to the curveball a little later.

For now the slider is easier, which makes it more fun, which keeps his interest in pitching higher and leads to better results all around. Though he is probably better than many of his peers, he is not yet at an age where he can work for very long at something that doesn’t come to him easily.

Overall, we’ll make sure that the emphasis remains on the fastball and change-up.

Thanks again.

Doublebag

My son, having a lower arm slot, throws a “slider”, but as an off-speed pitch. Nothing different than throwing a FB except he lets the balls roll off his finger. Takes about 5-8 mph off the ball but it really dies when it gets to the plate, unlike his change-up, which isn’t a bad pitch, just doesn’t break at the plate. Been working with it over a year now and has never complained of any arm/elbow pain.

Note to somebaseballdad: Your kid is using the slider as an off-speed pitch, which is good. You might have him work on changing speeds on that pitch so he can throw it a little faster or a lot slower; at whatever speed one throws it, it’s very effective for disrupting the batter’s timing—just be sure he keeps it down in the strike zone. And if he’s throwing sidearm, you might have him work with the crossfire—that is sure to discombooberate the hitters! 8)

My 11 y.o. son worked on a slider for a while and then progressed to the curve. He has now developed a pretty reliable curve that he can throw for strikes. He uses the same basic mechanics that he uses for his fastball and it has a nice sharp 1/7 or 2/8 break. In his last game, he threw the curve three times and struck out two batters. In all, he had 11 strike outs and three walks in the game.

Looking back, maybe the best approach to teaching breaking pitches is building on what the kid has already got. I think that working on the slider (which came pretty easily) and seeing some positive results helped his confidence and gave him a feel for throwing the ball with different grips and hand positions. Once he was comfortable with this, the progression from slider to curve came pretty easily.

BTW, his primary focus is still on the fastball and change up.

Thanks again for the help.

Doublebag

if hes more comfortable with it. go with the slider. plus hes throwing it right. so no stress on wrist. the slider is a great strikeout pitch