Improving Velocity and Curve Ball

Aloha All,

I am a 34 year old right handed pitcher playing in the Maui Adult League. I’m back into pitching after a brief 16 year break.

Overall I am doing pretty well but I certainly have a lot of room for improvement. Currently I’m throwing 4 pitches:

-a fastball in the mid 60’s
-a hard curve just about as fast as a fastball
-a slow big bending curve which I use as a change up
-a knuckle ball i use very rarely

I can throw all of those for a strike and probably my best asset is that I can hit any target almost any time. My go to pitch is usually the hard curve ball as its the one I get the most K’s with and/or the most ground balls with.

The problem I am running into is that I frequently get way ahead of batters 0-2 or 1-2 and I can’t seem to finish them off. Being that I play in an older adult league, my defense behind me is sketchy to say the least. (I have a lot of unearned runs.) So, I’d like to either strike them out right away, or get them to hit weak grounders for easy outs.

I have been leaning towards working on my fastball. I’m a big guy - 6’2" and 210lbs - I feel like I should be throwing harder. But then again, there are only 2 guys in my league that throw harder and the best I’ve seen on a gun is 74 mph. My best on a gun was 65mph a month or so ago, I can probably top that now.

(Having said that, I really wonder how some of the 12 and 14 year olds come here and claim they throw in the 80s. I coach Little League, I’m going to call BS on just about every one of those posts…)

Anyways, back to the point. I guess I’m wondering what I should work on to get to the next level. I want to start finishing off more of those 0-2/1-2 batters with K’s. Does anyone have any recommendations on what I should focus on to get there?

Take care,

Brian

Aloha, Brian.
Let’s look at the first problem you’ve been facing—you get ahead of the hitters 0-2 or 1-2 and then you can’t get them out. I’ve seen a lot of that in the major leagues, believe it or not, and what I’ve observed is that the pitchers tend to get careless. They tend to lose track, and they come in there with pitches that miss the strike zone, or they come in there with a pitch down the middle or elsewhere in the batters’ comfort zone: and you know what happens. Now, evidently you don’t have a fast ball. (Neither did I; I was a confirmed snake-jazzer.) So you need to do what Ed Lopat told me many moons ago: “Move the ball around—high, low, inside, outside, change speeds, and stay away from the middle of the plate.” He told me about one essential aspect of strategic pitching: figure out what the batter is looking for, and DON"T GIVE IT TO HIM. You should spend some time studying the hitters and their proclivities—their weaknesses and their strengths. And proceed accordingly.
Also, even though you’re not an overpowering pitcher, you should go after the hitters—challenge them. Pitch to contact—make them go after your pitch, what you want them to hit. The important thing is to get the guy out, and it doesn’t matter whether you go for the strikeout or make them hit it at some infielder. I know that the defense behind you leaves something to be desired, but surely there are one or two infielders who can be counted on to make the plays.
And you’re right; a lot of those Little Leaguers who claim to be throwing in the high 80s are just talking through their rear ends!
Now, as to increasing your velocity—I’m going to let you in on what I have called “The Secret” for decades.
When I was a kid in New York I went to Yankee Stadium (the original ballpark) every chance I got, and I would sit in the stands and watch the pitchers during BP and fielding practice and in games. I noticed that the Yankees’ legendary Big Three pitching rotation—Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Ed Lopat—were all doing the same thing; they were driving off the lower half of the body, using the legs, the hips and the torso in one continuous motion so that the arm and shoulder seemed to be just going along for the ride. This was how they were generating the power behind their pitches—even Lopat, who was definitely not a fireballer—and in the process they were taking a lot of pressure off said arm and shoulder, so that they were throwing harder with less effort—and better control. I saw just how they were doing this, and I made a note of it and started working on it on my own. As I practiced this essential element of good mechanics I found that I was doing what they were doing—getting more power into my pitches, with less effort, and my pitching delivery—I was a natural sidearmer—seemed to get more snap and sizzle. There are several drills and exercises to be found on this website that will help you in this endeavor; one such is called the “Hershiser drill” or the crossover drill, which aims at getting the hips fully involved. I think that you will find that your velocity will increase considerably; you could easily get to the high 70s—not bad, eh? And that’s “The Secret”.
One more thing—you might consider adding a breaking pitch or two to your repertoire. Perhaps a knuckle-curve or a split-finger fast ball, and maybe a circle change. If you can’t overpower the hitters, you outthink them. That’s what I had to do. Good luck, and have fun. :slight_smile: 8)

Another point—about that curve ball. You say you have two varieties, a hard curve and a big looping slow curve. Tell me something—is either one of them a tempting target for batters? Do they go after it and (horrors) hit it? And what arm angle do you use? that could be a factor, and if I knew more about it I might be able to suggest something. Let me know. :slight_smile:

Aloha Zito,

Wow, thank you for all the advice. I really appreciate it!

I think you’re probably spot on. I tend to throw too much right over the plate. I really need to work more on the corners and make hitters make tougher decisions on that third strike.

I think of all my pitches hitters sit on the slow curve most. Its really slow, like probably low 50s. I think that what is happening with it is some hitters get fooled by it initially but its so slow they can recover and at least hit a grounder with it. Then with the field I have behind me half the time they can get to first just on the overthrows or bobbles.

I know there are a few guys in the league that do sit on that pitch and knowing that, I don’t throw it to them. Generally speaking that pitch is only effective as a surprise, either for a first pitch or after a few hard pitches.

As far as arm slot I am almost entirely overhand. On some occasions I will lower my arm slot a bit to get more horizontal movement on a curveball but not often. Does that help?

One thing I didn’t mention before - I really don’t overthrow. I use my body quite a bit and I’d say I’m throwing at 90% full power most of the time. I do juice up some pitches to 100% to throw off hatters, but by holding back a bit I can complete games easily which I often do. I’m usually not even sore afterwards.

In fact this weekend, we have a double header (2 @ 7 innings) and I’m likely going to pitch all of both games. (I bet I will be sore after that though!)

Do you think this is a bad thing, throwing at less than full strength?

Anyways, I’ve asked enough, thanks again for all your advice.

Take care,

Brian