Son is "twisting" the ball


#1

…like he’s turning a doorknob. I think. He’s 10, left-handed. Throws 2 seam and 4 seam fastballs. 4 seam is 50-ish MPH (topped out at 48 last fall and it’s noticeably faster now).

Watching the spin on the ball as it’s coming to me, it’s twisting/corkscrew spin, not backspin. It looks like he’s twisting his hand counter-clockwise as he’s releasing the ball. I don’t think it’s intentional, just a habit he can’t break.

I’m concerned that he’s going to hurt his arm unless he can break the habit. Telling him to keep his fingers on top of the ball isn’t working. Easier said than done.

Any suggestions or drills?


#2

Does he throw that way when he isn’t pitching? What is his arm angle? If he throws 3/4 to side arm it will be harder for him to stay on top. If he throws over the top to 3/4 you are right he may hurt his arm by continually twisting his hand.

My son had a similar problem. He throws over the top with his right arm at 90 degrees and elbow at shoulder height. The issue with him was his balls ended up outside to a RH hitter (he is a righty) so he recognized there was an issue due to control problems. One way he broke it was to long toss down the foul line and if the ball bounces straight he is on top/behind the ball. If it bounces off to the side he is getting on the side of the ball. The other thing was ensuring he stayed on line by pitching on a 2x6 board and along a screen to prevent his arm from getting too far away from his body. Hope this helps.


#3

“Staying behind the ball” would probably be a better cue that “staying on top of the ball” since “top” is usually interpretted relative to flat ground.

A common drill or technique for practicing keeping the hand behind the ball is to draw a black stripe around the middle of a ball (or put some black electrical around the ball or color one entire half of the ball black) and throw the ball while keeping the stripe from “wobbling”.


#4

“Turning the doorknob” to get breaking balls to spin is a pretty common problem among young pitchers who haven’t learned how to throw a high quality breaking pitch.

You are correct to be concerned about this–after release of every type of pitch the throwing hand, wrist, and forearm all pronate (for a lefty, from his own perspective, that means his hand/wrist/forearm must rapidly turn clockwise after his release). But, lefty pitchers who mistakenly think that “turning the doorknob” is the way to throw a breaking ball are attempting to powerfully turn their hand/wrist/forearm counterclockwise at the release point–at the peak of their velocity. It’s that rapid and forceful change from supination (turning the doorknob) to pronation that is the biggest problem here. The second problem is: “Turning the doorknob” leads to a poor-quality breaking pitch compared to what your pitcher can do with better technique.

To throw a quality breaking pitch, your son should preset his hand/wrist/forearm just as though he were getting ready to throw a “karate chop”. Most curveball grips have the ball held firmly–you can find pictures of typical curveball grips anywhere-- and at the release point the pitcher’s hand/wrist/forearm make a karate chop right at the target. The ball should come out of his hand over his fingers with topspin if he gets a curve out of his release…if his fingers are a little more behind and to the side of the ball he may get a slider. Either one is a fine breaking pitch and done correctly should not be any more stressful than throwing the fastball. Actually, proper breaking pitches are probably a little less stressful than the FB.

There is no “twist the wrist” or “turn the doorknob” in a quality breaking pitch.


#5

This goes for lefthander, righthander or standing on one’s head :lol: .
When I was eleven years old I discovered that I had a natural sidearm delivery, and the funny thing was what came attached to it—a nice little curve ball. I figured, well, I’ve got a curve ball, let me see what I can do with it. I quickly found out that the easiest way to throw a good curve was with a sharp karate-chop wrist snap. I used that karate chop with my knuckle-curve and a few other breaking pitches—one thing I did have to work on was easing up on it when I threw the slider, just turning it over rather like a chef flipping a pancake or a crepe—but I had great success with that wrist action, no problems.
That kid is going to have to get out of that habit of “turning the doorknob” if he doesn’t want to end up with a sore arm or worse. 8)


#6

One thing to keep in mind is that kid is 10 yrs old. He should NOT be throwing breaking balls. He should be focusing on commanding his fastball and once that occurs should move to a changeup of some kind.


#7

He’s definitely not trying to throw a breaking ball. It’s just how he throws, pitching or in the field. He’s worked really hard on his mechanics the last few years, and the twisting is one thing we haven’t been able to correct.

In addition to the potential arm problems, I’m wondering if it is affecting his control, too. He tends to miss (to a RH batter) high/outside or low/inside.

Approximately 3/4. Definitely not over the top, not sidearm, pretty much right in between.

[quote]“Staying behind the ball” would probably be a better cue that “staying on top of the ball” since “top” is usually interpretted relative to flat ground.

A common drill or technique for practicing keeping the hand behind the ball is to draw a black stripe around the middle of a ball (or put some black electrical around the ball or color one entire half of the ball black) and throw the ball while keeping the stripe from “wobbling”.[/quote]

I wil try both of these suggestions.

Thanks.


#8

I would think that as long as he is snapping his fingers down behind the ball then it definately is a fastball action, more than likely he is not straight over the top, maybe 3/4 or less on the arm angle. If that is his natural delivery then I wouldn’t make a big change to his arm swing. You also get a little bit of turn to the ball naturally from having the ball facing 1st after the break and then turning to face home at release. A good way to really see this is to color 1/2 of a baseball black, have him hold the split of the colors between the fingers of a 2 or 4 seam fastball and see if the black stays on one side.


#9

I was wondering if he might be rotating as you describe, but just over-rotating. Unfortunately, I don’t have the benefit of a high speed video camera. :lol:

I just finished using a black Sharpie to do this. I found out that a 14.5 oz. can of College Inn chicken broth is the perfect size to bisect a baseball. :lol:


#10

The stripe ball trick will help…

Try this also…throwing arm elbow in front of body with lower arm below elbow at 90 degree angle in relation to the upper arm…elbow no higher then the shoulder…kind of like shooting a basketball if you are following this set up…

Throwing elbow in glove, feet about shoulder width apart toes and chest straight ahead to partner about ten feet apart.

Flick balls to partner kind of like shooting a basketball keeping the elbow no higher or lower then the shoulder (90 degree angle).

Using as much wrist as possible with as little arm action as possible to simply flick/shoot the ball to the partner…keeping the elbow in the glove while doing this…

…the striped ball will be good for this drill too.

Have him concentrate on wrist snap, palm down on release and feeling the ball leave his finger tips (middle and index mainly).

Hopefully this makes sense and if it does it is a good drill to work on wrist snap that is not pronating in order to work on getting true backwards spin of the ball.

Now with this being said…he is young so it is hard to determine from guessing but I am a firm believer in arm slots are what they are 99% of the time consequently wrist action is as well 99% of the time. The bottom line is some of us are born with a natural pronation of the release just like we are all born with varying arm slots.


#11

you don’t need a high speed camera if you use the tip that I gave you with the 1/2 colored ball, the visual on it really makes it easy to see. Maybe get some video up and we can have a look to see what we think too.


#12

I always assumed that my soon to be 10 yo was spinning the ball due his wrist or his grip (thumb not underneath). I have stopped his early hip rotation and am working on a late hand break. My thoughts on my son spinning the ball are mainly now focused on shoulder over rotation with the hands out too early, thus throwing across the body.


#13

NCCY brings up a good point.

Check the grip to make sure thumb and middle finger cut the ball in half. The NPA claims that when the thumb moves up the side of the ball towards the index finger, that creates a tendancy to supinate into release point. Keeping the thumb opposite the midddle finger helps avoid that.


#14

[quote=“Roger”]NCCY brings up a good point.

Check the grip to make sure thumb and middle finger cut the ball in half. The NPA claims that when the thumb moves up the side of the ball towards the index finger, that creates a tendancy to supinate into release point. Keeping the thumb opposite the midddle finger helps avoid that.[/quote]
Roger, does this advice apply also to young kids (8-9), who have smaller hands and like to have the thumb up the side of the ball toward the index finger? In other words, is there an age where the thumb-under-the-ball standard is not feasible? Thanks.


#15

[quote=“Roger”]NCCY brings up a good point.

Check the grip to make sure thumb and middle finger cut the ball in half. The NPA claims that when the thumb moves up the side of the ball towards the index finger, that creates a tendancy to supinate into release point. Keeping the thumb opposite the midddle finger helps avoid that.[/quote]

Just so I’m clear on what you’re saying, middle finger and thumb don’t have to be at 12 and 6, correct? They can be at 11 and 5 or 10 and 4, as long as they are bisecting the ball?


#16

Yes. Some young kids’s hands aren’t big enough to have thumb and middle finger cut the ball in half so they gotta do what they gotta do. I wouldn’t tie it to specific age, though, since kids come in all sizes.


#17

Correct. And which of those is most appropriate would be dictated largely by arm slot/angle.


#18

Roger,

Thanks for clarifying that “cutting the ball in half” need not be 12-6 but can be (for a lefty) 11-5 or even 10-4.

That makes sense, especially for youth pitchers, who have small hands.


#19

In hindsight, I guess the 12-6, 11-5, etc. really has nothing to do with grip on the ball. When the ball is thrown, thumb and middle finger may look like they’re at certain clock hand positions but that has nothing to do with the grip on the ball - it has to do with the arm slot. This assumes the hand is inline with the forearm (which it should be).


#20

I’ll try to paint with words what I see my 9 year old lefty doing; it’s what he does naturally, and what he likes.

I have him stand in front of me, grip a four seam fastball, and show it to me. He extends his left arm straight out at me. From my perspective, with the ball facing me, what I see is the index finger and middle finger on top of the ball and the ring finger and thumb under the ball; the index is @ my 11:00; the middle is @ my 1:00; the ring is @ my 5:00, and the thumb is @ my 7:00.

The middle and thumb certainly appear to bisect the ball.

Thoughts?