The hanging curveball


#1

for me as a pitcher somedays i just find my curveball and slider don’t move and all, and are easy, soft batting practice pitches right down the middle of the plate. Its true the breaking movement would get easily affected by fatigue, but on two perfectly similiar days (energy, weather, etc etc) there was one day my curve was devastating and felt like godly material, while the other day it looked like i was throwing meatballs everytime i got ahead of the count (slider gave up a solo home run to the other team). Is there a special reason for the hanging curveball? Is it just a series of random mistakes, or something that can be blamed on pitching mentality & confidence?
thanks!


#2

This is something that happens to almost every pitcher sometimes. In the 1999 World Series, the first time Greg Maddux started against the Yankees he was well-nigh unhittable; he shut them out. In his second start against them, he was most un-Madduxlike; the Yankees clobbered him to bits and drove him out of the game early on because his stuff was not working. There are many other instances—again, the World Series, this time in 1996. In the fourth game, with the Braves leading the Yankees 6-3, Mark Wohlers came in to pitch the eighth inning—and with the count 2-and-2 he hung a slider to Jim Leyritz who promptly blasted one over the left field wall to tie the game. In this case Wohlers, having become convinced that he couldn’t get the batter out with either his best fast ball or his second-best pitch (the curve), went to his third-best (the slider), and Leyritz made him pay.
You say that this happens once in a while. I believe that may be due to a slip-up in your mechanics that you might not have been aware of at the time, such as throwing high. You might want to do something like watch a video of yourself at those times, or have your catcher set up behind the plate while you pitch to him; the latter is preferable because he can give you valuable feedback as to what you may have been doing wrong. This can be corrected in a bullpen session—after all, isn’t that what bullpens are for? What I used to do, in my playing days many moons ago, was warm up before a game I was to start, throwing all my pitches to see how they were working, and if I saw that one of them was misbehaving—like a curve that wouldn’t break no matter what I did—I would just put it back on the shelf for the day and go to my other stuff which I knew was working the way I wanted. There really is no sense worrying and losing sleep over a pitch or two that won’t do what you want on a particular day; you can address that problem in a bullpen session a day or two later.
I had a terrific pitching coach whose basic philosophy was “Get the ball over the plate and make them hit it. Make them go after your pitch, what you want them to hit.” He told me, “Figure out what the batter is looking for, and don’t give it to him.” He also advocated pitching bass-ackwards—whereas most pitchers will start off with a fast ball, do the opposite: a good changeup, which as Babe Ruth once said will cause the batters more grief than anything else. You start off with a couple of good offspeed pitches, then come in there with a fast ball and watch them go “WTF” as they either take it for a called third strike or swing and miss it.
I don’t know what your repertoire is, but you might consider something like the splitter, or split-finger pitch; you grip that one with the index and middle fingers like a two-seam fast ball but just off the seams, maybe a bit wider, but not as extreme as its cousin the forkball, and you throw it just like a fast ball. The beauty of that pitch is that it dives like a knuckle-curve, and the batters have no end of trouble with it. Same thing for a knuckle-curve, by the way—I used to throw one, and it was my second-best pitch; it comes in there looking for all the world like a fast ball and then suddenly dips and drops like a glass hitting the floor. You might also try that one—it’s a nice pitch, and it will often work where the regular curve ball doesn’t.
Above all, relax. Don’t sweat it. The time to worry is if this happens all the time—and in your case it doesn’t.


#3

IMO the curveball is very “release point” dependant. They tend to behave better the further out front they are released- “past the glove” as we call it. As the release point moves back and up, they tend to flatten out. This can be caused by fatigue, a shorter stride, poor posture- particularly lateral trunk tilt in an effort to “help” the movement, pulling the glove, etc.

Focus on establishing and maintaining good posture with good glove side management and you should see a more consistent curveball. Another thought to add to this is “finish the pitch”. It can be easy to get lazy with a curveball since it is a slower pitch. Make sure you give it full effort through the entire pitch.


#4

[quote=“Zita Carno”]This is something that happens to almost every pitcher sometimes. In the 1999 World Series, the first time Greg Maddux started against the Yankees he was well-nigh unhittable; he shut them out. In his second start against them, he was most un-Madduxlike; the Yankees clobbered him to bits and drove him out of the game early on because his stuff was not working. There are many other instances—again, the World Series, this time in 1996. In the fourth game, with the Braves leading the Yankees 6-3, Mark Wohlers came in to pitch the eighth inning—and with the count 2-and-2 he hung a slider to Jim Leyritz who promptly blasted one over the left field wall to tie the game. In this case Wohlers, having become convinced that he couldn’t get the batter out with either his best fast ball or his second-best pitch (the curve), went to his third-best (the slider), and Leyritz made him pay.
You say that this happens once in a while. I believe that may be due to a slip-up in your mechanics that you might not have been aware of at the time, such as throwing high. You might want to do something like watch a video of yourself at those times, or have your catcher set up behind the plate while you pitch to him; the latter is preferable because he can give you valuable feedback as to what you may have been doing wrong. This can be corrected in a bullpen session—after all, isn’t that what bullpens are for? What I used to do, in my playing days many moons ago, was warm up before a game I was to start, throwing all my pitches to see how they were working, and if I saw that one of them was misbehaving—like a curve that wouldn’t break no matter what I did—I would just put it back on the shelf for the day and go to my other stuff which I knew was working the way I wanted. There really is no sense worrying and losing sleep over a pitch or two that won’t do what you want on a particular day; you can address that problem in a bullpen session a day or two later.
I had a terrific pitching coach whose basic philosophy was “Get the ball over the plate and make them hit it. Make them go after your pitch, what you want them to hit.” He told me, “Figure out what the batter is looking for, and don’t give it to him.” He also advocated pitching bass-ackwards—whereas most pitchers will start off with a fast ball, do the opposite: a good changeup, which as Babe Ruth once said will cause the batters more grief than anything else. You start off with a couple of good offspeed pitches, then come in there with a fast ball and watch them go “WTF” as they either take it for a called third strike or swing and miss it.
I don’t know what your repertoire is, but you might consider something like the splitter, or split-finger pitch; you grip that one with the index and middle fingers like a two-seam fast ball but just off the seams, maybe a bit wider, but not as extreme as its cousin the forkball, and you throw it just like a fast ball. The beauty of that pitch is that it dives like a knuckle-curve, and the batters have no end of trouble with it. Same thing for a knuckle-curve, by the way—I used to throw one, and it was my second-best pitch; it comes in there looking for all the world like a fast ball and then suddenly dips and drops like a glass hitting the floor. You might also try that one—it’s a nice pitch, and it will often work where the regular curve ball doesn’t.
Above all, relax. Don’t sweat it. The time to worry is if this happens all the time—and in your case it doesn’t.[/quote]
…long quote. yeah i used to use the knucklecurve alot as well but i honestly couldn’t see the difference when it broke the exact way my curveball did, so i decided to discard it since it was not a really comfortable grip to get used to. The splitter is something i’m working on right now, but like all new pitches its not having alot, or even any, movement. Do you have any tips on how to increase the break maybe?
thanks alot by the way, your post was really encouraging :smiley:


#5

You can try throwing the splitter with different wrist actions, even with a different arm angle. I was a natural sidearmer with not much speed and so I had to go to the breaking stuff early on, and I threw my curve—and variations of it—with a sharp karate-chop wrist snap, and that baby had a nice break to it. I also used the crossfire a lot—that’s a move that works only with the sidearm delivery—and just delivering the pitch from that angle, by way of third base, used to give batters no end of conniption fits! In addition, my pitching coach told me that just about any pitch can be turned into a nice changeup, and he demonstrated a few such for me; I picked up on them and made good use of them. The idea is to either tighten up or loosen up on the grip (but don’t grip the ball too tightly, because you don’t want to squeeze the juice out of the ball!), or hold the ball further back or further forward in the palm of your hand. The idea of releasing the ball sooner is a good one, by the way. And here’s a twist—you throw the slider, right? Now, if you were to use a knuckleball grip, either two-finger or three-finger, and move your fingers closer together and more off-center, you have a “slip pitch”—I learned this one from my pitching coach, and that one was absolutely devastating. So go ahead, experiment, and fine-tune your mechanics, and you’ll turn out all right. :slight_smile: