I am a senior in high school, and set to be a d3 college pitcher. Right now I throw 5 pitches; 2-seam, 4-seam, curve, change up, and splitter. I’ve always wanted to learn a slider but have never been able to perfect it in a way that won’t screw up my elbow. If anyone has advice on how to do it or on throwing sliders at my age I’d appreciate it.
Seebass34, you have come to the right place!
Let me tell you about how I learned to throw the slider. First of all, let me say that this is a pitch that’s not as fast as a fastball or as sharp-breaking as a curve but which is easier to throw and control than either of the other two; a lot of pitchers who have trouble with the curve do very well with the slider. It can, however, have a sharp late break—it comes in there looking like a fast ball and then suddenly veers off and breaks either down and in or down and away, and the batters have no end of trouble with it.
I was sixteen and a senior in high school, and I was burning with curiosity about that pitch, so one day I played hooky from school and went to a Monday afternoon game at Yankee Stadium where I saw Eddie Lopat outpitch Bob Lemon 2-1. I have no idea how this happened—there may have been some ESP involved, but suddenly it hit me that Lopat was the one I would need to ask about that pitch. I caught up with him after the game; he had been signing autographs for some fans and talking to a couple of them, and as nervous as I was, I fell into step beside him as he walked past me. The only thing I could think of to say to him was "Excuse me, Mr. Lopat—could I ask you something?"
With four quiet words he had me in the palm of his hand. He said “Go ahead, I’m listening,” and it was the way he said it; it relaxed me completely. When I told him I just wanted to ask him something about the slider, he said nothing but motioned to me to follow him. He drew me to a clear space in front of the ballpark (this was the original Yankee Stadium) and spent some minutes teaching me how to throw a good one.
He started with a simple instruction: “Throw it like a curve, but roll your wrist, don’t snap it.” He showed me the off-center grip he used—index and middle fingers very close together, with the middle finger just touching one seam, and the thumb underneath for support and the other two fingers curled up beside the ball. He demonstrated the wrist action, which is definitely easier on the arm and shoulder and which suited me just fine because I threw my curve with a sharp karate-chop snap, then handed me the ball (which a groundskeeper had recovered from the field and presented to him in honor of that 20th win) and said quietly, "Go ahead—try it."
Being a natural, true, honest-to-gosh sidearmer, I found it easier to throw, and I got the hang of the pitch in about ten minutes. But I was well aware that one does not master that pitch overnight, and I worked on it for several months and used it for the first time in a relief appearance the following August. It became my strikeout pitch and served me well for more than twenty years, especially because I combined it with a beautiful and lethal move called the crossfire. I can tell you that if you throw from a lower arm slot than over-the-top you’ll have no problem learning the pitch!
I can’t think of anything better than learning that pitch from a professional, perhaps a major leaguer, who throws a good one—as Lopat did. And I shouldn’t be at all surprised if that becomes your #1 pitch, as it did with me. Go to it, and have fun. 8)
Grip the ball off center with your middle finger on the seam. Then simply throw your fastball with slight pronation at finish. Basically rolling the ball off of your fingers.
That’s the basic slider. Once you have the grip and arm action down, tweak it to locate.
[quote=“Zita Carno”]Seebass34, you have come to the right place!
Let me tell you about …Eddie Lopat… suddenly it hit me that Lopat was the one…I can’t think of anything better than learning that pitch from a professional[/quote]
We all can’t be best buds with Eddie Lopat, but a slider is a nifty pitch.
I’ve always found that 3/4 delivery and a fairly firm middle finger inside a seam on the outer edge of the ball does the trick. Just be smooth with it. Trying to snap off a slider can lead to some elbow issues.
The only caveat to a slider is that it breaks toward the fat part of the stick so be wary throwing it out over the plate when the batter is sitting fastball. The speed differential is usually not a lot off from the fastball and many sliders get air mailed to the next zip code.
Now, with that said, throwing inside with 2-0 or 1-1 counts RHP vs LHH or LHP vs RHH with a slider that chews up bat handles is very nice to have in your arsenal. The hitter is drooling for a fastball middle in and it will look like you are throwing him one until he starts to swing and the ball decides it wants to take a closer look at that bat handle.
Freezing a plate hugger RHP vs RHH or LHP vs LHH with a slider that catches the inner third of the plate just after missing off the inside edge with your previous fastball is a nice touch also. The batter is thinking you are going double in with another fastball in the exact location just taken for a ball, he gives up just as it starts to break back onto the inner third. Steeeerike Three!!
Otherwise, I prefer a nice change up or a sinker when the batter is fairly certain he’s getting fastball.
When a sixteen-year-old kid, be it male, female or two-headed green Martian, asks a veteran major-league pitcher about something like the slider, that is big-time serious. The moment I asked Eddie Lopat about that pitch, he knew instantly that I was serious, that I really wanted to know about it and was willing to work at it, and—here’s where I think some ESP was involved—he had no hesitation about teaching me how to throw a good one. The key, by the way, is—as he put it—“roll your wrist, don’t snap it”. While I was familiarizing myself with the grip and all, he watched me and made some mental notes, not the least being that I was an honest-to-gosh sidearmer who could throw hard, who used a slide-step all the time, and who had fallen in love with the crossfire. The upshot of it all was that he became my pitching coach, and we worked together for almost four years—and what I learned from him was nothing short of priceless. He helped me become a better pitcher than I had been before, and for that I will remember him forever. 8)
Chances have it you already have too many pitches, and your slider isn’t necessary. I’d be curious to know how many of your five current pitches are quality pitches atleast 7 out of 10 times. And a quality pitch isn’t necessarily just a strike at the next level. Can you hit a spot glove or lower with the pitch, and can you expand the strike zone with the pitch. More than likely, more time should be spent on these areas before you add another pitch to water down your bullpen sessions.
In your reply to the last post (not mine), you said that this fellow might already have too many pitches. That may not be the case. If he’s having trouble with his curve ball and can’t do anything with it—a common enough occurrence—the slider may just be the solution. It’s easier to throw and to control than a curveball, and if he can and does get it in there for strikes he will do very well with it. By the way, welcome back—I haven’t seen you on these boards in quite a while!
Hi Zita! Great to hear from you, and hope all is well!
I agree in certain instances a slider may be easier to throw than a curveball. I’m not sure however the original poster confirmed that his curveball was giving him trouble??? But I do know that he mentioned he throws around 60. A slider is a higher level pitch that requires hand speed and tight rotation to get sharp and tight break of 4 to 5 inches. I doubt that 60 mph is enough hand speed to create a slider with good depth. I believe this poster would benefit from developing more hand speed for better velocity rather than working a sixth pitch. He’d actually benefit from dropping the split also from his arsenal. I guess we agree to disagree!