In both Little League and Cal Ripken I am seeing and hearing a lot of coaches/parents advocating 12 year olds throwing curve balls. Is there a relative age associated with throwing breaking balls? I am of the “old school” belief that control, i.e. fastball change-up are paramount in pitching and that breaking balls should not be approached until High School. Thoughts?
Kids can have a lot of success with average curveballs at that age because hitters struggle with them.
Fastball/change is the foundation for sure.
Curveballs are not dangerous, or more dangerous, than any other off speed pitch if they are thrown correctly. Problem is, most kids are not taught or don’t take the time to throw them correctly.
Most kids also don’t the time/reps to throw a good change up. The curve becomes an easy default “out” pitch vs. bad/young hitters.
All the kids I know who have had serious arm injuries all had one thing in common: they started throwing curve balls early, in Little League. One of them started throwing curves at 10 and went from being a mediocre pitcher to a dominant and virtually unhittable pitcher. At 12 he won our Little League Championship. That’s the allure of the curve to kids that age. It instantly makes them studs on the mound. Oh, I almost forgot … that kid had Tommy John surgery at 13. He’s now 15 and I hear not fully recovered. But, hey, he’s got that Little League trophy on his shelf.
No doubt others here will claim that curves “thrown right” by kids (LOL) are harmless. I’ve seen too much to buy into that. In fact that kid who had TJ at 13 regularly took lessons from a locally popular pitching coach who advocated curves “thrown right” for kids. Riiiiight.
A curveball can be deadly if the kids can’t hit it, but you don’t want the kid reliant on a pitch that 12 year olds can’t hit well because it curves. I agree working on the fastball changeup combo is the most important thing.
I learned the hard way that if you don’t have a good changeup you will be relegated to the bullpen, that’s not good unless you are one of the top relievers, i.e, setup or closer. (Luckily the slider FB combo works pretty well out of the pen)
It’s a good idea to try and learn the curve just not at the cost of the fastball changeup.
Agree with you and others, stick with FB/Change combination at 12 years old. I’m not of the belief a curve thrown correctly will cause injury. At 12 developing “intent” to throw hard is more beneficial to development than reliance on a breaking pitch. The change up is a feel pitch and IMO more difficult to develop than a curve; little incentive to learn if they have an out pitch already.
Very true. I still see many kids that I play with “hook” their curveballs, despite there being an abundance of replays from MLB pitchers and sources saying to throw it “from the side” (that’s the best way I can describe it) so the arm can pronate.
Great advice. Fastball and change up. Curve is easier to learn.
Change up is the equalizer and more effective than curve because can be thrown to oppo side hitters.
I’ll just back up what mostly everyone is saying: fastball and change up. work on and try to master those two, then adding in a curveball later on will be much easier when you have a solid change to fall back on.
FB and CU for sure. But that’s not to say a solid 12U pitcher shouldn’t be allowed to work on a CB. My son throws a handful of CB’s per game. He is very good at getting them down in the zone so they end up at the shoes and are very effective when thrown that way. Kids really need to know that a properly thrown CB’s movement will have a strong vertical component. Most kids at that age throw a slurve and think that’s how it should move.
Very true. I find on my high schoool team, some kids will say they’re throwing a curve and I see the ball spinning on the side even.
With first time pitchers, the curve ends up looking more natural to the hitter and he’s actually more deceived by the change of speed than the break. A well thrown change up is harder to develop.
That is what I meant by saying most kids don’t dedicate enough time and reps to develop the change up.
Alot of local pitching coaches dont know crap about mechanics as well so…
I recently watched a 9 year old throw 75% breaking balls in a game—my stomach turned the entire time. I was told by some “competitive coaches” that in order to be competitive, 10 - 12 year olds MUST throw breaking balls. I work with my son on pre-delivery mechanics and ultimately control but would not be broken hearted if he never pitched again.
Playing baseball when your son is older is more important than his stats at age 10. Develop the changeup early. It pays off later on the full size field. It’s about the long game, not stats and wins when they’re young.
When my lefty son was 12 he threw nothing but four-seam and change in Little League All Stars (very competitive here in the south). Through Districts and Sectionals that summer, he had an ERA of exactly 0.00. Funny, he was the only pitcher I saw that summer that did NOT throw a curve.
My 11 year old throws only 2 and 4 seam… Looking to develop a change… Which change is the best for a young kid to throw? He throws hard enough now that he just over powers 12U hitters, but I know he needs a change as he starts to get ready to move to the bigger diamond.
I would have him throw the circle change, modified for smaller hands as a “C change”, with the thumb and index finger forming a “C” (lefty) or “backward C” (righty). Gotta throw it in warm ups and in long toss, and not just from the mound, before he will be comfortable with it.
Making the Circle won’t be a problem… I’m raising a little giant;-) I’d been told by someone that the circle change can be hard on a young arm, but when I look at how it’s thrown, I can’t figure out how it could be if thrown properly. Plan on picking up a radar gun in the spring and starting on working on the change up… His 4 seam peaks at about 70, 2 seam 67, and I’ll probably try to get him to throw the change about 58-60, though I assume they will all be 3-5 mph higher next year. I also have to “fix” the finger pressure on his 2 seam which right now is causing it to break away from his throwing hand, assuming the change breaks the same way. I told him it’s ime to start learning to pitch, not just throw, so that transition to the bigger diamond is a little easier… Locate his fastball, and change speeds… His velocity is intimidating to most kids from 46 feet… From 60’6", not so much yet!
Let me guess … he’s OK with curve balls, right? The circle change is a pronated pitch; the only thing “hard” about it is that the grip is difficult and the ball will feel uncomfortable, which is why I recommend starting with the “C” change and after a season or two going to the actual circle.