What is Curve Ball and How to Grip A Curve Ball?

I have personally seen only 2 great curve ball pitchers in my life.  They are Bert Blyleven and Sandy Koufax.  Blyleven threw his curve from what is known as the three quarter position, ie, the arm’s angle in relation to the pitch, thrown on a path from 1 o’clock to 7 o’clock.  Koufax came over the top, a 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock delivery.  If you consider that in the time spent from the Koufax era of the 1960’s to today includes literally thousands of professional pitchers, it boggles the mind as to why the curveball has been a forgotten pitch!

One change in the rules of the game began the curveball’s demise, that being when the heighth of the mound was lowered in 1968 from 15 inches to what it is today, 10 inches!  By lowering the mound, the rules makers damaged the ability to throw the curveball as well as causing a plethora of the torn rotator cuff as pitchers could not adjust their throwing motion to the lower height, putting more strain than ever on their arm because of the delivery angle changed by the lowered mound.

I was a professional pitcher with a no hitter to my credit (1971, New York Penn League).  My college earned run average was well below 2, so i write from actual experience.  The only reason that any pitcher should have a curveball in his repertoire is for “show only”!  I would “show” batters my curveball early in the game, then not use it again.  Plant the seed in the batter’s head that you have the pitch, which is almost as good as throwing it.  Most curveball pitchers today are either poor in their execution of the pitch or use it so much that its affect is lost on the batter.

If you want to improve your curveball, you've got to be dedicated and pay attention to detail

If you want to improve your curveball, you’ve got to be dedicated and pay attention to detail

Most pitchers today started to throw the curveball in little league, either being taught the pitch by someone who did not know how to throw it or maybe they experimented with what is known as the nickel curve, the “cunnythumber” breaking ball that is widely misnomered as a true curveball.  Doing so probably led to either a torn up arm and/or a rather high e.r.a. as the batters tee’d off on it as they began to time it.  I would throw about 10 curveballs per game and no more.

As for how to throw it, there are a variety of ways it can thrown, but the best way I know how to teach the pitch is to get all four seams working for you, gripping the ball as far back into the hand as possible so as not to allow for any light to be seen between the hand and the ball. The hand is cocked inward, the wrist locked at a 90 degree angle to the forearm, the wrist held in this position until the ball is released.  The ball comes out of the hand rolling over the index finger which has been pressed against the middle finger.  The arm comes over the top, from a proverbial 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock motion.  Imagine that you are pulling down a window shade with your index and middle fingers.  The release of the ball is key to where the break begins.  The arm speed of the pitch determines how much of a break the pitch will have and when the break will begin.  The faster the arm speed, the later the break and vice versa. The target should be the outside corner on the knees only!  The pitcher’s stride should be a foot shorter than his fastball stride so in order to get “on top of the pitch” with the correct motion.

One more point generally not appreciated by any instructor or pitcher is that the pitcher must finish the pitch in position to defend himself as any curve, great or hung, when hit is most likely to be hit right back at the pitcher!  This pitch is the most dangerous one to throw for any pitcher, which is one more reason to use it sparingly.

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Kevin Eaton
 

Keavin Eaton lives with his wife and two boys in New Orleans, LA. He has a bachelor’s degree in Phys Ed from the University of New Orleans and a Master’s degree in Kinesiology from the Louisiana State University. As an athlete, Kevin competed in many sports including wrestling, rowing, speed skating and bobsleigh before finding skeleton. Opinions expressed by Kevin on Play Famously are his own.

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