How To Throw A Filthy Curveball

Do you know how to throw a curve ball?

In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about throwing a curveball that goes beyond "dirty" or "nasty" and usually involves embarrassing the batter...

But first, check out this breaking ball from Clayton Kershaw...

It's hard not to watch Clayton Kershaw curveballs like this one all day, as they effortlessly fall into the zone over and over again:

Clayton Kershaw curveball
Image source: pitcherlist.com

The curve is unique in that its rotation is from top to bottom, rather than from bottom to top like the fastball.

This action results in being released forward, in the direction of the fingers toward the batter.

On this particular pitch, the hand speed transfers leverage to the front of the ball to get that 12-6 movement that makes the curveball so effective.

The curveball is often a strikeout pitch. It dives down as it gets to home plate. The velocity is as effective as the movement to create deception and disrupt a hitter's timing because it's usually much slower than a fastball.

Curveball grip

So what's the secret to a good curveball?

Let's take a closer look at how to grip and throw the curveball...

Curveball grip
Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com
  1. Grip a baseball and place your index finger on the ball.
  2. Place your middle finger along the bottom seam of the baseball.
  3. Place your thumb on the back seam.
  4. When this pitch is thrown, your thumb should rotate upward and your middle finger should snap downward.
  5. The arm action is a little abbreviated at the end. Bring your throwing hand elbow to the opposite hip which will shorten your follow through, but, will permit you to snap off the pitch.

More images of curveball grips

Changeup grip images
Curveball grip images
Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

DID YOU KNOW?

The curve is unusual in that it rotates from top to bottom, rather than from bottom to top like the fastball.

That's because instead of being released forward, in the direction of the fingers toward the batter, the curve is thrown with the wrist cocked so that the thumb is on top.

With the arm coming down, the ball rolls over the outside of the index finger, causing a downward spin.

The curve sinks dramatically and can be thrown for a strike or as a "miss" pitch. Depending on the arm position of the individual pitcher — straight over the top or more sidearm — the ball might also break across the plate and wind up outside.

On this pitch, having the hand speed to transfer leverage to the front of the ball is more important than arm strength.

How to throw a curveball video

Put it all together, and it looks like this...

Here's a great curveball from Cy Young winner Corey Kluber:

Corey Kluber curveball
Image source: pitcherlist.com

Man, that's such a great pitch right there!

Rich Hill curveball pitching gif
Rich Hill curveball

When it comes to throw a curveball, a pitcher should find and use a grip which feels comfortable and is effective for him, and one that gives him a good sharp breaking curve.

If a pitcher already has a good curve, I generally won't try to change it on him, but we will work on spotting the pitch with a goal of throwing a strike 70% of the time.

The curveball I teach is a true curve. I believe it is an effective breaking pitch and, if thrown properly, should not cause too much stress on the elbow.

How to grip a curveball

  1. The curve ball grip may vary from pitcher to pitcher. Much depends on hand size, grip strength, finger length and feel. A pitcher with big hands and long fingers has an advantage because he can keep the fingers on top of the ball and the ball won’t slip out as often.
  2. I prefer teaching a four seam rotation curve because it allows for faster rotation and therefore the chance for a sharper break.
  3. The ball is gripped slightly deeper in the hand than the fastball, but do not choke the ball. Leave a space between the first finger and the thumb.
  4. The pressure points on the ball are:
    • The outside finger pad of the middle finger is up against the wide seam
    • The crook between the first and second joint of the ring finger stabilizes the ball.
    • The pressure point of the thumb on the ball is along the inside bony surface of the first joint.
    • The first finger should just lay on the ball and be close to the middle finger so the ball can roll over it quickly. A few pitchers will actually lift the first finger upon release.
  5. We teach a very firm grip with the middle finger pad and thumb, but yet a pitcher must maintain a loose and flexible wrist. The forearm muscles should not be tense during the acceleration phase.

The mechanics of throwing a curveball

Arm action and release point:

  1. At the start of the motion, the arm action should be just the same as on the fast ball. Use a full range of motion, don’t short arm the back swing or curl the wrist.
  2. The pitcher should attempt to get the hand up high in the cocked position with the elbow at least as high as the shoulder. This way the pitcher will be accelerating in a downward plane.
  3. As the shoulder starts to externally rotate, the palm of the hand will turn inward to partially face the head. The fingers will now be on top outside - not behind - the ball as on a fastball.
  4. During the acceleration phase, the elbow will lead slightly longer and the shoulder will internally rotate later. At this point the pitcher should think of great hand speed and wrist snap in a forward, inward plane. The hand speed must overtake the elbow to release the ball with a good overspin.
  5. The hand should be higher then and well outside the elbow at release point. Do not curl the wrist inside the forearm, this reduces ball velocity.
  6. The pitcher should bend at the waist getting the head and shoulders over the stride leg. Try to visualize reaching out in front of the body directly to the plate.
  7. Upon release of the ball, relax the hand, wrist and arm to allow the arm to pronate naturally. This will reduce some of the stress on the shoulder and elbow joints.
  8. On the curve ball, and slider, do not attempt to get full arm extension on the follow through. Short arm the follow through quickly downward and outside the lead hip.

Body action:

  1. One of the secrets to a good and consistent to curve is not to rush the motion. Make certain the head and shoulders get over the lead leg and the hand speed overtakes the elbow and pull downward.
  2. Do not drive the back knee forward as hard as on the fast ball. Many pitchers like to drag the pivot foot to allow them to flex earlier at the waist.
  3. It is important to use good leads arm action, driving down and back giving great velocity of the hips, then shoulders. Keep the front shoulder closed as long as possible.
  4. During the release and follow through, many pitchers create such a violent downward force that they lose sight of the ball on the way to the plate, but pick it up again well before it reaches the hitting zone.
  5. As on the fastball, a pitcher may have to use a jump step to recover his balance to field his position.

Common problems with the curveball

  1. Over throwing it.
  2. Short arming the backswing and coming out of a low cocked position.
  3. Over extending the elbow by releasing the ball in a 12-6 vs a 1-7 rotation.
  4. Not short arming the follow through, over extending the elbow.
  5. Wrist hooking during the backswing or curling the wrist during acceleration
  6. Choking the ball too deep in hand
  7. Throwing across body
  8. Hanging the curve - pitcher throws up hill, low elbow in the cocked position, or rushes motion ahead of arm

The differences between a true curveball and a slurve

Instead of the pitcher flicking the thumb up through the ball upon release, the thumb is pulled down through the inside of the ball.

Wrist still should flex inward as well as downward to avoid hyper-extending the elbow.

Learning different pitches

Remember this: Even though this site describes a method of throwing five or six different pitches, it does not mean any pitcher should attempt to learn or throw all these pitches.

High school and college pitchers should try to master just three pitches. Even many major league pitchers are successful with three basic pitches. Some may add a specialty or fourth pitch as they get more experienced.

Youth pitchers 14 and under should concentrate on developing the fastball and learning to throw it to spots, plus learning to change speeds on the pitch.

Pitchers who haven't reached puberty should not throw breaking pitches competitively due to their lack of muscle, ligament and bone development. The breaking pitches create more stress on the elbow joint and bicep in young pitchers may not be developed enough to properly decelerate the forearm.

Clayton Kershaw curveball pitching gif
Clayton Kershaw curveball

In this article, you'll learn what to do when your curveball isn't working and how to get your control back.

The most important assets a pitcher can possess is good control, which means having command of his various pitches.

Yet, we all know most pitchers experience a loss of command on certain pitches within a game, or even within an inning.

Successful and more experienced pitchers know how to make proper and quick game adjustments with their arm action, grip, finger pressure or release point. They know themselves, understand their usual problem, and know what to adjust to work best for them on a particular pitch.

In the chart below, I am listing some common problems that many pitchers experience with the curveball, some techniques which often cause the problem, and various adjustments which may be effective for a pitcher.

Game adjustments with the curveball

Problem Caused By Adjustment
Poor break Wrist and forearm tense, ball choked in hand, low cocked position Firm finger pad pressure, but wrist and forearm relaxed, leave space so thumb can flick up over ball, get fingers on top of ball
Hanging curve ball Low cocked position, over striding, lack of hand speed

Get hand and elbow up like FB, drive head and shoulders down over lead leg, think fastball until arm accelerates forward

Curve ball in dirt Arm circle too short, upper body leads, rushes motion Use normal arm swing, lead with front hip, stay back as on fastball
Loss of normal velocity Wrist curled inward, ball gripped too loose, Ball choked in hand Hand and wrist in a neutral position, firm finger pad pressure, leave space between thumb and 1st finger

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