Do you know how to throw a slider?
In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about throwing a slider that goes beyond "dirty" or "nasty" and usually involves embarrassing the batter...
But first, check out this slider from Chaz Roe and tell me it isn't the best damn pitch you've ever seen:
The slider is a cross between a fastball and a curveball. It's generally faster harder than a curveball but with less downward action; the slider has a smaller break with a tighter spin.
Many times you can see a small dot in the baseball as it's coming toward you.
It's important to learn a proper slider grip and to learn correct slider throwing technique to ensure and promote good arm health.
So what's the secret to a good slider?
Let's take a closer look at how to grip and throw the slider...
- A slider is gripped like a two-seam fastball, but, held slightly off-center.
- When thrown, try to manipulate the pitch to come off the thumb side of your index finger. Do not permit the two finger release (used in the two-seam fastball) as it will cause the pitch to balance out, reducing the spin. Your goal is the opposite - to activate spin.
- Most good slider pitchers grip the outer-third of the baseball and cock their wrist slightly, (not stiffly), to their throwing hand's thumb-side upon release of the pitch. This enables a pitcher to apply pressure to the outer-half of the ball with the index finger.
- Avoid any twisting of the wrist upon release.
- Place the long seam of the baseball in between the index finger and the middle finger. Place the thumb on the opposite seam underneath the baseball (as shown in the first picture).
- Some pitchers find it helpful to place their index finger along the seam of the ball. The key with the slider is to hold the ball slightly off-center, on the outer third of the baseball.
- Remember to slightly cock your wrist, but, don't stiffen it, for a good wrist-snap upon release. If your wrist is slightly cocked to the throwing hand's thumb side, your wrist-snap will enable the pitch to come off of the thumb-side of your index finger. This action creates good spin on the ball.
- The movement on this pitch originates from the baseball spinning off the index finger from the outside of the ball, NOT from twisting your hand underneath the ball.
- Slider arm speed should remain the same as fastball arm speed.
More images of slider grips
DID YOU KNOW?
The slider is the next-fastest pitch to the fastball, and it relies on a tight spin that mimics the fastball, plus a pronounced late break down and away (in a righty vs. righty match up).
The grip has the first two fingers close together and off-center, positioned down the length of a seam.
On release, the pitcher uses the contact along the length of the seam and pulls downward to create spin. The slider uses the leverage of the seam, rather than a wrist action, to impart spin; try to do both at the same time and you're headed for arm problems.
The spin is not straight through the ball, but off-center, due to the grip, and that spin pattern eventually causes the ball to "snap off" at a downward angle as it approaches the plate.
The speed is below that of the fastball, but the closer a pitcher can get to throwing it at fastball speed, the better.
How to throw a slider video
Put it all together, and it looks like this...
Here's a nasty slider from lefty pitcher Chris Sale—I love how it sweeps across the plate:
Here's an absolute beaut of a slider from Zack Greinke to shut down Danny Espinosa:
And lastly, check out this slider from pitcher Andrew Miller, who's one of the most dominant closers in the game right now, as he gets hitter Chris Taylor out:
These sliders all show just how debilitating the pitch can be when thrown well.
How to grip a slider
This is up to an individual pitcher. It depends on hand size, strength and feel. The following is a basic grip which has been successful for pitchers I’ve worked with.
- Grip the ball across the wide seams like on a 4 seam fastball, but relating to a clock, place the first finger between 12 and 1 o’clock and the thumb at 7 o’clock. The first finger pad is across the wide seam with a firm pressure.
- The ball is slightly off-centered to the inside of the hand
- The main pressure points are the first finger and thumb
- The middle finger rests on the seam, and the ball is stabilized by resting up against a flexed third finger
- The ball is held slightly deeper in the hand than on the fast ball, but not as deep as for the curve. The grip is slightly firmer than the fast ball.
The mechanics of throwing a slider
- When throwing the slider, the pitcher should think fast ball. Use the normal range of motion - do not cock or curl the wrist.
- As the hand and wrist come into the acceleration phase, the wrist will turn slightly inward, but the 1st finger must stay on top of the ball.
- The hand and elbow should stay at the same height and release position as on the fastball.
- The arm path and release point should be the same as the fast ball until the ball is released. Then comes a major change: after release, think of short arming the hand back outside the hip sooner than on the fastball. Do not try to get full extension of the arm to the plate. This technique will reduce the forces on the elbow.
- The action of the body will be the same as on he fastball.
During the acceleration and release phase, the wrist should be cocked to a 1/4 turn open to the inside.
- The first finger must remain on top of the ball and cut down through the outside as the thumb comes up through the inside of the ball. This action creates the side spin.
- The wrist should flex forward with no inward turn.
- Upon release, many pitchers feel a burning sensation on their 1st finger. This is a good teaching check point showing the finger cuts down through the outside of the ball.
Considerations for learning a slider
Most pitchers learn how to throw either a slider or a curveball as their primary breaking pitch. Not both. It's been my experience that when pitchers try to learn both pitches, neither one is particularly effective.
Here are some things to consider when comparing the two pitches:
5 advantages of throwing a slider versus a curveball
- Easier to control - Doesn’t have a big break.
- Easier to teach and learn - Some pitchers can not throw an effective curve due to lack of wrist flexion or finger length.
- Has more velocity than a curveball.
- Has a sharper and later break.
- It is more difficult for a batter to recognize the rotation and break.
3 disadvantages of throwing a slider versus a curveball
- If thrown improperly, it may cause more stress and increase chance of injury to elbow or shoulder.
- Attempting to throw the slider and curveball often confuses a young pitcher and neither pitch is very effective.
- A poor breaking slider thrown in the wrong location is a great pitch to hit because it’s less than the speed of a fastball and has very little break.
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.
In this article, you'll learn what to do when your slider 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 slider, some techniques which often cause the problem, and various adjustments which may be effective for a pitcher.
Game adjustments with the slider
|Poor break||Grip too lose, palm of hand faces batter, lack of finger and thumb action||Firm grip slightly deeper than FB, off-center ball, 1/4 inward turn of the hand and wrist, fingers cut down thru outside|
|Slider backs up||Fingers on side or under the ball, wrist turns under ball, arm slot too wide||1st finger pressure at 1 o’clock, cuts down thru, wrist flexes forward and downward, use FB arm action and arm slot|
|Lack of normal velocity||Ball gripped too loose, ball choked too deep, stiff wrist action||Firm finger and thumb pressure, Space between thumb and 1st finger, loose wrist and forearm|
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What do you think?
Now it's time to hear from you:
Are there any pitching tips that I missed?
Or maybe you have an idea of how I can make this article even better.
Either way, leave a comment and let me know.