Getting proper spin on the curve ball
The basics of pitching dictate that there are two things that make a ball move — the direction of the spin and the speed of the spin. In other words the ball has to be spinning in the right direction to move as it’s supposed to, and it has to be spinning fast enough for the Magnus effect to work in order for the ball to change directions.
The fastpitch curve ball presents a particular challenge in both aspects because it requires the wrist to move in a way that’s different from other pitches — especially the core fastball and peel drop. Rather than snapping up, it has to snap sideways. It’s often described as sliding the back of the hand across a table. While I’m not a believer in the muscle-driven wrist snap on the fastball/peel drop — I see it as more of the end of a chain of events than event in and of itself — with the curve, you do have to make a strong and powerful snap across.
Easier said than done, however. It can be challenging to get under the ball and snap the wrist sideways. Here are a few tips to make it happen:
- The throwing side shoulder has to get lower than the glove side shoulder. That’s an absolute. If the throwing side shoulder comes up, you’ll have a tendency to pull over the ball rather than snap under it.
- Try to bring the throwing side elbow to your bellybutton. You probably won’t actually get it that far forward, but it’s a definite destination. The reason is if the elbow gets far forward, it will cause the arm to snap across toward the outside corner rather than straight forward. It will also make it easier to get underneath the ball.
- Keep the ball in the fingers and use the fingers to propel the ball forward as well as sideways. I just discovered this explanation tonight. I had a pitcher who was having trouble getting the spin right, so we went all the way back to the basic spin, just popping it up into her glove. What we found was she was getting it out too soon, which resulted in a riseball back spin instead of a side spin. By keeping it in her fingers a little longer she was able to get the side spin.
- Start cupping you hand under the ball just past the top of the circle. If you wait until the bottom of the circle you will likely be late, and will wind up snapping the wrist up instead of sideways.
Remember, just because you have a curve ball grip doesn’t mean you have a curve ball. If it ain’t got that spin, it ain’t a curve ball.