Skip the wrist snap on the screwball
There is more than one way to throw any given pitch. Different coaches teach things different ways, so once agan I will say that what I write here is not the be-all and end-all of this pitch. But it is what I’ve found to be most effective.
One of the more challenging pitches to throw is the screwball. The challenge comes in the spin. It is difficult to get the 3:00 to 9:00 (or thereabouts) spin using regular pitching techniques (read: wrist snap) because the wrist doesn’t really move in that fashion.
Some coaches will teach a kind of reverse twisting motion with the fingers to get spin on the ball. The trouble is, it kind of works against the natural motion of the wrist, so pitchers tend to lose some speed. And more often than not they either throw with the opposite spin (more like a curve ball) or with a bullet spin — especially if the wrist snaps up as they try to turn the ball.
I’ve found a technique that seems to work better, or at least more naturally. Rather than trying to turn the ball, I teach my students to lock the wrist and allow the ball to peel off the first finger.
To make it happen, let the arm wander a little away from the body at the top of the circle, so it’s angling toward the center of the body on the downswing. As this happens, the palm of the hand faces away from the body. The effect is like a karate chop. At the bottom of the circle, as the elbow gets to a point between the bellybutton and back hip, and with the hand still facing away and the fingers pointing at the ground, allow the ball to peel off the first finger. You can give it a little finger pressure at release to help. Follow through up and around, just like you would on any other method of throwing the screwball.
A screwball thrown properly with this technique will angle in slightly, then break as it reaches the hitter. (As opposed to many “screwballs” I’ve seen that simply angle in.)
Thaat’s the big change. Like the common technique for screwballs you still need to stride out to your glove side, not a lot but a few inches to allow the ball to start around the center of the plate. Keeping the body open is essential — if you close too much you’ll wind up with more of bullet spin than a screwball. And again, no wrist snap. Let the whip of the arm and the position of the hand do the work.
If you’ve been having trouble getting good break with the screwball, give this a try. It’s not always easy to break habits, but if you can pull it off you’ll have one excellent pitch.