TOO MANY BREAKING PITCHES
For those of you who frequent the Discussion Group on our web site you know that questions about specialty pitches abound. So many players want to know how to throw a curve ball, a slider, a splitter, a knuckle ball, or a cutter. We don’t teach specialty pitches to young pitchers. It is difficult enough for them to learn two types of fastballs and a change up.
There is no quick fix on the road to pitching excellence. (Please excuse the mixed metaphors.) It is a step by step journey that entails vigorous conditioning, mental toughness, a throwing program and pitch command. Let us state our position on this subject.
Our view is a conservative one but from the point of view of coaching young players, we feel this gives them the best chance for eventual success. Not immediate mastery and gratification, but eventual success.
This is certainly not the most popular view. Many Little League pitchers throw breaking pitches and are having success as we speak. Many fathers and coaches don’t want them to stop throwing those pitches because of the glory of it all. Let’s face it. It is a lot sexier to strike out a young hitter than getting an out by having him put the ball in play and take the chance of a teammate booting the ball.
The art of pitching is a learning process that requires years of diligent and dedicated work. Becoming a successful pitcher requires a whole lot more than just throwing a curve ball to strike out a Little League hitter.
Baseball Excellence has always attempted to show our customers what it will take to advance. We are dedicated to giving you the big picture.
WAIT UNTIL 14
Let a young body develop. Let the soft tissues, muscles and bones grow before you subject them to the stress of the curve ball. Why 14? Many kids reach puberty at 13.
Don’t forget the 60’6”- 10” high pitching mound. You don’t want your pitchers to go from Little League distance to regulation distance and immediately start throwing curve balls. That length difference requires a learning process. They must adapt. More energy is expended, they are throwing harder and we feel that a young player should become accustomed to the distance before he starts throwing a breaking pitch.
They have to learn fastball command. That is the number one pitch. All others are thrown off the fastball. You can’t develop your fastball if you are spending too much time learning a breaking pitch.
There are only so many practice hours in a day and only so many pitches a pitcher can throw in a given bullpen session. The time would be better spent teaching fastball command and different grips on the fastball.
Be honest with yourself. Can your pitchers all throw 6 (better 7) out of 10 pitches for strikes? That’s what it’s going to take. I believe the majority of high school pitchers only throw one type of fastball.
Many throw only one, either the 4-seam or the 2-seam. Very few throw both. Command of the 2-seam fastball is a formidable weapon. It gives the hitter a different look. There is a slight change of speed and the pitch has more movement, usually down. Can you think of a better pitch with a runner on first base? Many a double play has been induced by a fastball that moves down. A pitcher’s bullpen time would be more productive by learning the 2 fastballs instead of working on a breaking pitch.
WHO TAUGHT YOUR SON THAT CURVE BALL ANYWAY?
Did another player show your son how to turn his wrist in order to get spin on the ball? Did you read in a book somewhere how to extend the arm and make a karate chop motion? The curve ball is a difficult pitch to throw correctly and requires a lot of time to learn.
A mistake in the mechanics of the pitch can put undue stress on the arm and elbow of your pitcher. When it does become time for your son to learn the pitch, find a qualified instructor to show him. It is very difficult to read about it and put it into practice.
You also want him to learn to throw the ball effectively. As your son goes up the ladder the hitters are better. You want him to learn a curve ball that the hitters can’t pick up too soon.
INCREASE YOUR PITCHER’S VELOCITY
Everybody wants to know how to throw harder. Want to know how to not throw harder? Throw a lot of breaking balls as a youngster. Throwing the curve de-trains the arm. The pitch is not a velocity pitch, it is a rotational pitch. It requires a lot of forward spin to move in a downward plane. This forward spin coupled with the arm angle gives the pitch its break. Putting this rotation on a ball slows the arm down. It is very close to fastball arm speed but not the same. So a young pitcher working a lot on the curve is teaching his arm a slower speed. All this at a time when he is developing and his body is growing. It is better to train the arm to throw at fastball arm speed. And that means throwing more fastballs.
Don Sutton, in a Brave’s telecast was talking about a journeyman pitcher who threw a lot of breaking pitches. He said if you can’t get your breaking pitch over for strikes you are in trouble because throwing a lot of curveballs “shortens up” your fast ball. That’s a descriptive phrase isn’t it? That pitcher had detrained his arm until his fastball was no longer effective. It had lost velocity.
Keep your pitchers throwing those 2 and 4-seam fastballs.
So there you have our reasons. To summarize:
- A growing body is at risk from injury by throwing the curve.
- It is more important to learn fastball command. That is your number one pitch.
- You should have someone qualified to show your pitchers how to throw the curve ball.
- If you want more velocity, throw more fastballs. Pitchers who want to go up a higher level have to put up good numbers on the radar gun.
That’s the reality of it.
One Final Word
In my opinion the curve ball is probably the worst pitch in baseball, or the least effective of the three pitches; fastball, change up and then curve.
Heresy! I have seen curve after curve strike LL hitters out. It is the speed more than the movement that fools young hitters.
Once they get to the regulation field that change of speed is no longer quite as effective.
Hitters learn to see the curve ball early, out of the hand. No pitch gets hit harder than a hanging curve ball.
Yes, the curve ball has a place in a pitcher’s arsenal but it is not a vital one. I feel it should compliment the other pitches, not become the dominant one.
The curve ball is a good pitch to throw for strike one to a good hitter. It gives him a different look. A good curve ball is also a pitch to throw in the dirt to try to get the hitter to chase it.
The curve ball should be looked at as a pitch to compliment an arsenal, nothing more.
What did the Mexican bandits say in the Treasure of Sierra Madre? “Curve balls? We don’t need no stinking curve balls.”