The Curveball – Wrist Action, Physics and Grips for Baseball Pitchers

Dan Blewett here, let’s talk about
curveball grips and the physics of the curveball. So number one with the basic
curveball grip if you make an L between your pinky finger I’m sorry your ring
finger and your middle finger and you jam the ball in this way so that you
have it facing up the horseshoe here so the horseshoe is like that my finger is
curling right down along it that’s the base of this this pitch and then the
bottom two fingers are going to be right here the thumb is going to be on the
inside of this seam right here so now I’m catching the the tacky grippy seam
here on the descending edge and I’m also catching it with my thumb kind of on the
way up because we’re gonna spin it a little bit like that
so from this view when we have this all right so these two are doing their job
to tilt the ball in that direction so when you have this this curveball grip
then the next step is what do we do with our index finger because the index
finger can just screw the pitch up if it’s pushing pressure into the center of
the ball which we don’t want all the pressure should be on the descending
edge to create spin that way because we’re trying to spin the ball as tightly
in a fastly as we can so this finger has a couple options you can stick straight
up I’ll Adam Wainwright you can cross it
over it can just sort of hang out on the ball and not put pressure that’s what I
do you can put your knuckle down obviously
this is a knuckle curve or you can put your fingernail into the ball like that
there is no difference between a knuckle curve and a regular curve ball it’s
executed the same exact way because these two fingers are the reason that we
can align the spin to get a clean spin axis towards home plate the knuckle
action I’ve had some players tell me that oh I push with it and that’s how I
get more spin that’s how my curveball sharper that doesn’t make any sense
because I’m spinning the ball this way how could this knuckle push that way and
produce spin this way right it just doesn’t make any sense there’s a lot of
times when athletes think they’re doing one thing and they’re actually doing
something very different so the curveball grip what this index
finger does could make it a curve ball or knuckle curve or you know pointer
curveball whatever you want to call it it does really make a difference this is
just a placeholder for the index finger because it really doesn’t have much of a
job except for stay out of the way so our goal with the curveball is to get
no mixture of spin if we drilled a hole through this ball and we could spin on
only on that so you put a screwdriver through it the ball would only spin on
one axis in the direction that it’s traveling so if it’s going straight
towards the plate and spinning purely from 12 to 6 it will have to 12 to 6
break if it’s 1 to 7 and we want a 1 to 7 cripple or if I’m a lefty 11 to 5 it
needs to have a very clean again we roll hole right through the ball and it spins
only on one axis it doesn’t have like a mixture of spins where it’s starting to
like it doesn’t actually wobble but it has a sloppy mixture it’s been so young
pictures when they come in they throw this little league curveball and they
get on the side of it or they get a little bit at the top but a lot on the
side and they have this mixture of spins and not a very good spin efficiencies
what they call it the wraps no company calls it spin efficiency how efficiently
does it spin on this one axis and is that little axis aligned with home plate
with the direction that it’s traveling so if I’m out like this and I get a
great spin axis like this it’s not gonna produce quality break and the reason is
this we’re trying to capitalize on the Magnus effect that’s the physics the the
property of physics that produces lift or break so with the Magnus effect when
the ball is spinning in the direction is traveling it creates a high pressure
zone of air above it and lower pressure on the bottom of it so what that does is
the higher pressure air pushes the ball down so it makes it deviate off the
normal path if you threw with no spin much faster so the faster the spin that
we can create the harder we throw it the more suddenly it’ll appear to break to a
hitter and that’s pretty much all you need to know so your goal is align the
spin towards home plate whether it’s 12 to 6 or 1 to 7 and then get the ball to
spin as fast as we possibly can cuz that’s going to create more of that
high pressure low pressure that causes the break and then the faster we throw
it the more it will appear to be a fast while longer and when it finally
deviates and and it starts to break because it actually breaks gradually the
whole time it doesn’t actually have a sharp break it will deceive
hitter more and it will appear very very sudden all right so that’s an overview
of what the curveball does and that’s pretty much all you need to know but our
task when we’re learning this pitch or we’re trying to improve it even for a
big league here so if a big leaguer has you know a very average curveball
compared to a guy has a fantastic curveball
the average curveball is just not gonna have as good of a spin axis not as good
to spend efficiency and it’s not gonna have as fast as many rpms of spin and
he’s not gonna throw it as hard so the harder you throw it the more rpms you
put on it and the better the axis again better spin efficiency the better your
curveball will be that’s why these new companies that measure this are having
success because they can say ok we have 96 percent spin efficiencies yet 2,700
rpms at 79 miles per hour like we know that’s a very great swing
and miss curveball you know 76 percent spin efficiency with 2,200 rpms and 72
miles per hour we know that’s objectively not going to
get as many swings and misses as the previous one so again our goal is when
we throw this pitch is to get our fingers to the front of it where we can
as we come through align the spin towards the plate so we get 12 six or
one to seven as many rpms as possible throwing it as hard as we can possibly
throw it with as clean of a spin axis as we can produce you

2 thoughts on “The Curveball – Wrist Action, Physics and Grips for Baseball Pitchers

  1. Dan, with all things being equal pitching mechanics-wise, does a slider or curve ball put more stress/strain on a pitcher's arm? In the old days, it was said the Dodgers didn't want minor leaguers throwing a slider because of the strain the torque puts on the pitcher's elbow.

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