Yes, softball pitchers can throw curveballs. If your team is in need of a touch of luck, try your hand at a curveball. A curveball is a pitch thrown with spin that heads towards the corner of the plate.
What Is The Difference between A Curveball and A Fastball?
The uniqueness of the curveball is that it rotates from top to bottom, compared to the rotation of a fastball which is bottom to top. The curveball is a breaking pitch, which means it does not travel in a straight line.
How To Pitch A Curveball
To pitch a curveball, you throw the ball up and across your chest. Your legs are also involved as they provide a lift which helps your body to get up and across, while your off foot should be brought closer to your lead foot.
The curveball is often characterised by the phrase “grip and snap”. Focus on these two elements and you will be able to throw a fantastic curveball.
When gripping the ball, the most important finger is the middle finger. You should find a grip where the seam can give some resistance against the middle finger. This resistance comes in handy during the release, as this is what gives a curveball it’s tight rotation.
Another grip option is the four-seam. This is where you locate the upside down “C” and put as many fingers on the seam as you can.
Your elbow should be level with or slightly higher than your throwing shoulder. Lowering your elbow below the shoulder will place stress on your arm.
Your elbow joint should not be more than a 90 degree angle. Throwing a curveball with an angle bigger than 90 degrees can also place extra stress on the shoulder.
Releasing the curveball is the “snap” aspect. When releasing the curveball, your wrist should be firm and your hand is down in front of you. The curveball needs to be released close to the body.
The further away you release it from your body, the less resistance the middle finger has on the seam and the rotation is a lot looser. A loose rotation means that the curveball will probably hang or spin. When releasing the ball, snap across your body, close to your belly button.
Arm speed is important when throwing a curveball because you can get a tight rotation and a quick downward swing with fast arm speed.
If you compare two pitchers with the same grip and snap but one is thrown with a faster arm speed, the faster speed will be the more difficult pitch to hit.
How To Prevent Curveballs from Coming Out High
If you find that your curveballs are consistently coming out high, then try and shorten your stride. Ideally, try and shorten it by around 2-4 inches and see if that makes a difference.
How To Improve A Curveball Release
A big part of throwing a curveball is not letting the batter know you’re throwing one. To do this, you need to practice. Practice the grip, mechanics and snap.
The snap is important but you don’t want to exaggerate it. If you do, the batter will know you’re throwing them a curveball. You may want to practice and see which grips work best for you.
From here, you can figure out the best way for you to release the curve covertly. Everyone has different mechanics so practice makes perfect here.
A good exercise is to visualize. Visualization can help you during your release to throw a tight rotation. Some recommend imagining creating a bullet spin on top of the ball.
You can visualize this during drills, as you spin the ball between two hands. Imagine that there is a bullet spinning on the top and you must keep it on top as the ball spins between your hands.
Another visualization when releasing, is imagining that you are releasing the pitch in front of your belly button.
Is The Curveball Safe For Younger Players?
Many warn young players against throwing curveballs. This is because the spinning aspect of a curveball can place a lot of stress on the arms.
For younger players, this can put them at risk of injury and developmental issues. To throw this pitch safely, it is recommended to avoid a traditional curveball grip.
The decision on whether or not young players should be throwing curveball comes down to each individual, mechanics, coaches and parents.
Is There A Mental Aspect Of Throwing A Successful Curveball?
Take into account the mental side of hitting a curveball successfully. Confidence is key to mastering and pitching a good curveball. Start with your self-talk. Are you confident and secure in your skills?
Keep a close eye on the pitcher during warm up. Can you assess if a curveball seems like a good idea? Preparation is key to your success here.
Practice pitching curveballs as much as you can if you want to be able to whip out this pitch whenever your team is in need of it. Mastering this pitch can make you a much better pitcher and be able to get batters out much more easily.