How To Throw A Submarine Curveball: A Complete Guide


In the early days of baseball, the official rules mandated that pitchers had to pitch the ball underhanded and from quite low to the ground. In fact, a little over a century ago, almost everybody was pitching in a submarine style. Of course, the rules have changed a lot since then. Submarine pitchers are a rarity, which is a shame because the sport really does need a bit more variety in pitching styles.

That being said, submarine pitching does have its uses. In fact, a lot of teams will send out their submarine pitchers a little bit later in games, just to change up the playstyle a little bit in order to keep the hitters ‘off-guard’. If you are a submarine pitcher, it is unlikely that you will ever be the main pitcher for a team, but you will be a tremendous relief pitcher.

On this page, I want to talk to you about the submarine pitch. I want to talk about how to add a touch of a curve to your pitching (the main aim of this page). However, before I do that, I want to talk about what the submarine pitch is, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of this style of pitching.

What is a Submarine Pitch?

Before I go any further, I think it is worth taking the time to talk about what a submarine pitch actually is. I know that earlier I hinted that it is an underhand pitch, and it is to an extent, but when you pitch submarine, there is a bit more to it.

With your typical underhand pitch, you will remain standing upright. This is not typically done in baseball and is more the domain of softball. With a submarine pitch, you will be leaning your upper body towards the ground.

You will be getting very close to the ground as you throw the ball. Your hand will remain on the top of the ball in most cases, so not a strictly underhand throw.

However, a lot of people will refer to submarine pitching as underhand pitching, even if it is not technically true.

If you watch MLB, it is very rare to see a submarine pitch, and I am going to talk more about why in the next couple of sections.

The Advantages of a Submarine Pitch

The main advantage of pitching submarine is that it is unique. Most hitters will know how to deal with your standard overhand pitch. They are comfortable with it. However, the way in which a submarine ball moves is different. It is unpredictable when you are used to other styles of pitching. This is why submarine pitchers are often used as ‘relief pitchers.’ They can confuse the hitters with the style of pitching. A good submarine pitcher could often mean the difference between a win and a loss.

A lot of people do not set out to become submarine pitchers. Instead, they have fallen into submarine pitching due to a long-term injury they are suffering from. By all accounts, the submarine pitch will not put as much pressure on the shoulders and the elbows. The downside is that it will be putting a lot more pressure on your back muscles, and many submarine pitchers will develop issues with their back overtime. 

The Disadvantages of a Submarine Pitch

The major downside of a submarine pitch is that your balls can be a little bit too easy to hit early on in the game. This issue is alleviated somewhat by the addition of a curve in the submarine pitch, but you are still not going to be pitching at the same speed that ‘normal’ pitching will be tossing the ball at. It really is a pitching style that is the sole domain of the late game. This is why submarine pitching is so rare in the modern game.

Submarine pitchers, as a result, may find that they are not as in demand for teams. Most baseball teams only really need a couple of submarine pitchers, and they tend not to go out there and seek submarine pitchers. This means that if you can only pitch submarine, you may struggle to find a team to play with. However, if you are not planning to a high competitive level, this is probably not going to be a major issue for you.

In most cases, it is not really recommended to learn how to pitch a submarine. The only people that tend to go down this route will be the injured or those that fail completely with the typical overhand pitch. This is probably one of the main reasons as to why scouts overlook submarine pitchers. It is highly likely that the pitcher has failed in other parts of the game. 

How To Throw A Submarine Pitch?

Before you can learn how to pitch a submarine curveball, you need to learn how to pitch a submarine. I am not just talking about learning how to do the basics of a submarine pitch, either.

You should ensure that you have your submarine pitch as close to perfect as possible. This will reduce the chance of injury when you add a curve into the mix. It will also ensure that you do not run the risk of developing poor technique.

To be honest, if you already know how to pitch overhand, then the jump to a submarine pitch isn’t that big. Let me walk you through the process.

Gripping the Ball

Since we are not going to be adding a curveball to the initial submarine pitch at the start, you just need to use a traditional four-seam fastball grip on the baseball. This is pretty much your basic baseball grip, so I am going to assume that you already know how to do that. 

Yes. Other ‘baseball grips‘ will likely work when you are throwing submarine, but I find that the four-seam fastball grip is always the best route to go down. You want the ball to leave your hand quicker. This is because submarine pitches are naturally slower than overhand pitches. You need every bit of extra speed that you can muster up.

Start from the standard pitching stance

You do not need to be standing in a particular position for a submarine pitch. Just position yourself as such:

  • Face the batter
  • Your pivot foot should be touching the pitcher plate.
  • The other foot should be behind the pitcher plate.

If there are runners on the bases, then you will change your stance ever so slightly. The pivot foot should remain on the pitcher plate, but the other foot will be in front of it. This will make it a little bit easier to deal with the runners.

There is slightly more to pitching stance than this, but that is out of the scope of this guide.

Pitch the Ball

Perhaps the best way to describing how to throw in a submarine pitch is that it is the opposite of an overhand pitch. When you pitch a submarine, the ball will be thrown pretty close to the ground. The ball will approach the hitter at a different angle, which means that they need to change up the way that they hit the ball. 

As you throw the ball, your back will be arched ever so slightly. This will allow your pitching arm to get closer to the ground. Some MLB players will get really closer to the ground, which means that their back is heavily bent, but I do not think you need to get this close to the ground. Just a small arch will do fine. Anything more than that, and you are just asking for back trouble.

The submarine pitch is essentially a sideways throw. When the ball is close to the ground, at pretty much the opposite angle to that of an overhead throw, you can release the ball.

I know that it may seem complicated, but I promise you that the submarine pitch is pretty easy to pull off. It is likely to feel a little uncomfortable at first if you are used to other styles of pitching, but it won’t be long before you warm up to it.

Practice

As with all techniques in baseball, you are going to need to practice a lot if you want to ensure that your submarine pitch is perfect. We are talking thousands of pitches. Only when you know that you can throw a decent submarine pitch should you move on adding a bit of curve to the ball.

How To Add Curve to Your Submarine Pitch?

Now that is out of the way; I can start talking about adding a bit of a curve to your submarine pitch. To be honest, it is not that much different from adding a curve to any pitch you would make, even with your ‘standard’ pitch. So, if you already know how to do that, then adding a curve to a submarine pitch is going to be easier for you.

However, do bear in mind that the submarine pitch is still not a natural position. This means that it will take some time to nail the technique, even if you normally know how to throw curves.

Before I go any further, I do want to point out that you should only start working on your curveball pitch once you have nailed the basic submarine pitch. You should also only begin to work on your curveball if you are over the age of 15.

If you try and throw regular curveballs before you meet these requirements, then there is a chance that you could end up damaging the ligaments in your arm.

Why add a curve?

The submarine pitch is unpredictable, but adding a curveball into the mix will make it even more unpredictable. Very few amateur hitters will know how to deal with a submarine curveball, which will give the pitcher an upper hand.

It is probably still not going to be enough to have the submarine pitcher as anything more than a relief pitcher, but at least it will add a new dynamic to the game.

The Grip

There are a few ways to grip a curveball. However, I want to keep things simple here. This is because a submarine pitch is already going to be lacking power.

You do not want to make things too complicated with the curveball grip because you will just be making your pitch so much easier to hit.

  • Position the baseball, so the seams run horizontally.
  • Place your middle finger on the top of the ball.
  • The thumb should be on the bottom of the ball.
  • Position the index finger on the top of the ball

The index finger is really just going to be along for the ride. Most of the grip will be carried out by the thumb and the middle finger. Don’t grip too tightly, though. They will need to move about a little bit for a more efficient submarine curveball.

You should be gripping the ball fairly deeply, but not so deep that it would be difficult to release the ball.

Pitching the Ball

Pitching a submarine curveball should be simple. Of course, you should be following the same technique I talked about above for throwing the pitch. However, there will now be one key difference.

To add the curve, the wrist will need to be flicked forward just before ball release. As you do this, the fingers on the baseball will move along the seam. As you release the grip, the ball will start to curve.

I am not going to lie. Learning exactly when to release the ball for the maximum spin is a process that will take an incredibly long time. In the early throws, there will unlikely be a curve on your pitch. There may not even be any power on the pitch. However, over time, you will learn the exact moment to release the ball, and you will be able to enjoy a perfect submarine curveball every single pitch.

Notice the way the ball moves

As you throw your curveball, you will probably notice that the ball will move in a slightly different way to an overhand curveball. It will move from side to side without really losing any height.

It is important that you understand the way that the ball ends up moving here. This will make aiming your pitch easier; it will also allow you to learn how to keep the batter ‘off-guard.’ 

Practice

Once again, I want to point out just how important it is to practice your curveballs. This is not an easy pitch to pull off. If you do not release the ball ‘just right,’ then you won’t add a curve to it. It will take thousands of practice pitches to get up to a standard where you are ready to take the curveball into a real game. However, even then, you are still going to need to put a lot of work into developing your technique.

I do want to point out that you should not be over practicing your curveballs. This goes for overhand pitches too. Curveballs put a lot of strain on the arms, and it is not uncommon for people to end up with injuries when they throw too many curveballs. So, this means that you should try and mix up your practice sessions a little bit. Sure, it will take a little longer to learn how to throw a curveball, but at least you won’t suffer an injury that could leave you out of action for months.

Conclusion

Learning how to throw a submarine curveball isn’t for everybody. It isn’t the most comfortable throwing position, and it will lack power. However, if you are already pitching submarine, why not add a bit of curve into the mix? it isn’t that difficult, and it will make you a much more versatile player.

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