How to Pitch a Curveball in Baseball

Pitcher finishes his windup and delivers a pitch to homeplate.
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A curveball is a type of pitch in baseball that gives the ball a forward spin as it approaches the batter, which causes it to spiral downwards sharply as it approaches the plate, often confusing the batter and causing him or her to miss or strike.

A well-timed curveball can be highly beneficial to pitchers, but a curveball is pretty useless if the batter knows it's coming so that he or she has time to adjust to the swing. For that reason, it's important that pitchers not only master the grip and motion of the curveball but also the secrecy of the grip itself, which is necessary for fooling the batter.

The Curveball Grip

The curveball grip is fairly simple and, unlike other pitches, allows a pitcher to maintain a good grip on and more control of the ball. The object of the curveball is for the ball to curve as it reaches the plate, breaking below the bat of the hitter.

The key to this pitch is putting topspin on the ball, which generates wind resistance with the laces and causes the pitch to drop, and this is all created by the grip a player has on the ball before he or she pitches.

In order to master the curveball, you must start by gripping the ball with your middle and index fingers together, with the fingers across the seams of the ball at the widest part (the widest distance between the seams). Keeping a tight grip on the ball, especially with the middle finger, don’t let the ball touch the palm of your hand, or you won’t generate enough topspin, which is what allows the ball to drop when it gets close to home plate.

For further guidance, take a look at the picture on the left.

Maintaining Secrecy

As it is with all of pitching, keeping your intentions secret is half of the battle. The curveball is a lot better if the hitter is expecting a fastball. Keep the ball hidden in your glove when you're throwing, or you might tip off the batter (or a baserunner or base coach) what pitch you're throwing.

Developing a natural stance that gives the illusion of throwing a different pitch is the fastest path to a successful curveball as it misdirects the hitter on the pitcher's intentions. Do not underestimate the power of secrecy and subversion when taking on the most challenging hitters at the plate.

Unfortunately, because of the unique grip and throwing motion of the curveball, hitters can quickly get a sense of these pitches with even the briefest of glimpses of the pitcher's hand.

The Curveball Throwing Motion

The mechanics for a curveball aren't much different from any other pitch. It's the grip, and what you do when you release the pitch, that is a change.

Wind up normally, and throw with the same speed as your fastball. Don't slow your arm down. The ball will slow down naturally when it encounters wind resistance with the curveball spin.

The proper angle of your hand is important, though. Picture yourself chopping down with an ax but with the baseball in your hand instead. For right-handed throwers, the palm of your hand should be facing first base as the ball goes over your head, and for left-handers, the palm should be facing third base.

As soon as you raise your hand out of your glove to throw the ball, the hitter will be able to see the grip, so make sure you are completely ready for the pitch before you go forward with the curveball throwing motion.

Again, speed is definitely an issue here as you are meant to throw the curveball at fastball speed and you don't want the hitter to have a chance to see the nature of the pitch before it curves suddenly downwards and out of hitting range.

Also be sure to be ready for the release. Like all pitches, the motion of the pitch itself is over almost instantaneously, and it's crucial that you nail the next step to deliver the best pitch.

The Curveball Release and Follow-Through

Along with the curveball grip, the release of a curveball pitch is critical to the success of the pitch in general. Remember to keep your arm angle the same, or the batter might be able to read your intention to throw a curve.

When throwing, keep your wrist cocked and rotated toward your body — the ball and the palm of your hand should be facing toward you. Keep your elbow up, turn your wrist and snap your wrist down as you release the ball.

The most important part of this motion is the snap at the end. The ball won’t curve without the snap, but finding the correct release point and snapping motion will require trial and error, so be sure to practice before trying it during a game.

In the event the pitcher misses the snap, chances are the ball will go out of bounds, though it's equally likely it might just turn into a fastball pitch with a slight spin, which might still result in the hitter knocking the ball foul.

The follow-through is important because if you don't, the ball will likely "hang." That means it won't curve, it will likely stay high in the strike zone, and a good hitter could hit it a long way.

As you follow through, the back of your hand should be facing the batter. Your pivot foot (the one on the pitching mound) should continue to move forward, and let your throwing arm swing across your body, which will bring you into a balanced position for fielding.