If your curve, slider, cutter, or whatever isn’t working well, it’s time to troubleshoot.
There’s a lot of reasons that your breaking pitch isn’t doing what you want it to do. Here’s eleven reasons:
1. You tense up when you think (breaking ball).
This happens a lot. If you think breaking ball, you consciously or subconsciously try to make it break, and you tense up. Your arm, then, doesn’t move the way it naturally does – whippy, loose and relaxed is what we need.
2. Your hands and fingers are too dry.
A certain amount of tack is required to not only grip the ball, but to mentally feel like we have an adequate grip (if we feel like it’s gonna slip, we may tense up or overgrip). This just might mean you need to blow on your hands to warm and moisten them up. Rosin helps too, but it doesn’t work well on bone-dry hands.
3. You slow your arm down too soon.
Spin is applied at the very end, and the better finish, the better the spin. The better the spin, the better the break.
4. Your front shoulder flies open, causing your arm to drag
If your front shoulder spins open too early, the chest shows and the arm gets stuck behind. The hand also tends to turn sideways and all of this results in a loopy, sweeping break that fools no hitter.
5. You’re accelerating your arm too early
We want late acceleration over the baseball. If you start accelerating the arm too soon, the pitch will “shoot from the hip” and come out of an unnaturally low arm lot and hang for days.
6. You don’t keep your weight back long enough to get above and through it
If the body starts moving too quickly to the plate, the arm doesnt have time to get up above the baseball, to apply spin through and over top of it.
7. Your body direction isn’t congruent with the break of the pitch
If you want to throw a pitch with more up and down break, you can’t rotate so hard; you have to press your chest forward more, which allows the hand to get above the baseball and create relatively more topspin.
8. The wrong finger(s) are applying the spin
Sometimes the ball just comes off the wrong fingers, or the wrong part of the fingers. This just takes trial and error playing catch with a good partner. He gives feedback and you remember how each version felt. Then, repeat.
9. You’re trying too hard to make it break
This goes back to other factors – if you “try” to make that breaker break, you’ll tense, you’ll overthink it, and your mechanics will suffer. Often, bad breaking balls are the result of mental hangups; I see it all the time during bullpens.
10. You slow your stride rhythm
Your normal fastball tempo to the plate should endure on all pitches. If the backside slows, it’ll be tough to finish the pitch as strongly as one normally would.
11. You aren’t putting enough energy above the ball
You must convert velocity into spin by applying your fingers above the ball. Many young pitchers throw too much “through” the pitch to get ample spin above or to the side of the ball. There’s a balance that must be struck – getting extension and yet applying spin above the ball.
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