Is it a curveball? Or is it a breaking ball?
As I ponder the question, a few things come to mind.
First of all, lets try to define a curveball: A curveball is a pitch thrown with a certain grip and hand action that causes the ball to spin forward, making the ball “dive” as it approaches the plate. This is basically the same action you get with a slider, although usually thrown with a little less speed. The general rule is: Less speed=more break. Depending on the release point, severity of the arm angle and hand action, it can actually “curve”, or break away from the batter. Basically, a right handed batter, facing a right handed pitcher, would see the ball coming directly at them until the last second when the ball would “break” back over the plate.
Now I will take a shot at breaking ball: A breaking ball to me is any pitch other than a 4 seam fast ball. For the most part, any pitch you can possibly imagine (other than the 4 seam fastball) could be called a breaking ball. The term “breaking pitch” gives baseball announcers an easy out when they have no idea what pitch the pitcher just threw…. It will usually sound something like this “He struck him out with a nice breaking pitch to end the inning”.
Essentially, there are only 2 kinds of pitches in baseball…The 4 seam fast ball, and the breaking ball. I can think of at least 6 or 7 different kinds of breaking pitches, with almost every pitcher having several different variations of their own for each one. With that being said, you can literally say that there are hundreds, even thousands of different breaking pitches, with the curveball being chief among them.
So: Is it a curveball, or is it a breaking ball? Well, in my opinion it is both. Since a breaking ball is any pitch with “movement”, designed to fool a batter into thinking the ball will be in a certain place when it reaches the plate, only to have it change at the last moment, then a curveball would definitely be considered a breaking ball.
Safety: As always, safety is always my main concern for kids. While I am sure the controversy over what age a kid should start throwing a curveball will most likely go on as long as the game exists, these are a few of my own personal opinions.
14… Age 14 seems to be the most commonly accepted age that most would agree it is o.k. to start learning how to throw a curveball. Teaching proper form is the most important part of the process. The unnatural snapping action of the wrist puts a lot of stress on the elbow. My favorite answer when someone asks me this question is: Don’t teach the bender til’ they can shave….
Consider teaching them to throw a “change up” instead. The change up basically mimics the same downward action as the curveball as it approaches the plate. It is also the least stressful pitch you can throw in baseball.
While I completely agree that limiting the amount of pitches allowed to be thrown is the best way to prevent damage to the throwing arm, waiting a couple more years to teach the curveball makes absolute sense to me…. How many 9 and 10 year olds throwing curves do you see still pitching in high school or college without some kind of arm problems? The curve can wait!
As always, if you enjoyed the article, or found it helpful please feel free to leave a comment below. I also love to hear about your experiences, so please share 1 or 2 with me…..~Jeremy