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Mastering the Curveball: Variations and History of Baseball’s Deceptive Pitch

Curveball: A Deceptive Pitch in Baseball

Baseball is a game of excitement, featuring speed, agility, and finesse. Whether you’re a fan or a player, you’ll often hear the term “curveball” associated with the sport.

The curveball, a unique pitch that twists and turns in midair, has become one of the most beloved pitches in baseball. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of curveball, including its definition, frequency in major league baseball, and how to throw it with ease.


A curveball is a pitch that is thrown with a slower speed, resulting in a break or drop in the ball’s trajectory. This pitch is meant to deceive the batter, making it harder for them to hit the ball.

Curveballs are typically thrown with a spin, which creates an air resistance that alters the ball’s path. It is often used to create a variation of pitch by pitchers to keep the opposing batters on their toes and prevent them from hitting the ball.

Frequency of Curveball in MLB

Major League Baseball players use a variety of pitches. A curveball is one of the pitches that often takes opposing players by surprise.

In Major League Baseball, the frequency of curveball pitches rose from 11.4% in 2017 to 13.7% in 2021, indicating an increasing reliance on this pitch. However, curveballs aren’t the most commonly used pitch.

Fastballs are still the most frequently used pitches, followed by sliders and then curveballs.

How to Throw a Curveball

The correct way to throw a curveball is an essential part of a pitcher’s skill set. Here are the steps to throw the perfect curveball:


Basic Grip

The first step in throwing the curveball is the grip. The pitcher must grip the ball such that the seams run parallel with the middle finger, and the index finger is also touching the ball’s seam.

To complete the grip, the thumb should be next to the middle finger while the other fingers are resting comfortably on the ball. A proper grip of the curveball allows the pitcher to generate a spin that causes the ball to break and dip.

2. Release of the ball

To throw a curveball, the pitcher should use a wrist snap to generate the spin on the ball.

The wrist snap should be done with a quick, flicking motion to impart the right amount of spin on the ball. The faster the wrist snap, the more spin the ball will have, and the more substantial the curve.

The pitcher should also release the ball with a flick of the fingers at the right moment. This can be a challenge but is key to maintaining control of the ball’s direction.


The curveball is undoubtedly an exciting pitch that has been an integral part of baseball history. In Major League Baseball, curveballs have become more prevalent, particularly in recent years, making it an essential tool for pitchers.

Moreover, its unique grip and release make it difficult for the opponent to track and hit effectively. Learning the proper technique to throw a curveball can set a pitcher apart from other players, making them a valuable asset to any baseball team.

The curveball pitch is one of the most challenging pitches to deal with for a batter. It is a pitch that requires precision, skill, and understanding of the mechanics.

While the basic curveball pitch is a familiar concept, there are different variations of the pitch that a pitcher can use to deceive batters. This article will provide an overview of the variations of the curveball pitch, as well as a brief history of the pitch and its popularity.

Variations of Curveball

12-6 Curveball

The 12-6 curveball is a pitch that has a straight-down break, mimicking the motion of the hands of a clock. The pitcher throws the ball with an upwards spin, causing the ball to drop straight down.

This pitch is challenging for batters to hit, as the ball moves vertically and can be challenging to track. The 12-6 curveball requires proper mechanics and grip to achieve the necessary spin.

The grip involves holding the ball further back in the hand to generate more spin.


The slurve is a combination of the curveball and the slider. The grip is similar to that of a curveball, with the pitcher holding the ball farther back in the hand.

The throw has a small amount of wrist action, creating a more significant horizontal break while also having a slight drop. The slurve is harder for batters to hit, as it moves across the plate while also moving down.

Pitchers who have a good slurve pitch can catch their opponents on the wrong foot, as the pitch appears to be a fastball initially.

Power Curveball

The power curveball is a faster version of the pitch. In a typical curveball, the pitcher sacrifices some speed to achieve the spin and break of the ball.

The power curveball is thrown much faster, with the pitcher using a tighter grip and releasing the ball with a more direct wrist snap. The faster speed makes it a more difficult pitch for batters to hit, as they have less time to react.

Knuckle Curveball

The knuckle curveball is a slower and more challenging version of the pitch. The pitcher uses a similar grip to the curveball, but instead of the fingers being parallel to the seams, the pitcher bends them further back, creating more spin.

The pitch has a more significant movement than the typical curveball, making it more challenging for batters to hit. However, the technique for throwing the knuckle curveball is more challenging to master.

History of the Curveball

The origin of the curveball is somewhat murky, but some historians credit Fred Goldsmith as the first pitcher to throw a curveball in the 1870s. However, at the time, the pitch was considered to be dishonest and deceptive, and the rules of baseball did not support it.

The pitch was even considered an outlaw by many. Nonetheless, the curveball gained popularity over time, as more pitchers began to use it.

One of the first documented instances of the curveball’s popularity was in the late 19th century by Candy Cummings, who is widely credited with the pitch’s invention. Cummings was able to make the pitch break in a way that baffled opposing batters.

By the turn of the century, the curveball was an essential pitch for many pitchers, and many of the best pitchers of the early 20th century, such as Satchel Paige and Warren Spahn, relied heavily on the pitch.

Best Curveball Pitchers

Several pitchers have distinguished themselves as the best proponents of the curveball. Bert Blyleven, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Satchel Paige, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Warren Spahn, and Adam Wainwright are among the most famous and accomplished curveball pitchers.

Their skill and mastery of the pitch have inspired generations of young pitchers to incorporate the pitch into their repertoire.


The curveball pitch remains one of the most deceptive and challenging pitches in baseball. It requires skill, technique, and understanding of the pitch and its variations.

Numerous pitchers, past and present, have distinguished themselves by throwing a great curveball, making it an essential pitch to master for any pitcher. In conclusion, the curveball is a game-changing pitch in baseball that has been popularized by well-known pitchers such as Koufax and Paige.

Variations like the 12-6 curveball, slurve, power curveball, and knuckle curveball can provide pitchers with an advantage over batters. There is a rich history of the curveball pitch, which initially faced skepticism but eventually became a vital tool for pitchers.

Learning how to master the pitch takes skill and precision, but it can improve a player’s chances of success. With practice and proper mechanics, one can consistently throw an excellent curveball, so it’s worth learning.


Q: What is a curveball? A: It is a pitch thrown with a slower speed, causing a break or drop in the ball’s trajectory to deceive the batter.

Q: What are the variations of curveball? A: There are different types of curveball: 12-6 curveball, slurve, power curveball, and knuckle curveball.

Q: Who is credited with the invention of the curveball? A: Candy Cummings is widely credited with inventing the curveball in the late 19th century.

Q: What is the grip for a curveball? A: The curveball grip involves holding the ball such that the seams run parallel with the middle finger, and the index finger is also touching the ball’s seam.

Q: Why is the curveball challenging for batters to hit? A: The curveball’s spin alters the ball’s path, making it unpredictable, and harder for batters to track and time.

Q: Who are some of the best curveball pitchers? A: Bert Blyleven, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Satchel Paige, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Warren Spahn, and Adam Wainwright are some of the most accomplished curveball pitchers.

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