Texas Baseball Ranch October 2018

BREAKING THE BREAKING BALL STIGMA The Truth about Curveballs, Sliders, and Cutters

incorrectly — to manipulate or “turn” the curveball, making the efficient deceleration/pronation of the arm even more difficult. In fact, sometimes incorrect instruction literally makes an efficient deceleration impossible. In addition, many youth pitchers fall in love with the pitch. They throw 40–60 percent breaking balls, because the hitters they face at their level usually have little experience hitting curveballs and are easily fooled by such a pitch.

The curveball is only one of many mitigating factors in the injury of youth pitchers. Every

prepubescent pitcher’s growth plates are wide open for stretches in their early baseball career, so their soft tissue and bones are already at greater risk from the stress of throwing a baseball at high speed.

THIS MONTH IN BASEBALL HISTORY Dave Roberts Steals Second Baseball is a game of details. The tiny decisions that happen throughout a game can end up shaping entire seasons. Perhaps no single decision in baseball history has had greater ramifications than Dave Roberts’ steal of second base for the Red Sox in game four of the 2004 ALCS. After a hotly contested AL East race throughout the year, it was only fitting that the Red Sox would meet their archnemesis, the Yankees, in the ALCS. At the time, the long-suffering Sox hadn’t won a World Series since 1918. After they lost the first three games of the series, fans in Boston adopted their usual fatalism. When they were down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, all hope was lost. That is, until the moment that has come to be known as simply “The Steal.” Dave Roberts was on first base, Bill Mueller at the plate. Roberts, in a moment of utter bravery, decided to steal second. After reaching safely, he scored on Mueller’s single. The game went into extra, where David Ortiz hit a walk-off in the bottom of the 12th. Roberts’ steal ended up being the catalyst for the biggest comeback in playoff history and the Red Sox’s first World Series title in almost a century. Eliminating the curveball in games will have very, very little impact on injuries and will introduce other negative elements into the game — like amateur umpires determining if a pitcher actually threw a breaking ball or a slip/split change-up (they have their hands full with strike/ball and safe/out already), and coaches and players trying to scam or stretch the new rule to their advantage. The curveball/slider/cutter makes the deceleration of the arm more complicated. While it’s not a great idea to complicate an already inefficient and immature movement pattern, the risks are not nearly enough to warrant banning the curveball or promoting it as the primary cause of injury. Such a call for action is an overreaction and represents a significant inferential leap.

Most youth pitchers also have asymmetries, strength imbalances, and mobility/flexibility constraints

or limitations, which will complicate any movement pattern, so their soft tissue and

bone are already more at risk from the stress of throwing a baseball at high end-point velocities.

Many youth pitchers are taught to throw the curveball


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