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Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Pitch Series: The Slider


The next entry in the "My Pitch Series" is the slider. I started throwing the slider out of the blue before one start a couple years ago when I felt my changeup (which will be featured at a later time) lacked movement and was pretty much stale. The typical slider is held like a conventional curveball but instead of coming directly over the top with the ball to get forward rotation you attempt to get a clockwise rotation on the ball. The best way to describe its release is to think about either throwing a football with a perfect spiral or turning a doorknob with your thumb, index, and middle fingers.

This pitch is perfect to use against those fastball happy teams. The pitch moves enough to miss the sweet spot of the bat and can also be used as a strikeout pitch throwing it away to a righty batter (as a righty pitcher) and getting them to chase it or by throwing it inside and catching the black of the plate. Personally I use it to induce weak grounders from the righty batters and as a strikeout pitch to lefties trying to backdoor the pitch on them. 

Some of the great all-time slider throwers include: Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, Sparky Lyle, Ron Guidry, and Jeff Nelson. Guys like Johnson and Nelson used big sweeping sliders to strike guys out while guys like Lyle and Guidry had more drop to their pitch which made them dominant.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Pitch Series: The Curveball

In my opinion there is no sweeter pitch than the curveball. The curveball is my bread & butter pitch, the reason why I can be a washed up righty and still succeed on the mound today. I throw several different types of curves depending on what I’m looking to achieve with the pitch, like getting a smaller tighter break or throwing a big slow looper to get a batter off-balanced. Once you can be comfortable with the pitch and can throw it for strikes consistently, it can be one of your greatest assets and a great addition to any repertoire. 
When I played in the youth leagues and in High School, I used the typical curve grip as shown above. I never had too much success with it as I had just began to use it and understanding how to get the tight over-the-top spin was just something I couldn’t grasp. It took until at least my junior year of high school that it started to come around. I had spent most of my time as a fastball/changeup pitcher that throwing something totally different from the others took some major adjusting. Like with any pitch, the curveball must be thrown with the same arm speed and angle as your other pitches to be affective. Obtaining tight forward rotation is also critical and determines how much break you’ll get on the pitch. Once you become confident with it you can begin experimenting with a little extra sidespin on the ball to get it to act more like a “slurve” thus adding another element to your game.
 
In my late high school and American Legion years I began using the Knuckle-Curve grip. I felt that the grip allowed me to get a tighter rotation on the ball and have a bigger break. Several famous big leaguers use this grip including Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett, and Mike Mussina. Using both the regular grip and the knuckle grip I was able to give batters several different looks and was able to go through opposing lineups more times, keeping me in games longer.
 
The grip that I now use is a modified version of one that newly elected Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven used to make him one of baseball’s all-time greatest strikeout artists. I was listening to a Twins broadcast one night in which Blyleven was explaining how he threw his curveball. He explained that he tried to emulate Sandy Koufax’s “drop ball,” and figured out how to achieve the same spin and break on the pitch. After sending several emails out to Bert I was able to figure out how he held the pitch. He explained that he pretty much held it like a two-seam fastball but came over the top with the pitch to make it curve. After many afternoons trying to achieve the same results I adjusted the grip slightly to my liking and got a pitch that I can throw both fast or slow and get lots of break with. When I throw it slow my teammates named it, “The Gravity Ball” as nothing that slow could actually break on its own without gravity doing most of the work.
 
I always have fun trying make batters look like fools with this pitch and if you’re not throwing one already I think it’s about time you try. Hit me up with some questions or comments and I would be glad to help any of you out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

USA!!! USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!

I learned of Bin Laden's passing as a lot of us did. Watching the Mets take on the Phillies on Sunday night an uproar of "USA!!! USA!!!" chants broke out. Wondering what the hell was going on I cranked the volume up only to find out that we finally took out Osama. It seems like the NL East is always there to bring the country closer together.




Here's a gem from the Mets first game back after 9/11. Mike Piazza would later hit an epic homerun that will never be forgotten by Mets fans.