The Guide to Watching Cardinal Pitching - Part II
Matt Morris has a great curveball
Matt Morris has a great curveball

Posted Jul 13, 2005


Ray Mileur takes you into the "Inner Game Of Pitching" of the St. Louis Cardinals. The curveball and the slider and the Cardinal pitchers who throw them. Part two of a three part series.

The curveball doesn't just curve, it drops. It is the basic breaking pitch.

The typical major league pitcher's curveball is about 7 to 10 MPH slower than his fastball.

Like I pointed out in part one of this series, when a pitcher throws a curve his arm will be more on top and his wrist is turned away from the batter. Jerry Remy, the Red Sox Broadcaster and former Major Leaguer, said in his book "Watching Baseball" described it as When the wrist is turned in a position almost like pulling down a shade, that's going to be a breaking ball or curve.

The curveball is the pitch we don't recommend that young pitchers try to learn. There are a lot of managers and coaches who don't know how to properly teach the throwing of it and a lot of kids end up hurting their elbow. So if someone is trying to teach your little leaguer to throw a curveball, it's just WRONG.

The curveball is called the basic breaking pitch, because it doesn't just curve but it drops.

Imagine if you will, a clock over home plate. A right-handed curveball drops from about one o'clock to seven o'clock, and from the left handed pitcher it drops (breaks) from eleven o'clock to five o'clock.

The break on the pitch depends on the arm slot (angle). For example if a right-handed pitcher throws straight over the top the break would change from one o'clock to seven o'clock to twelve o'clock to six, the pitch breaks almost straight down.

Often during a game you will hear the term a hanging breaking ball this is not a pitch in itself, but it's a mistake. You will often here this term when the play by play announcer is describing the home run that was just hit out of the park.

It takes a while to learn to control the curve. The most important thing is to learn how much spin on the ball it takes to create the amount of break you want.

If a pitch breaks too much, it goes in the dirt and it is difficult for the catcher to handle. Because the Cardinals' pitching staff has had a lot of pitchers who throw breaking pitches it has been important to have a good defensive catcher behind the plate. Former Cardinal Gold Glove catcher Mike Matheny was one of the best in the game in calling a game and handling breaking ball pitches.

Remember all those games when you saw Mike Matheny getting down on his knees in front of the ball, getting his body over the ball and blocking it with his body so that the ball bounced off his chest right back down in front of him so he could handled the ball. That was him defending against the breaking ball pitch, breaking too much, into the dirt.

Future Hall of Famer, former Atlanta Brave All Star pitcher Tom Glavine says "The key to the curveball is turning the wrist. You don't want to turn your elbow. Instead you come out of your fastball motion and then turn the ball at the end. I simply turn my wrist and throw my fingers down. Doing this makes the ball spin. The harder you spin it the more it breaks."

Among Cardinal pitchers, National League All Star Chris Carpenter has one of the best curve balls in the league. It's his out pitch, and is effective against both left-handed and right-handed hitters. His curve has good movement, in that is has late movement and is a biting curve (looks like it might hit the batter).

Matt Morris like Carpenter has one of the best curveballs in the game and while his velocity may not be what it once was, his movement his excellent.

Mark Mulder has a decent curve, better than starters Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis, who's curveballs are considered average at best on a major league scale.

The slider is a pitch you see more often today than the curveball. The main reason is it's easier to throw and it's less wear and tear on the arm. In addition it's easier to control the pitch the curveball and you don't have to worry about it breaking too much and getting away from the catcher.

It's thrown a little harder than the curveball, perhaps just four to five MPH slower than the fastball.

The slider works like a curveball, only different.

It turns more than it drops and moves across the plane of the plate as oppose to breaking down across the plate. It moves from side to side, a little faster than a curve and slower than the fastball.

It's thrown like a curveball, but instead of throwing your fingers down, you roll your wrist and throw to the side.

The slider is a very effective pitch because it looks like a fastball when the pitcher delivers it.

Cardinal starters Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan all throw better than an average major league slider. If you were going to rank their sliders on a 1 - 10 scale, their sliders would fall in the 6.5 - 7.5 range, among major league pitchers.

The key to watching this pitch as with all the pitches, is the pitchers arm slot (angle), speed of the pitch as compared to his other pitches and the pitchers wrist movement and release point.

Coming up next - The “split-finger fastball“, “the change up” and the Cardinals that throw them and how their pitches rank among major league pitchers.


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