Adding to the Arsenal with the Curveball & Screwball

Written by VersusTue Sep 13 2022
Adding to the Arsenal with the Curveball & Screwball

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If you’re looking for extra ammunition to take down big hitters, these two breaking pitches are a great place to start.

Adding to the Arsenal with the Curveball & Screwball

If you’re looking for extra ammunition to take down big hitters, these two breaking pitches are a great place to start.

Once a player is confident with their fastball, learning some breaking pitches—like the curveball and screwball—is key in becoming a well-rounded, competitive, and intimidating pitcher.  

Introducing new pitches has the obvious benefit of giving an athlete additional weapons to use from the mound—but the advantages extend much further. 

Learning advanced pitching techniques allows players who really want to go deep on pitching, to stretch themselves and take their game to the next level.

Being able to throw more complex pitches requires dialing in fundamental mechanics even further, because this is the foundation from which all specialty pitches are built. 

For players willing to do the work, the results can be astounding.

Training the breaking pitches creates a positive feedback loop, where an athlete not only adds new weapons to their pitching arsenal—they can also refine and improve existing skills.

To that end, if you haven’t already read our article on Proper Softball Pitching Mechanics—now is the time to do so. It is essential to have these fundamentals completely dialed in before tackling more complex pitches, and Jennie Finch covers everything you need to know.

This article is part of a series of exclusive training videos we recorded with softball legend Jennie Finch. In these videos, she goes into great detail about all the skills and mindset techniques that led her to become one of the most well-known and influential icons in softball history.

You can access all Jennie’s training videos with a subscription to Versus—plus tons more content from other elite athletes and world-class coaches.

For those who haven’t signed up yet, we’ve summarized some of the videos into articles like this. While we have done our best to get the core messages across on the page, it’s no substitute for seeing an athlete like Finch in action. 

Do yourself a favor—if you want to take your game to the next level—head over to the Versus website or download the app and sign up. Our interactive digital training platform will help you get the most out of your unique sporting potential.

Until then, let's get into Jennie Finch’s guide to mastering the curveball and screwball.

The Curveball      

So, the goal of a curveball is to throw a pitch that breaks outside from a right-handed batter (inside for a lefty)—just as it’s coming toward the plate.

Finch uses the same grip on her curveball as her riseball. She finds the ‘C’ of the seam and places her middle finger underneath it. Then she tucks her pointer to the side a little, like this.

Jennie stresses the importance of that pointer finger, stating “That’s where you should feel the most tension when you grip the ball and release on the curveball, the riseball, even the changeup.

”I truly feel that pointer finger more than any other finger."

Remember the Power Line

You might recall Jennie talking about the power line from the first article in this series. If you haven’t checked it out already—take a look now, as you need to understand the power line to learn this pitch.

The curveball still uses the same power line as a fastball, just with one slight alteration. Right-handers are going to step one footprint to the right of the power line (lefty’s one step to the left).

This small change in foot placement is what you use to generate more torque to get around the ball, creating the break. But Finch reminds us, “We want everything to look the same until the release point.”

No Loose Fingers

One of Finch’s golden rules for the curveball—is to keep the fingers tight and close to the body.

She warns, “Any time we see loose fingers on our release,” like this.

“We’re not spinning the ball with everything that we have.”

When throwing a curveball, the pitcher’s arm needs to stay in tight to the body. Fingers need to curl in close and “spin that ball like crazy.”

The key here is to resist the temptation to go underneath the ball. 

You want to get around the ball, cutting the pinky straight down to the left pocket—creating the spin that’s going to make the ball break away from a right-handed hitter.

Body Position

Jennie gives two important tips about body position for the curveball.

First, the front side must stay firm—that’s what creates the resistance to get around the ball to create a tight spin.

The front shoulder is going to want to fly open, because it’s trying to follow where we’re sending the ball. You have to resist that with all your might, holding the front side tightly.

Second, at the release point of the curveball, the elbow should be in tight against the rib cage, like this.

This helps dial in the arm and hand motion that we’re going for—allowing the pitcher to execute a quick wrist snap for maximum spin.

Curveball Takeaways

To recap, here are the key takeaways for mastering the curveball.

  1. Strengthen the fingertips
  2. Dig into the ball
  3. Keep arm and hand close to the body
  4. Execute a quick wrist snap for maximum spin

Now let's discuss throwing the screwball.

The Screwball

Finch covers the curveball and screwball in the same training session, as both pitches share a few characteristics. Each aims to catch the batter off-guard by using spin to break before crossing the plate.

For a right-handed pitcher throwing to a righty batter—a curveball will break outside, while a screwball will break inside (this will be switched up for lefties).

While the screwball could be considered the reverse of a curveball, there are some specific differences in technique pitchers need to be aware of.

Four-Seam Grip  

Jennie uses the same four-seam grip for her screwball, fastball, and dropball. 

However, each is thrown with a different wrist angle. Whereas the fastball is thrown from behind the ball, Finch describes the grip on her screwball as “a sideways fastball”.

Here is a visual of the same grip for all three pitches (fastball, dropball, screwball).

Power Line Foot Placement

As always, paying attention to foot placement along the power line is essential.

The curveball is one footprint to the right of the power line—but because we are aiming to spin in the opposite direction for the screwball—we switch to one footprint to the left for this pitch. 

Here’s a picture to demonstrate.

In the video, Jennie explains that this foot placement allows her to open her hips just a little more, enabling her to get inside the ball and spin it to the inside of a right-handed hitter.

Slap the Fence

We can string together the cues Jennie has given for the screwball so far, with her cue to “slap the fence” as the hand moves toward the release point.

Start by striding out—one foot to the left of the power line.

While aiming toward the hitter, cut the fastball inside with that sideways hand angle.

As your hand moves past the body, imagine rubbing your fingertips against a fence that extends straight up from your power line. Finch calls this “slapping the fence.”

And again, make sure the elbow stays close to the rib cage.

Fingertips Create the Spin

Jennie gives a couple of tips for getting the spin needed to throw a good screwball.

Overall, her advice is,

“Let your fingertips do the magic, not your shoulder.”

However, before thinking about the hands—Finch reminds us that coming to a complete stop and keeping a firm front side—is just as important for the screwball as all other pitches. This solid stop is needed to transmit the full force and spin generated by the body into the ball.

Once you’ve got your stop sorted, focus on relaxing the shoulder, staying long and loose with the arm circle, and really dialing in the pressure from your fingertips on the seams and the ball.

Remember to use the sideways fastball grip.

Keep that elbow on the rib cage and arm close to the body. You’re going to feel like your hand is out wide like in the picture below. 

But remember—it needs to stay in close, to slap the fence.

To create the spin for a screwball, Jennie says,

“I’m making my wrist snap as short, tight, violent, and strong as I can.”

Along with this, she’s focusing on keeping her arm in close and applying pressure with her fingertips to the seams of the ball—spinning it so it breaks inside for a right-handed hitter.

Like the curveball, the hand travels toward the left pocket, underneath the belt—finishing like this.

Release On Time

Jennie’s final tip on the screwball is to release it on time.

To get the ball to break where you want it to, the screwball has to be released back behind us. 

Release the pitch late, and it’s going to carry right across the zone.

The key here—is to plant that front foot down firmly, keep the front side strong, and focus on spinning off the resistance this creates.

Screwball Recap

To summarize, here are Jennie Finch’s top tips for throwing the screwball.

  1. Use the four-seam grip
  2. Step one footprint left of the power line
  3. Spin with your fingers—not your shoulder
  4. Keep elbows tight against the ribcage

Ok, that's A LOT of information to absorb! 

Make sure to read through as many times as you need and don’t forget to get out there and practice. 

Revisit Proper Pitching Mechanics from time to time, as it’s important to make sure you always have the basics dialed in.

If you want the full Versus experience—including all of Jennie Finch’s training videos and tons more exclusive content—make sure to head over to the website or download the app to sign up.

Stay tuned for part two of Adding to the Arsenal with Jennie Finch, where she breaks down her secrets to throwing the dropball and change-up.

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