Curveballs: Normal vs. Spiked grips
Updated: Jul 3
The goals for a CB are unique to each player and their repertoire, but I think for someone who doesn't naturally generate a lot of top spin and lacks movement, a spiked CB can be a grip change worth pursuing. This post will be highlighting the changes I made going from a normal grip curveball to a spiked curveball. I will show high speed video/metrics for each grip and illustrate how my curveball has benefitted from this grip change.
The goal for my curveball grip is getting my middle finger in front of the ball and pulling down, creating more topspin, higher efficiency, and therefore more movement. High spin is good, but if the efficiency is low, the movement isn't maximized. A player spinning the ball at 3000rpm at 50% is not better than 2800 with 85% spin efficiency. Spin matters, but maximizing your spin is crucial. Increasing the efficiency and transverse/useful spin will allow you to maximize the movement on the pitch. The prior grip didn't allow me to naturally get into that position. The old grip encouraged me to release the ball more on the side of the ball, creating a gyroscopic spin. With the spiked grip, the pointer finger is out of the way, allowing me to apply most of the pressure and leverage with my middle finger on the seam. Also, you can see there is space between my bottom of my thumb/palm and the ball with the old grip. With the spike position, this allows that part of my thumb to be completely flush against the ball, specifically the seam. This might not have any pitch benefits, but has allowed me to feel like my grip is firm and strong on the ball.
These two videos were taken the same day, about a week after I started messing around with a spiked grip at the recommendation of Eric Jagers (@ericjagers). If you are familiar with spin you can really see the difference. The high speed video illustrates how you can see my middle finger fails to get on the front of the ball with the old grip. I release the ball more on the side of the ball, generating more gyroscopic (bullet) spin than I would like, and lower efficiency. My spin rate may have been similar but due to the gyroscopic spin I was missing out on spin induced movement. The spiked grip predisposes my fingers to the release I desire, generating the result I desire. Spin, efficiency, and movement profile.
Above are the break plots and rapsodo metric reports for each grip. On the left (with one mislabeled SL in there #11), the traditional CB grip averaged roughly 78 mph, 2400 total spin, 1300 true spin, 50ish% efficiency, a spin direction consistently north of 7:10, and -10 HB and -8 VB. So metrically speaking, the first curveball was a bad slurve. It lacked total movement and it was almost equal parts run (HB) and drop (VB). Low efficiency which deprives the pitch of spin induced movement.
The spike however, a significant improvement. Similar velocity and spin, but true/transverse spin near 1800 with a 70+% efficiency, and a SD near 7:00 and -8 HB / -16 VB. The higher spin efficiency means there is more spin contributing to the movement of this pitch. The HB was lowered slightly and the VB, or drop, was practically doubled. This pitch now drops nearly twice as much as my previous curveball. Before, a poor slurve pitch, now a better, dropping vertical curveball. All resulting from a grip chance and a change in thought process/cues.
"Front of middle finger facing the catcher"
"Middle finger pressure/leverage"
Although the change might be simple, it wasn't necessarily easy for me to adopt this grip. It was the first time utilizing a spike grip of any sort, so at first it didn't feel right at all. I made a commitment to constantly throw it in catch play, bullpens, and warm ups, but never felt confident enough to use it in 2019 games. A goal of mine to start the off season was to completely scrap the old CB and focus solely on harnessing this new CB. I played catch with it nearly every time I threw for months leading up to spring training and now have a better feel for it. It's still not as comfortable as my old grip, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to take because of the movement benefits.
Adopting this pitch grip can significantly change the profile of your CB. There are certain things to consider. Does this change benefit my arsenal or not? What is my fastball spin axis? What are the velo differences? Can I control it? Do I have time to work on it? Think about these questions and if your answers suggest you should try it, try it. During the coronavirus shutdown might be a good time to introduce it. Goodluck.