A skilled pitcher will have a plethora of different throws under his belt. But one of the most simple and effective throws is the slider. If you’re looking for results, then you’ll want to perfect this throw.
While learning this type of throw may not be the hardest throw in the world, you still need to have a sound understanding of the basics.
Not only that but you’ll need a whole lot of hard work, attention to detail, and passion to really perfect the throw.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and similarly, you won’t learn to throw the perfect slider overnight.
In fact, it can actually take years to really perfect this time of pitcher throw. However, you can be ensured that with time and a whole lot of practice, you’ll find yourself being able to throw the perfect sliders with your eyes closed eventually.
Throughout this article, we’ll go over everything you’ll ever need to know about slider pitcher throws – and I’ll have you looking like a pro in no time at all!
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.
What Is A Slider Pitch?
A slider’s a specific type of throw or pitch that is used during a baseball game. This breaking ball will go past the batter and down towards the strike zone.
A slider should be thrown at a speed that is quicker than a curveball, but slower than a fastball.
You’ll notice that this pitch won’t tend to get more break than a curveball throw. When releasing the ball during a slider, you’ll use a technique that is somewhat similar to fastballs and curveballs.
With that being said though, this type of pitch does break more than a cutter. Sliders tend to produce decent results as an effective throw will bluff the batter.
You may also hear these types of pitches referred to as a yakker or snapper
Different Kinds Of Slider Pitch Spins
When you throw this type of pitch, it will always generate a side pin. It’s this spin that causes the break for the throw.
When you throw a slider correctly, there are two main spin types:
- Bullet Spin – This is where the spin is perpendicular to the ball’s direction.
- Forward Spin – This is where the spin follows the direction of the thrown ball.
Often, many beginners need quite a lot of practice to try and master the spin of a slider pitch.
Slider Pitch Grip: How To Use Your Middle And Index Fingers
How you grip the ball will make a world of difference to how the ball is pitched.
If you’ve ever watched a pitcher throw a slider, you may have noticed that they tend to hold the ball much like you would a two-seam fastball.
However, in addition to this, you’ll want to be just off-center on the outer seam of your ball.
While holding the ball, you’ll want to use your middle finger and your index finger to make a U-shape on the outer third of the ball. Secure the hand in place, and ensure the grip here is tight.
You’ll then want to position your thumb on the opposing side inside the seam. That way you can then utilize your index finger to twist the ball. Keep your thumb and remaining fingers close and you’ll produce the perfect slider.
If I’ve lost you, let’s try visualization. Look at your ball as if it is a clock. Your index finger should be at about 10 o’clock, and your middle finger at 11 o’clock. Your thumb should be between 4 and 5 o’clock.
At this point you should only have two fingers free; your ring finger and your pinky. Place both of these on the outside of the ball a distance from your index and middle fingers.
The next step is to move your wrist only a small amount and then let go of the ball. Hopefully, this should create enough velocity for the ball as it is thrown.
Tip – Produce the highest amount of pressure from your thumb only as this will avoid the pitch becoming more like a curve ball.
Throwing A Slider Pitch: The Techniques Needed For The Perfect Pitch
If you want to learn how to throw the perfect slider, then getting the mechanics in terms of arm movements down is an absolute must.
There are a few arm techniques that once mastered, will ensure the best throw possible. We’ll look at these in more detail now.
1. Arm Motion When Readying To Release
Yep, before you even think about freeing the ball from your grasp, there are important steps to ensure that you follow.
The very first thing you need to think about is the speed of the baseball. You will never throw a decent slider if you haven’t got any speed. So you want to ensure that you are throwing the ball at a similar pace to a fastball.
You also want to ensure that you are not twisting your wrist. Your wrist should always be fairly loose right before you release the ball.
You want to also make sure that your elbow and hand are parallel to each other. Your arm path should also be similar to that of a fastball.
Your body should also be steady while your throwing arm moves quickly. But always ensure that the arm path is short to avoid any elbow injuries or pain.
2. Arm Motion When Throwing The Ball
Once you begin to release the ball, you should tilt your wrist a little, just about a quarter of a turn.
You want to ensure the ball has a tight spin, you’ll make this happen by keeping your index finger on the tip of the baseball.
You should be aiming to flex your wrist forwards when throwing the ball. If you feel a slight burning feeling in your index finger, then you’ve done it correctly.
3. Foot Forward Motion
While throwing the ball, it is also really important to ensure that you have the correct footwork too. And controlling your motion when pitching a slider is absolutely essential.
You want to make sure that your feet are parallel to the ground. At the same time, you should be ensuring that the hand you throw with is coming across your body from one side over to the other side.
And while all this is going on, you should also be applying pressure on the baseball. This is so that the ball drops in front of the batter who in turn then misses the ball.
Things To Consider When Throwing The Baseball: The Impact Of The Index Finger
1. Have The Immaculate Grip With Index And Middle Fingers
You won’t throw a decent slider without the perfect grip. Make sure that your middle finger and index finger are placed on the baseball (as described above.)
You want your grip to be slightly off-center for the best placement and grip.
Once you’ve got a decent grip on the baseball, you’ll want to create pressure from your index finger. The main pressure should come from the thumb side up towards the index finger.
2. Don’t Let The Batter See Your Grip
You may not have originally thought about this, but it is so vital. You need to hide how you are gripping the baseball from the batter.
From your grip, the batter can preempt what kind of ball you are going to throw. If this happens, it’s unlikely that the batter will be taken by surprise and thus he won’t miss the ball.
3. Body Motion & Throwing
You want to use your legs to move your body weight backward and forwards. You should always be aiming for the home plate as you do so, and then you need to follow the motion through with your body.
Keep your feet parallel and make sure that the hand you throw the ball with comes across your torso.
4. Don’t Have A Tight Wrist – Keep It Loose
The last thing that you want in this instance is a tight wrist. Make sure your wrist is relaxed and loose. You can use your index and middle fingers to apply some pressure to the baseball to give the ball that late break.
5. Snap The Wrist – Never Twist
First of all make sure that you snap and do not twist your wrist while doing this. You want to snap your wrist upside down to the opposite leg side of the hand.
6. Fake A Fastball
You want to hold your wrist at the angle that you would if you were pitching a fastball. However, at the very last moment, you want to put that spin on the late break.
The larger the angle you can generate with your fingers, the wider the breaking ball will be.
How successful the slider will be all depends on that breaking time. The later you do it – the better slider you will have.
Don’t Forget About The Following Considerations
There are a few things that you’ll want to consider before you throw your pitch, these are detailed below:
- Right-Handed Batter – If you are throwing a slider to a right-handed batter you want to try and aim for the very outside of the home plate.
- The Corner Of The Strike Zone – You want to always try and target this area because it increases the likelihood of the batter missing the ball.
- Index Finger – Never forget that it is your index finger that creates the most of the power.
Things To Think About When Learning How To Throw Sliders
Trying to master anything that is new can be super frustrating. I know that we all hope to pick something up with the click of our fingers and find out that we are born with a natural talent. But this is very rarely the case.
Practicing can be a frustrating and stressful process. But if you don’t pick it up straight away don’t be disheartened. You’ll get there if you keep going.
Here are a few tips for when you start learning:
- Start Slower – You can always build up your speed once you’ve mastered what you’re doing a little more. Start off slow, get good results, and as you do start trying to pitch quicker and quicker until you are at the desired speed.
- Be Patient – You need to follow all the rules to develop your skills. Don’t try to rush any steps or skip skills. They are all really important. Don’t give up if it doesn’t come straight away.
- Practice, Practice, Practice – And when you’ve done that, practice a little bit more. You need to be throwing hundreds of these balls to get anywhere close to perfection. So just keep going. Don’t give up. Don’t stop. Just practice, practice, practice.
Common Misunderstandings About Sliders
There are many different misconceptions about sliders, and I won’t stand for them! Not here.
I don’t like the idea of anyone being discouraged especially with information that may not be particularly true. So let’s take a look at some common misconceptions.
- Sliders Aren’t Fit For Younger Players – Who decides exactly what any other person is capable of? A child can easily master a curveball, so why can they not learn a slider? It’s a little trickier sure, but I firmly believe that anyone over the age of 14 is more than capable of learning the techniques that are needed.
- Sliders Are Super Difficult To Throw – I mean, they aren’t super simple and they do take a little bit of practice, but I would argue that they are much easier to master than a curveball.
- Curveballs Are Better Than Sliders – I don’t think you can really compare these pitches. They are two different kinds of pitches and serve different purposes. There will be times when a curveball is more suited to a situation and likewise there will be times when a slider is more suited to a situation. Both can be effective and both can be not so effective.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Pitching Sliders Hurt Your Hands?
As long as you are throwing the ball correctly, you shouldn’t hurt yourself doing so.
That being said, it is important to remember that in any professional sport there is a fair likelihood of injury somewhere along the way.
When Should You Begin Learning Slider Pitches?
There really isn’t a set time or age that you should begin learning anything. That being said, I’d say that you could start learning how to throw sliders from as young as fourteen years old.
I wouldn’t suggest anyone younger attempting them yet. And you should keep in mind that from fourteen it will probably take up to around three years before the throw is perfected.
What Is The Difference Between A Slider And A Curveball?
The main difference between the two is that a curveball throw also uses a downward yank on the baseball as it is released.
A slider is also released with the use of the index finger while the curveball is released with the middle finger.
What Is The Difference Between A Slider And A Cutter Pitch?
Some people find it difficult to distinguish the difference between cutters and sliders.
Sliders, for the most part, tend to have a more horizontal and downward break. However, cutters tend to be much harder and they break extremely late in a single direction.
Who Has The Best Slider In Baseball?
Jacob deGrom is seen as one of the best baseball pitchers of all time so it is probably not surprising to learn that he is also one of the top slider pitchers of all time too.
deGrom can throw some of the hardest sliders on record averaging a whopping 91.6 mph!
Why Shouldn’t Under-14s Throw Sliders?
Some people may think that this is a matter of difficulty. But it isn’t The reason that I suggest keeping those under 14 sticking to fastballs and changeups is that these more difficult throws can actually put additional pressure on a young pitcher’s shoulders.
This pressure can actually cause potential injury to the shoulder which will keep them from being able to play in the future.
What Is A Back-Up Slider?
A back-up slider is a pitch thrown inside to the same side batter in order to get them to freeze or back away from the plate. The best case is the pitch catches the inside corner for a called strike.
What Pitch Is Illegal In Baseball?
A quick pitch is an illegal pitch in baseball. A quick pitch is where a pitch is delivered before the batter is reasonably set and ready to go within the batter’s box.
These kinds of pitches are dangerous and thus are not permitted at any time during a game.
Why Is A Slider So Hard To Hit As A Batter?
Sliders can be difficult to hit because they come at the batter at really fast speeds and they can do different things each time they are thrown. So they aren’t the most predictable.
For example, some stay down while others break away, and some go to the side of the plate while others go right over the top.
There isn’t much room for error with a slider for both the pitcher and the batter. But there is a pretty good chance that if a slider is thrown correctly, the batter will strike out.
Slider pitches will take time to perfect but if you want to become an accomplished pitcher it’s essential that you do learn the technique. This is because they are one of the most important pitches that you’ll need to use in a game.
Getting the techniques down is really important and it’s vital not to give up when it doesn’t come straight away.
For some, it can take upwards of three years to really understand how to throw the perfect slider. You’ll need to practice time and time again and show real discipline and passion for the sport.
Without this passion, it isn’t likely you’ll have the ability to endure all that you need to learn.
Hopefully, though, from reading this article you have a much deeper understanding of exactly what you need to do to get to that perfect slider throw.
You should now know how to grip your baseball, as well as how to stand, what arm movements are effective, and much more.
As you continue on your baseball learning journey I wish you the best of luck.
Remember that patience and practice are the magic ingredients needed to create success. If you keep repeating and practicing, one day it will finally click and you’ll be able to throw these pitches without even thinking about it!
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