Is it true that you can't throw a curve ball sidearm?

If so, why?

No. In fact, my best breaking ball was a sidearm curve. My motion was completely sidearm, without any wrist action at all, or bending of the elbow. I simply let the ball roll off my fingers and aimed for a point about 3 feet behind the batter (I’m left handed). Let’s just say that the ball looked like it was going to hit the batter and BIT about 7 feet in front of the plate and broke HARD. It was always amusing to watch batters diving out of the batter’s box to watch in amazement as the ball went right down the center of the plate!

Yes, it’s true. I can’t.

But thanks for asking . . .

I’ve played both baseball and cricket, and, for a laugh, I once “bowled” a curve ball in the nets–using a rounders ball, similar to a baseball, with a cricket motion. There was a fair amount of break on the ball, although mostly of the “12-to-6” variety.

If I could “bowl” a curve ball without bending my elbow, an experienced pitcher should have little trouble doing the same sidearm, a pitching motion in which, as joemill points out, the elbow is not bent.

These sites don’t seem to feel that a curve ball is impossible for a sidearmer. Nor has that been my own experience.
I’m not sure what joemill and Duke mean about a sidearmer’s elbow not bending. I’ve thrown sidearm as long as I can remember and my elbow bends each time I throw.

Thanks for the responses. I got that notion from Comrades of Summer. It didn’t sound right.

Fatwater, I had seen your first two sites while trying to chase this down, but from your third and from the movie, it seems to be an idea that is out there.

The pitching professor, as I understand it, said that a sidearm curve ball will curve UP, right? But I also thought I understood him to say that the curve is an illusion.

You’d have to put a huge amount of spin on a ball to get it to curve upwards. I don’t know if a human could manage it.

It’s been a long, long time since I pitched but my sidearm curve was always better than my overhand curve. Somehow I could never time the snap as well on the overhand. However, relative to “curving up”, we’ve all heard about the “hop” on a fastball. I could swear my sidearm fastball had a decent hop. However, this website says it’s all optical illusion due to misjudgement of speed:

I cannot seem to find a good, reliable cite, but I have seen fastpitch softball pitchers (Jenny Finch, in particular) throw “rise-balls,” that do seem to rise. I doubt they do, and this guy here seems to put up a good argument that it doesn’t really rise, but simply doesn’t drop as much as a batter would expect it to. There does seem to be a bit of debate. I did see an episode of This Week in Baseball featuring Jenny Finch pitching to several MLB batters. They were freaked out by the “rising” motion on the pitch, and whiffed at almost every single one of them.

I think the “riseball” effect is mostly due to the really low release point of a softball pitch. Fastpitch softball is like a windmill underhand delivery, right? The ball could actually be traveling upwards through the zone without any kind of rising effect, if you started it at a foot off the ground and threw it towards the top of the strike zone. I think that’s what the “riseball” thing is, and it makes sense that a major leaguer would be surprised by it, being used to over the top or 3/4 deliveries.

Regarding the OP’s question, I’ve always heard about pitchers “dropping down” to throw a breaking ball. I personally always threw overhand, but I’m sure I’ve seen sidearm curves and sliders.

Yep, Lib, the idea that a curve ball from any angle doesn’t really curve has probably been around as long as the curve ball has been around. The first chapter of Roger Kahn’s book about pitching, The Head Game**, covers some 20th century curve ball denial by the media.

He does say both. I’m pretty sure that a sidearmer can’t make the ball rise, but that the unfamiliar arm angle, trajectory and more lateral break combined with the batter/observer’s expectations based on the ball movement from the more common overhand pitcher make the ball appear to be rising.

A ball’s path curves because its spin and velocity create differences in air pressure around it. Whether it’s thrown overhand or sidearm the ball will still curve. The direction of the spin determines the path. So a sidearmer’s curve tends to break sideways instead of down; less dramatic visually than a more vertical break which is probably enhanced in its appearance of dipping sharply by its motion towards a definite reference point: the ground.

Here a couple of sites which go deeper into the physics of breaking balls. Equations and all:

If you’re interested in further reading, Robert K. Adair wrote a fine little book called The Physics of Baseball.

Aw crap. Would a moderator please change that /b to an /u? Thank you.

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