The breaking ball can easily be one of the best out pitches a pitcher can create. Deception, change of speed, and spin all can take place during a good curveball to throw off a hitter. At the same time a curveball can make a pitcher look better than he is, if his curveball is one that is unbelievably nasty.
The first thing I look for when scouting a curveball is watching the release point and arm action of a pitcher as he goes through his mechanics to throw the curveball. Does his arm action match the arm action of the fastball? If a pitcher’s arm action slows down or changes at any point this can tip off the hitter that a curveball is coming home.
The release point is also a key factor when determining if a curveball will be a good one or not. Similar to arm action if a pitcher changes where he releases the curveball from this will also warn the batter an off speed pitch is coming home.
Once both of these have been graded I then look for depth and level of the breaking ball. What kind of curveball is he throwing?
A curveball’s break can be explained with the face of a watch or clock. For example a curveball that is stated as a “12 to 6” curveball, will start a batter’s belt and drop straight down to a batter’s knees, or if you put a large clock in the path of home plate the pitch would start at the level of the 12 on the clock and finish at 6 pm.
Right hander’s will often times use a 12 to 6 curveball, where as lefties will at times throw a sweeping curve that will sweep across the zone and away from lefty batters and in tight on Right handers.
Both a sweeping curveball and 12 to 6 curveball can have great amount of deception. It all depends on how the pitch is used and thrown be each individual pitcher.
Finally, to finish out scouting a curveball I like to see the level at which the pitch is thrown and a pitcher’s confidence to throw this pitch in any count.
A pitcher can be extremely difficult to hit if he can change the level of his curveball. For example if the first curveball he throws to a batter starts at the hip and breaks near the hitter’s ankles, then in the same at bat the pitcher throws the curveball at a batter’s knees and ends up with the pitch in the dirt.
If a curveball can be thrown at the exact same levels as the fastball it will be deceptive and a pitch that be very dangerous for a pitcher to use.
A pitcher’s confidence will follow and finish out the grading of a curveball. Does the pitcher have the confidence to throw this pitch in any count, or is he using simply when he gets ahead in the count? Keep an eye as the game plays out how often this pitcher goes to his curveball.