While things obviously change over time, much still remains the same with Little League Baseball. I was speaking earlier today with another coaching colleague, and the topic of the Little League World Series came up in our conversation. We collectively noted the abundant presence of the curveball in Little League.
In several of the games that I have seen on television the past few years, a great deal of pitchers have relied on the curveball as their second pitch--often struggling to throw the pitch consistently as a strike. At the collegiate level, the change up, when thrown correctly, is much more devastating to hitters then a curveball. Why so?
Baseball Hitter Techniques
As a hitter, visually, we seek to pick up the spin or trajectory of the baseball as soon as possible. As players become more advanced, the velocity of the baseball changes, thus making the reaction time to the hitting the baseball significantly different. Coupled with having less reaction time to hit a baseball, pitchers in college are more advanced in their ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes. So how are hitters able to become successful despite these disadvantages?
As college coaches, we teach our hitters pitch- recognition. Skilled hitters are frequently able to differentiate between a fastball, slider, breaking ball, change up, etc. The change-up is difficult to hit simply because it is difficult to recognize. If thrown correctly, it should mimic the same arm motion and arm speed as a fastball.
Curveballs and Their Effectiveness
The hitter often is not able to tell the difference between a fastball and a change up because both pitches typically share the same path to the hitting zone. The curveball, on the other hand, often will change its trajectory in a dramatic fashion. If a hitter can recognize the pitch early from its release point from the pitcher, he often is able to adjust accordingly.
Yet, athletes and coaches alike love to teach the breaking ball at an early age, even though it may not be the most effective pitch to throw. The wear on a young pitcher's arm is more drastic when throwing breaking balls then when throwing change ups.
Hopefully this trend changes in the future.