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What is screwball?



The screwball is a unique pitch in baseball and softball, known for its distinctive and unexpected sideways movement. Unlike the curveball, which breaks down and away from the batter, the screwball moves in the opposite direction. This unexpected trajectory is achieved by the pitcher using a specific grip and wrist action. Originating in the early days of baseball, the screwball was developed as a strategic tool to outwit batters and add variety to a pitcher’s arsenal. While it’s not as commonly used as other pitches due to the strain it can put on the arm when executed correctly, it can be a game-changer, often catching batters off-guard. The beauty of the screwball lies in its deceptive nature, challenging batters’ expectations and timing.

History of the Screwball

The screwball, a unique and deceptive pitch, has a storied history in the world of baseball and softball. Its origins trace back to the early days of baseball when pitchers were always searching for innovative ways to outsmart batters.

History of screwball

Milestones in the History of the Screwball

1900sEmergence of the screwball. Pitchers began experimenting with grips and wrist actions.
1910sChristy Mathewson, a Hall of Fame pitcher, popularized the pitch, calling it his “fadeaway.”
1930sCarl Hubbell, another Hall of Famer, became renowned for his screwball, leading the New York Giants to World Series victories in 1933 and 1934.
1960sThe pitch saw a decline in popularity as concerns grew about its potential to cause arm injuries.
1980sFernando Valenzuela, playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, revived interest in the screwball, using it to achieve significant success in the Major Leagues.
2000sWith advancements in sports medicine and training, the screwball made a modest comeback, as coaches and players better understood how to throw it without causing undue strain.
The evolution of the screwball is a testament to the game’s constant evolution. While not as prevalent today as some other pitches, its legacy remains a symbol of innovation and strategy in the sport.

Mechanics of the Screwball

The screwball, revered for its unpredictable movement, owes its unique trajectory to the intricate mechanics involved in its delivery. At its core, the screwball is a reverse curveball, meaning it breaks in the opposite direction. While a curveball thrown by a right-handed pitcher will break down and away from a right-handed batter, a screwball will break down and in.

The grip plays a crucial role. Typically, a pitcher grips the screwball like a changeup, placing two fingers on the seams. The thumb supports the ball from below, resting on the smooth part. This grip allows the pitcher to achieve the necessary wrist and forearm pronation upon release.

The release is what truly distinguishes the screwball. As the arm approaches, the pitcher pronates the wrist and forearm, turning the thumb downwards. This action imparts a unique spin on the ball, causing it to move in the unanticipated screwball trajectory. The motion is almost like turning a doorknob, where the top of the hand rotates outward.

However, it’s worth noting that the screwball’s mechanics can be demanding on the arm, especially the elbow and shoulder. The unnatural motion of pronating the wrist during the pitch can lead to strain. This is why screwball isn’t as prevalent in modern baseball; many coaches and players avoid it to minimize injury risk.

Benefits of Throwing a Screwball

The screwball, while not the most common pitch in baseball, offers pitchers several strategic advantages:

Benefits of throwing a screwball
  1. Unpredictability: One of the primary benefits of the screwball is its element of surprise. Batters often expect pitches to follow certain trajectories based on the pitcher’s motion. The screwball breaks those expectations, making it harder for batters to anticipate and connect.
  2. Complement to Other Pitches: The screwball is an excellent counterpart to other pitches in a pitcher’s repertoire, especially the curveball. By having a pitch that breaks opposite directions, pitchers can keep batters off-balance and guess.
  3. Strategic Weapon Against Dominant Batters: For pitchers facing batters who are particularly skilled at hitting fastballs or curveballs, the screwball offers a change of pace. Its unique movement can disrupt a batter’s rhythm and timing.
  4. Reduced Power Hitting: Due to its sideways movement, batters often find it challenging to hit screwballs with power. Instead of solid contact, batters might produce weak grounders or pop-ups.
  5. Extended Pitching Career: Some pitchers have credited the screwball with prolonging their careers. By mastering this less common pitch, they can remain effective even as their fastball velocity diminishes.
  6. Mental Edge: Throwing a successful screwball can give pitchers a psychological advantage. Knowing they have a pitch that batters struggle with boosts their confidence, while batters may second-guess themselves when they know a pitcher can deploy a screwball effectively.

In conclusion, the screwball provides tactical depth to a pitcher’s toolkit. While it requires mastery and care to avoid strain, its benefits can be game-changing, making it a valuable pitch in the right situations.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Like all skills, mastering the screwball comes with its set of challenges. A common mistake is an improper grip, which can diminish the ball’s movement. Another pitfall is inconsistency in the release, leading to a less effective pitch. Regular practice, feedback, and attention to detail can help pitchers avoid these errors and refine their technique.

Comparing the Screwball to Other Pitches

In the vast world of baseball, understanding different pitches is key to both playing and enjoying the game. Among these, the screwball stands out with its unique trajectory and mechanics. But how does the screwball compare to other pitches in baseball? Let’s dive into a comparison.

Comparing the screwball with other pitches
  1. Screwball vs. Curveball: At first glance, the screwball and curveball might seem similar. However, their primary difference lies in the break direction. A curveball, especially when thrown by a right-handed pitcher, will break downwards and away from a right-handed batter. In contrast, the screwball will move in the opposite direction, making it a strategic counter.
  2. Screwball vs. Fastball: The fastball is all about speed and can be thrown straight or with slight movement. The screwball, on the other hand, is more about deception, using its unexpected sideways movement to confuse batters.
  3. Screwball vs. Changeup: Both pitches aim to deceive the batter, but their methods differ. While a changeup is thrown with a similar arm action to a fastball but at a reduced speed, the screwball uses its unique spin to create its distinct movement.
  4. Screwball vs. Slider: The slider is another breaking ball, but its break is sharper and late, almost like a hybrid between a curveball and a fastball. The screwball’s trajectory is more pronounced and in the opposite direction of what most batters anticipate.
  5. Screwball’s Unique Place: While every pitch has its merits, the screwball offers an element of surprise. Few pitchers master it, making it a rare and valuable asset in high-pressure situations.

In summary, while the baseball world boasts a variety of pitches, each with its characteristics, the screwball remains a standout with its distinct movement and strategy. For enthusiasts looking to deepen their understanding of the game, recognizing the nuances between these pitches is essential. Remember always to stay updated on the latest pitching techniques for a comprehensive grasp of this ever-evolving sport.

Training and Drills

To master the screwball, dedicated training, and specific drills are imperative. Repetitive throwing practices, focusing on grip and release, can enhance accuracy. Incorporating drills that emphasize wrist movement and arm motion can also be beneficial. Consistency is the key, and with persistent effort, perfection is achievable.

Safety Considerations

Throwing a screwball, like any specialized pitch in baseball, necessitates a deep understanding of its mechanics to ensure safety. For pitchers considering adding this pitch to their repertoire, several safety considerations are paramount.

Safety considerations white screwball
  1. Arm Strain: The unique wrist and forearm pronation involved in the screwball can lead to strain, especially in the elbow and shoulder. Regularly monitoring for discomfort and seeking early intervention is vital.
  2. Proper Training: Before integrating the screwball, pitchers should undergo comprehensive training. Engaging with seasoned coaches who understand the screwball’s intricacies can prevent improper technique, reducing injury risk.
  3. Limiting Frequency: Over-relying on the screwball can exacerbate wear and tear on the arm. Pitchers should diversify their pitches, ensuring they don’t overburden specific muscles or joints.
  4. Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Ensuring a thorough warm-up before games and practice sessions prep the muscles for the rigorous action of throwing. Similarly, a proper cool-down aids recovery, minimizing the chances of muscle tightness or injury.
  5. Physical Fitness: Maintaining overall physical fitness, focusing on arm strength and flexibility, can act as a protective measure. Regular exercises targeting the rotator cuff, forearm, and shoulder can build resilience.
  6. Regular Medical Check-ups: Periodic medical evaluations, especially for professional or frequent pitchers, can preemptively identify potential issues. Early detection of stress or micro-tears can lead to timely intervention, ensuring longevity in the sport.

It’s crucial to highlight that while screwball offers tactical advantages in baseball, understanding its safety considerations is essential. Prioritizing proper training, monitoring, and physical care can ensure pitchers leverage the benefits of screwball while mitigating potential risks.


The screwball, with its rich history and dynamic movement, holds a special place in softball. It challenges the pitcher and the batter, making the game more intriguing. Aspiring pitchers should consider adding the screwball to their repertoire, but with a mindful approach to training and safety.

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