The slider is one of the most effective pitches in baseball. Even to the well-trained hitter, a properly thrown slider will appear as a fastball β until the last moment, when it will dive out of the hitting zone. Like any pitch, there are a number of ways to throw the slider. However, most pitchers start with a basic, beginning technique.
As you become more familiar with the pitch, feel free to experiment with grips and release points until you find what is most effective for you. A word of caution, though: the slider is extremely difficult on the elbow and wrist ligaments and tendons. For this reason, coaches and experts agree that nobody under the age of 18 should attempt to throw the pitch, at the risk of permanent elbow damage.
There are two common types of sliders.
- The first grip involves your middle and index fingers gripping the ball across the seam loop, slightly outside of the broadest part between the seams. An easy way to find this point is to hold the ball with the seam loop facing away from your pitching hand (toward your body). Your fingers should cover both seams, though not exactly centered. Apply more pressure with the middle finger than the index finger. The wrist should be straight.
- Once you have your grip established, you are ready to deliver the pitch. Go into your windup, making sure not to alter your delivery in any way that might tip off the batter what pitch is being thrown.
- The release is the most important and most difficult part of this slider and will take the most practice to get it right. As you follow through with your delivery, maintain a straight wrist with your middle and index fingers atop the ball, as if you were throwing a fastball. However, when you release the ball, exert greater pressure with the middle finger β imagine you are trying to slice the ball in half with that finger. The ball should βrollβ off the fingers toward the inside of your hand. The last point the ball touched your hand should be the inside of the index finger.
- Do not snap or twist your wrist or elbow during the delivery. This will add nothing to the pitch and will increase the odds of injury.
- An effective slider will maintain a straight path until just before it reaches home plate, where it should dive down and into a left-handed batter, and down and away to a right-handed batter (if thrown by a right-handed pitcher).
- The major difference between this slider and the one already described lies in the grip. As with the first variation, this grip uses primarily the thumb, index, and middle fingers. However, instead of gripping the ball across the bulbous part of the seam loop, this variation involves gripping the ball so that your middle finger runs along the outside seam. You can apply equal pressure with your middle and index finger in this grip. The wrist should be slightly turned inward (about twenty or thirty degrees).
- The grip does much of the work with this variation. Throw the pitch just like you would a fastball, maintaining the grip and slight angle of the wrist. Again, do not snap your wrist or elbow.
There are any number of ways to throw a slider, but almost all of them stem from one of these two variations. Pick one that feels most comfortable, and practice with different release points and pressures until you put your own spin on this classic pitch.