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Does anyone still throw a screwball in the majors, and why did pitchers suddenly stop throwing it?
7 months ago  ::  Jun 10, 2018 - 6:51PM #1
Cocopugg
Posts: 6,357
I just realized it's been many years since I saw a screwball pitcher in the majors. Where did they go, and why have they become extinct? Anyone?
5 months ago  ::  Jul 24, 2018 - 5:13PM #2
bertram
Posts: 5,345

Jun 10, 2018 -- 6:51PM, Cocopugg wrote:

I just realized it's been many years since I saw a screwball pitcher in the majors. Where did they go, and why have they become extinct? Anyone?




I was just exploring the other forums and saw your question.  There are several reasons why the screwball has gone out of style.  I worked on perfecting that pitch for several years, so I have some insight.  It is difficult to throw because you have to impart a sideways spin to the baseball in the opposite direction from, let's say, a flat slider or curveball.  Typically, this means a pitcher has to use all four fingers.  Imagine a baseball sitting on a tabletop.  You reach out and put your palm on top the ball with your fingers extended straight ahead.  Keeping your two middle fingers on top of the ball, you let your pointer finger and little finger slide down on each side of the ball.  The thumb, instead of going under the ball, as in most conventional pitch grips, goes just under the pointer finger.  What you end up with is similar to one of several changeup grips.  


The screwball pitcher is now faced with the challenge of "slinging" the ball in a fashion similar to a discuss thrower.  The overhand arm slot won't work.  So, you have three choices...3/4, sidearm or submarine.  You have two choices in the release of the ball.  You can let it leave your hand on the thumb/pointer finger side, or the little finger side.  I used the little finger side, in which the ball rolls off the tips of the ring finger and little finger, spinning horizontally.


Two things immediately become clear when you grip a baseball in that manner.  The first is that there is no way you are going to get a lot of velocity on the pitch.  Secondly, it would have helped a lot if the human arm and hand had evolved in some other way.  Back in the day, if you could master the screwball, it was a very effective pitch.  Easier said than done, however. 


Call up old film of Carl Hubbell, if any is still available.  He is perhaps the best known of the old screwball pitchers, but he wasn't typical.  If the old films show his grip, you will see that he was able to twist his wrist and arm and get a screwball effect by using a more conventional four-seam fastball grip.  Note that Hubbell's arm took on a odd bent as he delivered the pitch and he threw it nearly overhand.


Here is how Hubbell described his delivery, in his own words.   “I found out that the more I turned it over, the more I come up and over [overhand] I could get a much better break on it, you see. Of course, the more spin you get on the ball, the more break, and it slows it up. When I threw the screwball I came right over the top, and I turned my arm clear over and let the ball come out of the back of my hand.”  Carl was to pay the price, as his arm basically became deformed from throwing the screwball in that manner.


Besides the inherent difficulty in developing the pitch, the most compelling reason for it disappearing is that other pitches that are just as effective and easier to throw have been developed.  Those are the forkball (now dubbed the split-finger), several varieties of changeups that break in ways similar to screwballs and the power sinker.  Obviously, the two-seam fastball has always been around.  They are all easier to master than the screwball and are just as deadly.  So, in a word, the screwball essentially became obsolete.

2 months ago  ::  Oct 28, 2018 - 7:03PM #3
realglenn
Posts: 2,690

Who, of my generation, could ever forget Luis Arroyo and his fantastic screwball that nobody, literally nobody ever had much success hitting?  It was a beautiful thing in 1961, you can bet the farm on that. It's likely gone out of style because of the strain it puts on the arm.  At least, that would be my guess.

2 months ago  ::  Oct 29, 2018 - 2:43PM #4
bertram
Posts: 5,345

Oct 28, 2018 -- 7:03PM, realglenn wrote:


Who, of my generation, could ever forget Luis Arroyo and his fantastic screwball that nobody, literally nobody ever had much success hitting?  It was a beautiful thing in 1961, you can bet the farm on that. It's likely gone out of style because of the strain it puts on the arm.  At least, that would be my guess.




Hey, somebody finally responded.  I did some checking online and found a couple of interesting articles on the screwball.  One of them, 
The Mystery of the Vanishing Screwball 


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