Being a pro pitcher is among the most complex and challenging positions to learn across all sports.
Combining the ability to generate the right amount of velocity and then finding the best movement patterns to pitch is far from easy. Apart of the pitcher’s job is to get the batters out.
The sinker and the curveball are two pitch techniques that have been destroying batters’ careers for decades.
In this article, I’ll be putting the two head-to-head to find out the real differences and similarities between them but first, what are they?
What Is A Curve Ball?
A curveball refers to the baseball being thrown in a way that makes the ball dive as it approaches its target (the plate) in an arc-like motion.
Curveballs are rarely seen in major league baseball games anymore. This is simply because the difficulty of throwing outweighs the potential reward, not to mention the risk of hurting a batter.
From experience, curveballs are no easy task and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Curveballs only work once they are initiated high and then abruptly break diagonally. They are thrown in a “forward spin” motion, meaning they spin from the top forward.
The forward spin motion is the key to the curveball. I mastered the technique only after throwing hundreds, if not thousands, of failed curveballs: this technique will require perseverance and immense dedication to master.
How To Throw A Curveball?
Speaking from my baseball days, throwing a curveball is a feat of strength similar to hitting a bicycle kick in soccer. It’s hard situational and takes a lot of practice.
In my coaching experience, many beginners will hurt their rotator cuff due to not following through adequately.
One tip to prevent this is to stay loose, not tense up, and not only use your arm and shoulders but use your whole body twisting your feet and hips to maximize your energy and let your muscles take an equal load when performing a curveball pitch.
An adequate warm-up always aids in staying loose too.
The links above and below break down the curveball and sinkerball perfectly and have been validated by me: a veteran baseball coach, to be accurate.
What Is A Sinker?
A sinker pitch is one of the fastest pitches thrown. It is heavily dependent on hard downward movement with immense power behind it.
Sinkers are also known for being very effective when trying to induce ground balls, minimizing the contact between the bat and ball, and limiting the number of home runs the opposing team can achieve. Pitchers who regularly throw a sinker are known as “sinkballers.”
Sinkers are 10x easier to master than curveballs: the nature of a sinker is relatively simple straight, and powerful. Sinkers are thrown with backspin and high velocity.
How To Throw A Sinker?
Again, from my experience as a seasoned baseball player/coach, I can tell you that the sinker pitch technique will take a lot of trial and error. Follow my instructions as a blueprint but not gospel. Play with the grip and find what position/grip generates the most velocity for you.
Differences & Similarities - Sinker VS Curveball
The most significant difference between the sinker and curveball pitch is their flight path and trajectory. Sink balls sink, curveballs curve.
Sinkers keep a straight flight path until the very end, when they take a sharp dip down. Curveballs, however, tend to be slower than sinkers, and their flight path tends to create an arc or a curve.
Curveballs are considered “slow-speed” pitches, as they are thrown slower than the average pitch: sinkers, however, are considered a fastball as they are tossed with maximum velocity and power.
Similarly, both are intended to keep the batters on their toes because they do not take a completely straight or simple flight path.
When Do Pitchers Use Curveballs And Sinkers?
Another significant difference is how pitchers would use both pitches: there are different contexts and circumstances in which they are needed.
The curveball might cause the batter to swing and miss, but it’s usually an accessory in a pitcher’s arsenal.
This is because of the complexity of the pitch itself and the immense ability to be able to throw it consistently. Another issue is the strain a curve ball takes on the arm to generate the amount of forwarding spin, and the abrupt change in positioning takes a toll on the rotator cuff.
However, the sinker pitch might be the primary weapon in a pitcher’s arsenal, and a pitcher might depend entirely on it. In my baseball days, the sinker was my go-to, as in the lower levels of baseball, batters tend to make poor contact with the ball anyways, so the sinker was golden.
Even at the top level of baseball, many famous pitchers like Derek lowe use it as a primary weapon sometimes.
The Last Inning
Both pitchers have been frustrating and stressing out batters for decades as the baseball simply doesn’t come in a straight line.
Each pitch uniquely executes this, with different flight path trajectories and speeds.
Both are hard to master, the curveball being the harder of the two, in my professional opinion. The Sinker is more commonly used as a primary pitch however the curveball is an accessory or complementary pitch used to switch things up and catch the batter off guard.
Both are very effective in their own right when excused with precision and technique mastered.