How To Throw A Slider (Mastering Baseball’s Filthiest Pitch)

how to throw a slider

If you’re a baseball pitcher looking to add an extra edge to your arsenal, learning how to throw a slider is a must. Known for its sharp movement, the slider is one of the game’s filthiest pitches and can be a nightmare for batters to hit. While a lot of youth pitchers can throw a fastball and a changeup, more are starting to add curveballs and sliders to their list of pitches as well.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about throwing a slider, from the grip to the release, so you can add this devastating pitch to your repertoire.


What Is A Slider Pitch In Baseball?

A slider is one of the most effective and nastiest pitches a pitcher can throw. It’s great to use when you’re ahead in the count and looking to put away a hitter and can easily leave your batter stumbling or swinging at air if thrown right.

Sliders are generally described as fastballs that also have the change of direction that you get with a curveball. They are a little slower than fastballs and don’t break as hard as a curveball, but they break a lot faster.

A slider pitch typically breaks downward and away from a right-handed hitter (and leftward toward a lefty). It’s meant to look like a fastball up in the zone before breaking quickly out of the strike zone at the last second.


How To Grip A Slider

Similarly to learning any new pitch, you need to start with getting the proper slider pitch grip. Any pitcher can learn how to throw it but those who throw it with the proper grip and mechanics can get that illusion of a fastball coming out of their hand that breaks hard at the last second. 

There are many different slider grips but these are the most common.

  1. Hold the ball like you would a two-seam fastball except hold it slightly off-center, almost at a 45-degree angle. You can do this by placing both your index and middle fingers together along the outer seam of the baseball near the U-shape spot.  
  2. If you’re a right-hander, you’ll want to put your middle finger across the right half of the stitching. For left-handers, it will just be the opposite using the left side of the seam.
  3. You want to hold the ball down the seam so that when you throw it your fingers contact the length of the seam on the ball.
  4. Where does your thumb go? Your thumb placement dictates the type of movement your pitch will have so it all depends on what you are trying to do. If you are looking for a more significant break, place your thumb as far away as you can from your other two fingers. The thumb should be inside the seam on the opposite U-shape from where your fingers are. If you are looking for more slide action where it breaks way outside the strike zone, put your thumb a little closer to your other two fingers.

Different Slider Grips

slider grip

How To Throw A Slider – Step By Step

If you want to be great at anything in life, you just need to practice. The same goes for throwing a nasty slider pitch. While very similar to a curveball, the slider has some slightly different characteristics. Many youth ballplayers just learn the traditional slider. However, others want to learn how to throw a knuckle slider which is a slight variation.

There are only three main aspects of throwing any pitch in baseball. The wind up is the first one. After that is the grip that we covered above. The final element is how to release a slider. The release has more impact on how the pitch is thrown than some people think.

How to release a slider

Follow these steps for how to grip a slider and properly release it.

To master the slider pitch, slightly cock your wrist during release, applying pressure with your index finger on the ball’s outer third. This technique, avoiding wrist twisting, ensures optimal spin. Your fingers should run along the seam, pulling it downward upon release, creating the necessary spin.

Remember, the slider’s spin resembles a fastball but is off-center, deceiving the batter into expecting a fastball before it sharply drops. Practice maintaining a loose wrist and a correct grip to achieve a slider with speed and a sharp downward snap akin to your fastball.


Does Throwing A Slider Hurt Your Arm?

Any pitcher can suffer arm injuries even if they are just throwing fastballs. With specialty pitches, it can be even more common to suffer injuries. For that reason, you must be practicing and throwing sliders correctly. Two of the biggest issues with youth pitchers that cause injuries are overuse and bad pitching mechanics. It’s not just because of the type of pitch they are throwing.

According to a recent report put out by researchers at North Carolina State University, the relationship between age, type of pitch, and injury risk is complex, but there is “no clear evidence” that throwing breaking pitches at an early age was as much an injury risk factor as innings pitched or the previous history of shoulder or arm injuries.

Combined with overuse and terrible technique, throwing curveballs and sliders at a young age are also big injury risk factors, according to MLB Pitch Smart.

This is a direct quote from the MLB Pitch Smart risk factors page:

Young pitchers who throw curveballs and sliders may experience more elbow or shoulder pain. However, field studies have not shown an increased risk of elbow or shoulder injury with throwing curveballs. Furthermore, the curveball produces similar or even less force, torque, and muscle activity about the elbow and shoulder than the fastball does. Hence, pitchers should learn good fastball mechanics and proper arm slots first before introducing breaking balls.

When pitching a slider, minimize wrist action and use your fingers to spin the ball along the seams. Ensure proper technique to avoid strain on your arm. Aim for a slider that mimics a fastball in appearance but with slightly less velocity, and maintain the same arm motion as your fastball to reduce stress on your arm.


At What Age Should A Pitcher Learn How to Throw A Slider?

I’m not a huge fan of sliders for youth pitchers and I would recommend not throwing them until a pitcher is more mature and developed physically. An effective slider can’t be thrown until a pitcher has established great velocity on the fastball. It’s very difficult to get a slider to break when the fastball doesn’t top 70 mph.

So the right age depends on how physically developed the pitcher is. Have they gone through puberty and are done growing? Have their growth plates closed? If the answer is yes, then it should be okay to learn a slider pitch. A pitcher who isn’t physically mature shouldn’t be throwing supinated pitches.


Curveball vs Slider

The slider, often mistaken for a curveball, has subtle movement differences. Its grip requires a firm hold between the thumb and middle or index finger, ensuring a smooth roll off the fingers for a lateral break, unlike the curveball’s pronounced downward movement. Mastering the slider’s nuances offers pitchers an edge, making them less predictable and more challenging for hitters.

Slider Advantages:

  • Easier to control with a less pronounced break.
  • Faster than a curveball, with a later and sharper break.
  • Deceptive, making it hard for batters to read the ball’s rotation.
  • Simpler to learn for some pitchers.

Slider Disadvantages:

  • Improper mechanics can strain the arm and elbow, risking injury.
  • A non-breaking slider becomes a slow, easy-to-hit fastball.
  • Young players may struggle to distinguish it from a curveball, leading to ineffective hybrid pitches.
slider pitch

When To Throw Your Slider

For a pitcher, knowing when you should be throwing the slider can make a huge difference in the game. One ideal scenario is when the count is in the pitcher’s favor, like 0-2 or 1-2. Throwing a slider can catch the batter off guard, making them swing and miss or induce weak contact.

Another great time to use the slider is when the batter is expecting a fastball due to the pitcher’s previous patterns. The sharp, late movement of the slider can deceive the batter’s timing.

Lastly, if a batter has struggled against sliders in the past or has shown a weakness to breaking balls, it’s a strategic move for the pitcher to capitalize on that vulnerability.


Final Thoughts On How To Throw A Slider

A slider can be an incredibly effective pitch, but only if it’s thrown correctly. In this guide for how to throw a dirty slider for beginners, we’ve given you all the information you need. You should now know how to throw a slider in baseball, from slider grips to common mistakes pitchers make. So get out there on the mound and put these tips into practice.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the key to a successful slider pitch?

The key is minimal wrist action, using your fingers to create spin along the seams, and maintaining the same arm motion as a fastball.

How does a slider differ from a curveball?

A slider has a lateral break and is faster than a curveball, which typically has a more pronounced downward movement.

What are the common mistakes when throwing a slider?

Common mistakes include using too much wrist action, not maintaining proper grip, and not replicating the fastball’s arm motion, leading to less effective or injurious pitches.

Can throwing a slider lead to arm injuries?

Yes, especially if thrown with improper technique or overused, it can strain the arm and elbow.

At what age should pitchers start learning the slider?

It’s recommended to start learning the slider after developing a strong fastball, typically not before the age of 14 to 17, depending on physical maturity.

How can a pitcher make their slider more effective?

Practice maintaining a firm grip, ensuring a smooth roll off the fingers for a lateral break, and keeping the pitch’s speed close to that of a fastball for deception.


Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.
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