12–6 curveball

The 12–6 curveball is one of the types of pitches thrown in baseball. It is categorized as a breaking ball because of its downward break. The 12–6 curveball, unlike the normal curveball (also referred to as the "11 to 5 curve" or a "2 to 8 curve" for its motion), breaks in a downward motion in a straight line. This explains the name "12–6", because the break of the pitch refers to the ball breaking from the number 12 to the number 6 on a clock.[1][2] While the 11–5 and 2–8 variations are very effective pitches, they are less effective than a true 12–6, because the ball will break into the heart of the bat more readily.[1][3]

An example of the topspin applied by pitchers to a 12–6 curveball

The pitch is used throughout Major League Baseball. It has several nicknames, including the "yellow hammer".[4]


The 12 to 6 curveball is the toughest type of curveball to hit, because it moves vertically, and has no horizontal break. The difference of the speed from a fastball and the break make the pitch difficult to hit if a pitcher uses it correctly in a pitching sequence.[2] The 12 to 6 curveball is usually pitched from the overhand motion, as a three-quarters or sidearm delivery would cause the ball to break 2 to 8 instead of 12 to 6.[2] The sharp vertical break on the 12–6 curveball is created when pitchers apply topspin to the ball with their fingers in the process of releasing it.[2]


Depending on the situation and the type of pitcher, the 12–6 curveball may be more or less effective. Against a batter with the same handedness as the pitcher, the 12 to 6 curveball has been proven to be a very effective pitch in general, but the pitch is much easier to hit if the batter is the opposite handedness of the pitcher, making an 11 to 5 curveball the more effective pitch type in that situation.[1] The effectiveness of the pitch also depends on the ability of the pitcher to apply topspin to the ball, creating movement. When stats for a high level pitcher's average 12 to 6 curveball are factored in, the 12 to 6 and the 11 to 5 are much more effective than Major League Baseball's average throwers of the pitch due to the pitcher's high level of ability for that pitch.[1]

Throwing mechanics

The 12–6 curveball is thrown similarly to most curveballs. The pitch is generally thrown using a four-seam grip, in which the middle finger on the pitcher's throwing hand is placed in the gap between the two seams on the right side, and the index finger is placed directly next to it. The pitcher's thumb is placed directly on the bottom of the baseball. This grip allows the pitcher to create a high amount of topspin while still having a good control of the pitch. The pitch is then thrown with an exaggerated 12–6 motion with both the middle finger and the thumb simultaneously helping move the baseball towards home plate, while the pitcher's index finger giving the ball topspin. This extensive combination of mechanics makes this one of the most difficult pitches to master.[5]

Notable practitioners


  1. Carty, Derek (August 18, 2008). "On Curveballs". Hardballtimes.com. Archived from the original on 22 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-16.
  2. Gola, Mark; Myers, Doug (2000), p.115
  3. Gola, Mark; Myers, Doug (2000). The Louisville Slugger Complete Book of Pitching. McGraw Hill. pp. 256. ISBN 0-8092-2668-5.
  4. Paul Dickson, Skip McAfee, The Dickson Baseball Dictionary (Third Edition) (2011), p. 953.
  5. Gola, Mark; Myers, Doug (2000), p.117
  6. Fairburn, Matthew. "MLB Power Rankings: The Top 10 Curveballs in Baseball History". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  7. "Barry Zito's Nasty Hook - Interactive Graphic - NYTimes.com". Archive.nytimes.com. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  8. Osborne, Cary (25 May 2018). "On this date: The Clayton Kershaw era begins". Dodgers.mlblogs.com. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  9. Conlin, Bill (13 June 2011). "Little Roy getting by these days with a little less heat". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 15 May 2022 via Newspapers.com. [Roy Oswalt] powered his fastball at 95 mph-plus and finished off hitters with a 12–6 curveball that reminded people of the dirty yellowhammer that made Nolan Ryan more than just another power pitcher.
  10. James, Bill; Neyer, Rob (2004). The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. New York: Fireside. pp. 369370. ISBN 0-7432-6158-5. There were nights when the fastball was clocking in the upper nineties and the curveball was hitting eighty-nine on the radar gun. At that speed, the curve would break so hard it'd take your stomach away.
  11. "Adam Wainwright's Curveball and the Nastiest Pitches From 9/13". Pitcherlist.com. 14 September 2019. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
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