Deconstructing the Slider, One of Baseball’s Most Versatile Pitching Techniques

Gerrit Cole, Verlander and Scherzer. What do they all have in common? A powerful Slider.
It’s a pitch that’s skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. In 2022, an astonishing 20.8% of all MLB pitches thrown were classified as sliders. This surge in usage has only continued to rise even in the first part of 2023, making the Slider a dominant force on the mound.

In this installment of our "Deconstructing Pitches" series, we’ll delve into the art of throwing a Slider, one of the most valuable pitches in baseball, especially for younger pitchers looking to up their game.

An Overview of the Slider

The Slider is a mesmerizing breaking ball that features glove side action and typically drops off the fastball by around 10-15 inches. The magic behind this movement lies in the combination of side spin and gyro spin that the ball undergoes during its flight. Unlike a curveball, the Slider is thrown at a faster speed, usually around 6 to 10 mph slower than a fastball, making it a deceptive weapon for striking out batters.

The Slider has earned its reputation as the sport's preeminent swing-and-miss pitch, and for a good reason. Its deceptive movement and late-breaking action make it a nightmare for batters to track and connect with. Additionally, the Slider tends to produce grounders due to its downward tilt, making it an effective pitch to induce weak contact and generate outs.

One of the fascinating strategies employed by pitchers is to start a Slider in the same tunnel, or typical flight path, as their fastball. This technique is used to deceive hitters, as they anticipate a fastball coming their way, only to find themselves swinging at a pitch that is actually going slower and breaking in a different direction. This element of surprise can lead to batters swinging through the Slider or making weak contact, resulting in strikeouts and easy ground ball outs. 

With its sheer variety as a pitching technique, pitchers can tailor their Slider to match their individual playing style and capitalize on their unique strengths.

The two key elements of a Slider from PPP coach, Noah Junis:


Mastering the Slider Pitch Grip

Getting the grip right is crucial for throwing a Slider effectively. The most common grip used for a Slider is known as "SL 2". To achieve this grip, place your fingers slightly off-center between the inner seams of the baseball. The middle finger should be positioned directly on a seam, while the index finger rests on the leather part of the ball. Finding the right grip pressure between your thumb, index and middle fingers is essential for the desired spin and movement of the pitch.

While "SL 2" is the most common Slider grip, there are several other grips and cues you can experiment with to add diversity to your pitching arsenal. Each grip type varies in seam orientation and index finger usage, offering subtle differences in pitch movement. From "Standard Offset" to "Horseshoe Spike," there's a grip for every pitcher's preferences and comfort level.

Throwing the Slider Using Spin and Velocity

The throwing motion for the Slider is similar to that of a curveball, but with slight variations. As you release the ball, ensure your hand is slightly off to the side, allowing your fingers to pull down on the side of the pitch, generating the crucial side spin or gyro spin needed for the lateral movement. Imagine "slashing the zone" with the ball or throwing it like a football, and you'll achieve the smooth sliding action upon release. This is the key to obtain more velocity with your pitch.

Here’s an example of one of our athletes at Premier Pitching Performance:


The Two Slider Movement Profiles

In our quest to perfect the Slider, it's essential to understand the desired movement profile of this versatile pitch. Generally, we aim for the Slider to exhibit more horizontal movement (sweep) than vertical movement (drop), with the amount of movement varying depending on the type of Slider being thrown. Here are two different examples of movement patterns we see most commonly with Sliders:

  1. Sweeping Sliders

Sweeping sliders rely heavily on side spin and true spin, achieved by coming "around" the ball during the release. This orientation allows the pitch to move significantly, ideally around 10-15+ inches, towards the pitcher's glove side. By having this distinct horizontal movement, the sweeping Slider sets itself apart from the curveball, making it a powerful weapon to complement the Two-Seam Fastball (2SFB) and Changeup (CH).

  1. Gyro Sliders

On the other hand, gyro sliders place greater emphasis on gyro spin and typically have less true spin compared to the sweeping slider. To create the gyro spin, pitchers come "on the side" of the ball during the release, harnessing gravity's influence to facilitate the pitch's sweeping action. Although gyro sliders may only exhibit 1-5 inches of horizontal movement towards the pitcher's glove side, they compensate with higher velocity compared to their sweeping counterparts. This characteristic allows the gyro Slider to work effectively alongside the Four-Seam Fastball (4SFB).

Understanding these two additional slider movement profiles gives pitchers greater versatility and options when it comes to tailoring their Slider to their individual playing style. Whether you prefer the sweeping Slider with its significant horizontal movement or the gyro Slider with its deceptive speed, mastering these variations will help you keep batters off balance and enhance your effectiveness on the mound.

Assess Your Pitch, Perform at a Higher Level with Premier Pitching Performance

The Slider is a game-changing pitch that demands practice, dedication and the right guidance to master. Understanding the mechanics and grips of this incredible breaking ball will empower you to add a powerful weapon to your pitching arsenal.

At Premier Pitching Performance, we are committed to helping you achieve your full potential as a pitcher. If you want to take your pitching skills to the next level, book a pitching assessment with our experienced coaches at our state-of-the-art facility in Wentzville, just outside of St. Louis, MO. Our coaches will provide you with a comprehensive biomechanical breakdown of your pitching strengths and weaknesses, guiding you on your path to becoming a top-tier pitcher.

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