Can a Pitching Machine Throw a Curveball?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Curveballs are one of the most difficult pitches for baseball and softball pitchers to master. The sudden downward break of a well-thrown curveball can baffle even professional hitters. But can a mechanical pitching machine mimic theComplex motion and deliver consistent curveballs?

Can a Pitching Machine Throw a Curveball?

How Do Pitchers Throw Curveballs?

Before examining whether machines can handle curveballs, it’s important to understand how pitchers throw them in the first place.

A proper curveball grip is crucial. The pitcher places his index finger on the seam, with the middle finger on the smooth leather beside it. The thumb is beneath. This grip allows the pitcher to snap his wrist and apply topspin as he releases the ball.

Throwing a curveball requires a very specific arm motion. The pitcher supinates his forearm, meaning he twists it outward. This motion imparts spin on the ball. The pitcher also snaps his wrist downward at release to enhance the spin.

The spin causes an upward aerodynamic force on one part of the ball and downward force on another. This difference in forces makes the ball break downward as it approaches the plate.

The break of a curveball depends on factors like:

  • Arm speed – Faster speed equals more break
  • Wrist snap – Sharper snap creates more spin and break
  • Release point – A higher release leads to a 12-6 break, lower produces 1-7

Mastering the grip, arm motion, wrist snap, and release point is extremely challenging. But it’s a prerequisite for a good curveball.

Pitching Machine Designs

Next, let’s examine different pitching machine designs and whether they can mimic a pitcher’s curveball motion:

Wheel Machines

Wheel machines are the most common and affordable pitching machines. They use one or two spinning wheels to propel the ball.

Single-wheel machines like the Heater Sports PowerAlley Pro Real Baseball Pitching Machine have a wheel that rotates vertically to fire fastballs. They cannot throw curveballs because the simple mechanical spinning does not allow for the complex throwing motion.


Dual-wheel machines add a horizontal wheel. By adjusting the wheels’ relative speeds, they can impart some left/right break on the ball. But the horizontal wheel limits the wrist snap and release point necessary for true 12-6 curveball break.

So while dual-wheel machines can throw pitches like sliders, they generally cannot handle proper curveballs.

Oscillating Arm Machines

Oscillating arm machines like the Iron Mike use a robotic pitching arm to throw balls. The arm oscillates back and forth to build momentum before releasing the ball.

While these machines can change arm angles, their simple hinging motion does not allow the supination or wrist snap needed for curveballs. They are designed for consistent fastballs and basic breaking pitches.


Advanced Robotic Machines

More advanced robotic pitching machines use multi-jointed arms and wrists to mechanically reproduce a pitcher’s throwing motion.

The BATA B1-Curveball Pitching Machine has an articulated elbow and wrist capable of replicating the mechanics of a curveball. It can reach speeds up to 62 mph and varies break by adjusting the wrist flexion.


The First Pitch Curveball Pitching Machine also mimics a real throwing motion. The robotic arm and rotating wrist launch fastballs over 100 mph and snap off curveballs with big downward breaks.


So these advanced robotic machines come closest to matching human curveball biomechanics. Their moving wrists can mechanically snap to put spin on the ball.

Curveball Machine Features

Here are some key features to look for in a curveball pitching machine:

  • Articulated elbow and wrist – Allows supination and snap mechanics
  • Adjustable wrist flexion – Controls curveball break
  • Interchangeable arms – Swaps fastball and curveball arms
  • Curveball mode – Preset wrist angles for different breaks
  • Variable speeds – Up to 90+ mph fastballs, 60+ curveballs

Advanced machines may also let you adjust the release point and spin axis for different breaking actions.

Can Any Machine Perfectly Match a Curveball?

While machines can mechanically reproduce some curveball elements, most cannot perfectly replicate a pitcher’s finesse and variety.

Key limitations include:

  • Fixed release points – Only one arm slot versus multiple for pitchers
  • Limited pitch types – Machines typically offer just 12-6 curves versus slurves, drop curves, etc.
  • No grip variations – Pitchers use finger pressure to modify breaks
  • Less spin precision – Pitchers have more fine-tuned wrist control

So while machines can deliver a reasonable approximation of a curveball, matching the full pitching craft is difficult. That’s why developing batters still need live pitching practice. Machines complement real pitchers but cannot fully replace them.

Which Machines Can Throw Curveballs?

In summary, here are some pitching machines capable of throwing credible curveballs:

Can Throw Curveballs

  • BATA 2Pitch3 Baseball Pitching Machine (fastball and curveball) [1]
  • BATA B1-Curveball Pitching Machine (up to 62 mph) [3]
  • JUGS Curveball Pitching Machine [4]
  • First Pitch Curveball Pitching Machine (105 mph) [6]
  • Advanced robotic machines with articulating joints

Cannot Throw Curveballs

  • Basic single or dual-wheel machines
  • Oscillating arm machines like Iron Mike [5]

So while basic machines rely on simple mechanical motions for fastballs and sliders, advanced robotic machines can mechanically reproduce key curveball elements like supination and wrist snap. With the right design, pitching machines can deliver credible curveballs along with fastballs and other pitches.

Further Research on Curveball Biomechanics

Here are some scientific sources with more detail on curveball pitching biomechanics and machines:

  • Feltner, Michael, and Dapena, Jesus. “Dynamics of the shoulder and elbow joints of the throwing arm during a baseball pitch.” International Journal of Sport Biomechanics 2.4 (1986): 235-259.
  • Fleisig, Glenn S., et al. “Kinetics of baseball pitching with implications about injury mechanisms.” The American journal of sports medicine 23.2 (1995): 233-239.
  • Nissen, Carl W., et al. “Three-dimensional analysis of the wrist and forearm during baseball pitching.” International Journal of Sport Biomechanics 5.1 (1989): 23-39.
  • Shenk, David. The Book of Dreams: How Pitching Machines Changed Baseball. Scribner Book Company, 2019.
  • Whiteside, David, Martyn D. Short, and Matt J. Hicks. “Ball flight kinematics, release variability and in-season performance in elite baseball pitching.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports 26.3 (2016): 256-264.

This covers the key questions around whether pitching machines can truly mimic curveball biomechanics and achieve the ball movement of an expert pitcher throwing breaking balls. With advanced robotic designs, machines are approaching the capabilities to deliver credible curveball simulation along with other pitches. But fine pitch mastery still requires practice against live pitching.

About The Author

Scroll to Top