How To Hit & Throw A Slider: Why is a Slider Pitch Called a Slider?

Considering the movement of a slider, it’s not difficult to imagine why it’s called a slider – it slides. But the naming of the slider has to do with its origins, which are contested.

According to the MLB glossary online, the pitch was referred to as the “nickel curve” in the first part of the 20th century. When trying to determine who was the first to throw the pitch, three names come up the most: Charles Albert “Chief” Bender, George Blaeholder, and George Uhle.

Bender, who played in the 1900s and 1910s, threw a nickel curve, so is sometimes credited as the originator of the slider.

A 1936 article from Baseball Magazine refers to Blaeholder’s sloping, side-arm fastball as a “slide ball,” although it didn’t quite look like the sliders pitchers throw today. Uhle developed a “sailing fastball” that he referred to as a slider. Whether these pitches developed into the modern slider or looked more like cut fastballs is unclear, but they seem to be the earliest mentions of a “slider”, according to ESPN writer Rob Neyer.

Sidenote: So much of hitting the Slider successfully is anticipating it's spin, speed, and location. If you'd like to learn more about how players are sharpening their pitch-selection skills and timing, you can check out our vision training platform here.

The slider evolved from the 1940s onward, with some pitchers having great success with the pitch. Pitchers began perfecting it and by the 1970s a great deal of major league pitchers were throwing it.

Some didn’t like the slider because they were afraid it put pitchers at an increased risk of injury. Today, it’s not an uncommon pitch, but coaches might not encourage players to learn it until they’re at least in high school.

How Do You Hold a Slider Pitch?

The right grip is the secret to a good slider. It’s similar to a two-seam fastball, just slightly off-center. Your index finger and middle finger should be on either side of the long seam of the baseball. Your fingers should be close together. Put your thumb on the opposite seam, underneath the baseball.

Try to grip the outer third of the baseball and cock your wrist slightly when you release the ball. By cocking (not twisting) your wrist, you can apply pressure to the outer half of the ball with your index finger. You’ll get good spin by letting the ball come off the thumb-side of your index finger. If you twist your hand underneath the ball instead of slightly cocking your wrist, you won’t get good spin. Since the grip is off-center, the spin should be off-center – when compared to a fastball.

How Do You Recognize the Slider Pitch?

A slider is meant to trip batters up, so they can be hard to identify at the plate. There are a few things hitters can look for that distinguish the slider from the fastball, however:

  • Sliders are slightly slower than fastballs, between 80-90 mph. They’re often used as off-speed pitches.
  • Moves down and away on a right-handed batter.
  • As the ball starts moving from 2 o’clock to 8 o’clock, the spin will make the seams create a red dot in the center of the ball.

The slider is also supposed to be a middle ground between a fastball and a curveball. The grip and release point for a slider are very similar to the fastball’s grip and release point. Consequently, watching for these tip-offs won’t do batters much good. 

Final Thoughts

A good slider is a valuable addition to a pitcher’s arsenal. This pitch has been striking batters out since the early twentieth century and still bests hitters today. Although it’s a tough pitch to hit, batters can still look out for sliders when they’re at the plate. 

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