Cutter (baseball)

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An animated diagram of a cutter

In baseball, a cutter, or cut fastball, is a type of fastball which breaks slightly toward the pitcher's glove side as it reaches home plate.[1] This pitch is somewhere between a slider and a fastball, as it is usually thrown faster than a slider but with more motion than a typical fastball.[1] Some pitchers use a cutter as a way to prevent hitters from expecting their regular fastballs. A common technique used to throw a cutter is to use a four-seam fastball grip with the baseball set slightly off center in the hand. When a batter is able to hit a cutter pitch, it often results in soft contact and an easy out, due to the pitch's movement keeping the ball away from the bat's sweet spot. The cutter is typically 2–5 mph slower than a pitcher's four-seam fastball. In 2010, the average pitch classified as a cutter by PITCHf/x thrown by a right-handed pitcher was 88.6 mph; the average four-seamer was 92.1 mph.[2]

Professional practitioners[edit]

The New York Yankees' former closer Mariano Rivera, one of the foremost practitioners of the cutter,[1] made the pitch famous though the pitch itself has been around since at least the 1950s.[3]

When the cut fastball is working correctly, mainly against opposite-handed batters (e.g., a right-handed pitcher facing a left-handed hitter), the pitch can crack and split a hitter's bat hence the pitch's occasional nickname of "the buzzsaw." Ryan Klesko, then of the Atlanta Braves, broke three bats in a single plate appearance during the 1999 World Series while facing Mariano Rivera. A few switch hitters have even been known to bat right-handed against the right-handed Rivera (the "wrong" side; switch hitters generally bat from the side of home plate opposite to the pitcher's throwing hand).[4][5]

In 2011, Dan Haren led all major league starting pitchers with nearly 48% of his pitches classified by PITCHf/x as cutters. Roy Halladay was close behind at 45%.[6] Other pitchers who rely heavily on a cut fastball include Jon Lester, James Shields, Josh Tomlin, Jaime Garcia, Kenley Jansen, and Andy Pettitte.[7][8][9]

Popularity and limitations[edit]

The cutter has achieved a boost in popularity in recent years due to its use by certain pitchers, such as Dan Haren, as a way to compensate for declining four-seam fastball speed as the pitcher ages.[1] Braves third baseman Chipper Jones attributed the increased dominance of pitchers from 2010–2011 to a more prolific use of the pitch, as did Cleveland Indians pitcher Chris Perez.[10][11] By 2011, it was commonly being called the "pitch du jour" in the baseball press.[7][12]

A backlash developed as the cutter's use became more widespread, due to concerns that a pitcher overusing the pitch could develop arm fatigue.[13] Baltimore Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette instructed prized prospect Dylan Bundy not to throw the pitch in the minor leagues, believing that its adoption could make his fastball and curveball less effective.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Chen, Albert (June 13, 2011). "This Is The Game Changer". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2011-06-09. 
  2. ^ "League Average PITCHf/x Data - TexasLeaguers.com". Texas Leaguers. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Verducci, Tom (2009-10-05). "Mariano Saves". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  4. ^ Kepner, Tyler (2004-03-23). "For Yankees and Rivera, It's Case Closed". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  5. ^ "AL East". Sporting News. 2005-07-08. Retrieved 2007-08-23. 
  6. ^ "Pitch Type Statistics (2011)". Fangraphs. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Christensen, Joe (June 22, 2011). "Curve now takes a back seat to other breaking pitches". Star Tribune. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Curry, Jack (June 6, 2012). "Andy Pettitte enjoying a renaissance". YES Network. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  9. ^ Kepner, Tyler (October 29, 2013). "Lester Again Makes World Series His Moment". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Olney, Buster. Cutting into the action. ESPN. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  11. ^ Manoloff, Dennis. From atop the AL Central, Cleveland Indians ponder baseball's shrinking 2011 offense. The Plain Dealer. 15 May 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  12. ^ Rogers, Phil (April 21, 2012). "Phil Rogers: Ditching cut fastball for slider points Chicago White Sox's Philip Humber in right direction". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  13. ^ McCalvy, Adam (March 22, 2012). "The cutter: Hottest pitch in baseball spreading". MLB.com. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  14. ^ Melewski, Steve (August 16, 2012). "Dan Duquette on O's pitching philosophy: "We don't like the cutter"". MASNSports.com. Retrieved 20 August 2012.