Designing a Cut Fastball
A cut fastball or cutter is a fastball that has glove side movement that we call cut. A cutter moves in the same direction as a slider, but is harder, has less horizontal movement, and moves later. On our chart, a cutter has the highest carry of all glove side moving pitches while still having negative horizontal movement.
The best cutters in baseball are uniquely effective at breaking bats. It's hard to talk about good cutters without invoking the man who put the pitch on the mat, Mariano Rivera. Mariano Rivera utilized the cutter to build his 19-year, 652-save career that brought him to the hall of fame.
In his last 5 seasons Rivera's cutter averaged these metrics:
Horizontal Movement: 2.4in
Vertical Movement: 7.2in
Spin Tilt: 11:15
He had great carry on his cutter and it helped him break hundreds of bats, but the most important aspect to Rivera's cutter is his consistency. Mariano Rivera's control on his fastball has been described as super human.
One of the greatest stories I have heard in baseball is when Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera were at an All-Star game. During batting practice, Mo showed Halladay his cutter grip. Halladay took that ball and outlined the finger placement on it and kept it in his locker for the rest of his career. Now that ball is in Cooperstown.
However, not all grips are the same. Jake Peavy's grip was flipped, having his pointer finger closer to the round end of the horseshoe. He threw his with a different grip and had a successful career; it is important to understand your mechanics and find a grip that works best for you.
Spin Axis Goals:
A cutter has a tight axis range between 11:00 and 12:00. The ball will mostly have backspin, but you fingers will be on the outside of the baseball, "getting around the baseball", causing slight lateral spin. Too much lateral spin will cause the pitch to look like more of a slider and be easier for a hitter to recognize it.
Spin Efficiency Goals:
For this pitch we are actually not going to be searching for a perfect 100% spin efficiency, but we do want to be higher than 50%, especially if you have a slider in your repertoire. It is important with this pitch to stay consistent with our axis and efficiency in order to have the most control. If you are trying to throw a cutter that starts as a ball and becomes a strike or vice versa you need to have great control over the location and size of movement. If the pitch moves too much or not enough, it could end up over the heart of the plate and easy for the hitter to crush.
Tyler Glasnow currently has one of the best cutters in baseball with sharp, late movement in on LHHs and some of the highest vertical movement of all RHPs. His ball moves so late that even his catcher has a hard time receiving it.
Next week we will dive into everyone's favorite pitch to throw....Curveballs!
What makes them so good? What curveball is the best? What makes it "curve"?