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Why limit a pitcher’s arsenal, specifically a cutter?

Written By on 15th August, 2012

Dylan Bundy peers into Rick Peterson’s soul and wonders, “Why the cutter?” (AP Photo)

I cannot remember the last big prospect that was told “you cannot throw this pitch.” Plenty of pitchers over the years have been told to change grips, throw with less snap, and adjust many other little nuisances to relief some stress in an offering when the pitcher was coming back from an injury or showed some traits that an organization preferred to quiet. But to throw away a pitch? That is tomfoolery.

As a pitcher, you want two things that allow a pitcher’s arsenal to show deception.

1. Offerings at similar speeds, moving in different paths, controlling two different areas of the plate.

2. Offerings at different speeds, moving in similar paths or hitting similar locations of the zone.

The pitchers best friend is deception in the delivery and deception in the arsenal. If you have the hitters thinking, you have won that battle and the road to an easy outing is one step closer.

I have always taught pitchers that you should have an ever expanding amount of grips for pitches and a slew of offerings. Why limit yourself?

You need to have multiple pitches because you make lack the feel for something on night. ┬áIf you do not have that knockout pitch in your back pocket, you’ll need an efficient ground ball pitch to do the job. You may prefer to use something in the clutch that you know can get a crucial double play. I want you to have those 4 pitches in an outing. You could have 7 types, but not all are working that night, you need your full arsenal to be effective.

People think the cut fastball is used as a knockout pitch, but what some fail to see is that it plays as a glove side alternative to the 2S, specifically if you are throwing a narrow middle finger pressure grip that gains more lateral hand side tail. Both the cutter and 2S then work into at similar speeds, but break in two separated paths. Depending on your arm angle and speed, it could dictate the amount of vertical and horizontal movement in both offerings. It allows the pitcher to have two pitches in his pocket to saw off both right handed hitters and left handed hitters. It basically gives a pitcher two efficient offerings to gain crucial ground balls when the situation calls for it. It is simply an additional wrinkle to account for from the pitcher.

I get that some fear the cutter slows down your 4S fastball, well so does a heavy dose of sliders, change ups and curve balls. Variety is the splice of life. A full and balanced arsenal showing no patterns is not only effective; it keeps the entire arsenal fresh and at full capacity. As long as a majority of your offerings are fastball (sprinkling in the cutter and 2S) into 2/3 of your pitches, you are fine and the arm speed should not be a long term concern.

Case study Dylan Bundy:

I have seen Dylan at many stages of his young career. As a prep pitcher, he had the best approach that I have ever witness out of a high school pitcher. He had that ability to knock a guy out with his curve and over powering fastball or crank out that weak ground ball.

It is also great to have a grade 7 in your pocket with your fastball, and have a 2S with a great deal of late movement due to the sheer strength and spin he can gain on the pitch. Hitters have a tough time reaching up to a 98 mph offering by itself. Having a pitch that comes out of the hand in 4S fashion, but rides into hand side laterally at 93-94 mph, it becomes a pitch that most hitters cannot gain clean barrel. He can work a solid sinker into the mix that runs, but mainly shows more tail. I like the curve ball, it is easily a grade 7, and sometimes its spin is one of the best I have ever seen. He prefers to use this as his knockout on right handed pitching. It is a bit more vertical than a 11/7 grade curve, it is really a vertical moving pitch that he can work easily to both sides to the plate.

I have seen the growth of the change up, has progressed to grade out above average, flashing plus, in his first full professional season, with nice hand side movement. It has become a pitch that he will be able to use as a swing/miss, as well as an early offering to force the hitter to turn over the hands, as this pitch moves routinely late action hand side.

So overall what he has are three solid offerings that move hand side, one knockout offering that is a kill pitch. He has a 2S that shows some glove side movement and can locate the fastball/change easily both glove and hand side, but where is that pitch to equalize the left handed batters and hard glove side action in his arsenal.

Having watched him and looking at how he attacks hitters, it is not surprising that he has not been nearly as efficient against left handed pitching this season as it is for right handed pitchers. As a prep, he used the cutter to ride real hard glove side and saw off the bat for the left handed batters. He was able to work inside with late movement on them, which should have been another pitch that keeps lefties honest, allow him to be a ground ball specialist to both sides of the plate. This is a missing piece in his profile. Just as no hitter should have a whole in their swing, all pitchers need an arsenal of pitches that cover the entire plate and move in all directions within that zone.

Do not get me wrong, his changeup and 2S ,hopefully re-establishing a sinker more often, could both progress and easily account for the coverage, but you want that “go to” pitch in a crucial situation. I saw what he can do with runners on 1st and 2nd with one out using his cutter. He saws it off and gets that weak grounder that turns two, inning over. It remains to be seen if the change up or any other pitch fills that roll moving inside on the left handed batter, but the Orioles are letting a top shelf grade pitch go the wayside. A pitch that could only help make him that top of the rotation nightmare in the AL East.

Don Olsen
Don Olsen
About Don Olsen

Former MiLB pitcher, Wall Street Vagabond, Writer Bullpen Banter and Orioles Nation. You can follow Don on twitter at @Olsen_Don

Articles, Scouting

5 Comments on "Why limit a pitcher’s arsenal, specifically a cutter?"

  1. Profile Photo
    nixa37 August 16, 2012 at 11:23 am -

    I’m a little confused.  Is this article based on a belief that they have shelved the cutter for the long run instead of just short-term so that he has to work on his other pitches?  I can understand why you would have an issue with them forcing him to stop throwing the cutter for good, but it’s completely understandable in the short-term.  They just want Bundy to focus on improving in certain areas instead of just trying to put up the best possible stats in the minors.  I think everyone knows he’d be more dominant if he was currently using the cutter, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for his long-term development (I’m not saying their current course is either, I just think that’s what you should be talking about in this article).  This is of course all based on my understanding that this is just a short-term thing.  If it is long-term, than I agree with you.
    FWIW, it’s not exactly unheard of for a team to have a prospect shelve a particular pitch in the short-term.  The Braves regularly force pitchers to shelve their slider until late in their development (happened with Hanson, Beachy, Minor, and Delgado off the top of my head).  I seem to remember the Mariners forcing King Felix to stop throwing his slider early in his career as well.

  2. Profile Photo
    Don Olsen August 16, 2012 at 11:39 am -

    In the name of development, it is completely okay to cut out a plus offering to bring out the change up, which is what was the prevailing thought going into the season.  I have absolutely no issues de-emphasizing a pitch in the minors for the sake of growth of command on other pitches.  I would not have beat this drum if that were the case.  I know perfectly well that pitchers are asked to shelve the slider and curve to improve the change, this is not news to anyone and something I subscribe to as well.
    This pitch is being thrown out the arsenal all together.  Please read an article that came out a day later from Steve Melewski on MASN.  It is pretty clear that the pitch is being shelved for good, something I have known for a few months now.
    I am not beating the chest that it is “Bad Orioles”.  I just hate eliminating anyone’s repitore of pitches.  Each pitcher is different, each pitcher beat to its own path.  You cannot make cookie cutter pitchers and expect success.  They need variety, need their own path.

  3. Profile Photo
    nixa37 August 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm -

    Very interesting…It was tough to tell from your initial article that they were shelving it for good and I hadn’t seen that anywhere else before.  I will say though, Duquette isn’t neccesarily saying they won’t ever let him throw it.  He’s specifically saying they don’t like it for young pitchers because it takes away from curveball development and fastball velocity.  The Braves also seem to operate this way, as neither Minor nor Beachy were allowed to throw their slider until the season after they made their big league debuts.  Hopefully once Bundy establishes himself in the big leagues, they’ll let him start mixing it in again as a fourth or fifth pitch.
    While I do disagree with the idea of “hating” the cutter, I do think their is some truth to what Duquette is saying.  There is a reason that no teams emphasize cutter development at the minor league level.  It is a tweener pitch that generally works best to finish off a repetoire, not as a primary focus of a pitcher (it does have the lowest whiff rate of any pitch outside of a 4 seam FB).  I certainly hope the Orioles will let Bundy start adding it back in eventually.  I’m a guy who grew up watching Maddux consistently cut or sink his fastball on command, so I certainly understand the kind of weapon it can be.

  4. Profile Photo
    Don Olsen August 17, 2012 at 8:50 am -

    It is not meant to be a focus pitch; it is meant to grap a quick ground ball.  The objective of a cut fastball is to miss the barrel, not miss the bat.  This whiff rate crap can go out the window.  It was not its intent in any pitchers repitorie.
    I should not be in everyone’s repitorie, but having another glove side moving pitch in the pocket is one more thing a hitter has to think about in the box.  A hitter thinks one second, it is over.
    I do not hold weight into decreased velocity either, because the pitch is not suppose to be throw 20 times a night.  Just sprinkled here and there with a pitches other off speed offerings.
    I hope your right for Dylan’s sake, but the feeling that I get and what I have been told, it is not coming back anytime soon, even as he makes his way to the parent club.

  5. Profile Photo
    nixa37 August 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm -

    Oh I definitely agree with you on the cutter.  I think a lot of people don’t really understand how it’s really meant to be used.  I am hopeful that the O’s will let him mix it back in eventually since they do have numberous pitchers who throw cutters according to pitch f/x.
    I’ve been discussing this elsewhere, and I was hoping you might have some insight. Do you know which version of the cutter Dylan is using?  Is it just the slightly off-axis 4 seam FB that Rivera throws or is it the more modern fastball-slider hybrid that relies on more than just grip to get movement?  Based on Duquette’s comments on Rivera, it sounds like his issue is more with the latter than the former.