In baseball, a cut fastball or cutter is a type of fastball that breaks toward the pitcher's glove-hand side, as it reaches home plate. This pitch is somewhere between a slider and a four-seam fastball, as it is usually thrown faster than a slider but with more movement than a typical fastball. Some pitchers use a cutter to prevent hitters from expecting their regular fastballs. A common technique for throwing a cutter is to use a four-seam fastball grip with the baseball set slightly off center in the hand. A batter hitting a cutter pitch often achieves only 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 two-seamer was 90.97 mph.
The New York Yankees' former closer Mariano Rivera, one of the foremost practitioners of the cutter, made the pitch famous after the mid-1990s, though the pitch itself has been around since at least the 1950s.
When the cut fastball is pitched skillfully at speed, particularly against the opposite hand batter (that is, 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". Batter Ryan Klesko, then of the Atlanta Braves, broke three bats in a single plate appearance during the 1999 World Series while facing Rivera. To deal with this problem a few switch hitters batted right-handed against the right-handed Rivera—that is, on the "wrong" side, as switch hitters generally bat from the same side of the plate as the pitcher's glove hand.
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%. Other pitchers who rely (or relied) heavily on a cut fastball include Jon Lester, James Shields, Josh Tomlin, Will Harris, Mark Melancon, Jaime Garcia, Kenley Jansen, Wade Miley, David Robertson, Jerry Reuss, and Andy Pettitte.
Popularity and limitations
The cutter grew in popularity as certain pitchers, including Dan Haren, looked to compensate for loss of speed in their four-seam fastball. Braves third baseman Chipper Jones attributed the increased dominance of pitchers from 2010–2011 to a more prolific use of the cutter, as did Cleveland Indians pitcher Chris Perez. By 2011, it was commonly being called the "pitch du jour" in the baseball press.
Some pushback has developed against (overuse of) the pitch, due to concerns that a pitcher overusing the cutter could develop arm fatigue. Baltimore Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette instructed prized prospect Dylan Bundy not to throw the pitch in the minor leagues, believing its use could make Bundy's fastball and curve less effective.
- Chen, Albert (June 13, 2011). "This Is The Game Changer". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2015-08-01.
- Ellis, Steven. "Pitching Grips". TheCompletePitcher.com.
- "League Average PITCHf/x Data – TexasLeaguers.com". Texas Leaguers. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- Verducci, Tom (2009-10-05). "Mariano Saves". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-09-30.
- Kepner, Tyler (2004-03-23). "For Yankees and Rivera, It's Case Closed". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- "Pitch Type Statistics (2011)". Fangraphs. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Christensen, Joe (June 22, 2011). "Curve now takes a back seat to other breaking pitches". Star Tribune. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- Curry, Jack (June 6, 2012). "Andy Pettitte enjoying a renaissance". YES Network. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- Kepner, Tyler (October 29, 2013). "Lester Again Makes World Series His Moment". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- Olney, Buster. Cutting into the action. ESPN. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
- 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.
- 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.
- McCalvy, Adam (March 22, 2012). "The cutter: Hottest pitch in baseball spreading". MLB.com. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
- Melewski, Steve (August 16, 2012). "Dan Duquette on O's pitching philosophy: 'We don't like the cutter'". MASNSports.com. Retrieved 20 August 2012.