It is likely that New York Yankees fans felt confident about their chances when Mariano Rivera entered the game. It’s no secret that Rivera’s cut fastball was one of the best in the game, and hitters had difficulty squaring it up to make solid contact.
In addition to his All-Star appearances, 5 World Series Championships, and MVP awards, Rivera’s cutter grip helped him enter the Hall of Fame. What exactly is a cutter pitch, what does it do, and how good was Rivera’s pitch? Find out the answers to these questions and more below!
What is a Cutter / What Does it Do?
A cutter is a baseball pitch that deviates towards the pitcher’s glove hand when it is released. A right-handed pitcher throwing a cutter will have the ball break inside to left-handed hitters. When thrown to a right-hand hitter, a cutter will break away from them, which looks like a strike until the last second.
The late break or deviation that a cut fastball takes as it approaches home plate is what makes it effective. During contact with the ball, batters may miss and or break their wooden bat if they are unable to square up the ball with the barrel.
How to Grip / Throw a Cutter Pitch?
The cutter grip is used by big league pitchers by having their index and middle fingers close together over the seams of the baseball. As the ring finger rests on the baseball seam, the thumb rests underneath the index finger and middle finger.
Furthermore, the pitcher must deliver the pitch consistently with his arm, which helps deceive hitters since the late movement may resemble a conventional four-seam fastball that might end up in the strike zone or slightly outside.
How Similar is the Pitch to Other Pitches?
There is a difference between a cutter and a fastball. A cut pitch has a similar break to a slider, but the angle on release is more level than a slider. As an example, a slider will be slower than a cutter but will drop more in angle.
In contrast to a fastball, a cutter breaks towards the pitcher’s glove side, whereas a fastball stays straight. When a pitcher throws a two-seam fastball, the break will go towards the pitcher’s throwing arm.
The Best Cutter Pitchers in Baseball History
Mariano Rivera is the best cutter in baseball, according to anyone who knows him. In 2013, teams gave Mariano Rivera gifts in recognition of his incredible season. According to ESPN, the Minnesota Twins made Rivera a wooden rocking chair made of broken bats in honor of the 724 bats he broke.
The cut pitch has been thrown by a number of great pitchers outside of Mariano Rivera. A few of the best pitchers in the game who had excellent cutters in their repertoires are listed below.
- Haren, Dan
- Shields, James
- Melancon, Mark
- Pettitte, Andy
- Reuss, Jerry
- Jansen, Kenley
- Shaw, Bryan
- Darvish, Yu
- Lester, Jon
Why Did Rivera Break So Many Bats with the Cutter?
With a cutter, the ball is thrown inside to the opposite side of the pitcher’s throwing arm. Rivera, for instance, was a right-handed pitcher, so his cut fastball would move into left-handed hitters. As compared to a traditional four-seamer, the cutter has late movement as it goes to home plate.
Late movement (like a breaking ball) makes it difficult for batters to square their bats to the ball and make contact closer to their hands. Since this is the weakest part of the bat, you will generally break it when you make contact with the ball there.
Conclusion on the Cutter Pitch
A cutter pitch can effectively get Major League hitters out for starting pitchers and relievers. As with changeups, curveballs, slurve pitches, fastballs, sinkers, splitters, and even knuckleballs, changing speeds and where the ball moves will throw off a hitter’s timing.
Whether a pitcher can record outs when throwing a pitch to hitters comes down to whether he/she has the right feel for the pitch.