A cut fastball is one of those pitches in baseball that isn’t thrown very often, but you know it when you see it. The pitch will tail off the hands of the batter and cause their swings to be inefficient. For right-handed pitchers, the ball moves into left-handed batters and away from righties. Are there different grips for the cut fastball?
Two ways to throw a cutter include the two-seam and four-seam grip. Even though the pitch cuts away from the hitter, it’s not thrown like a curveball. It’s still a fastball.
Throwing a cutter takes time and hours of practice. Grip strength must be increased, and tendons in the elbow should be loosened before beginning a throwing routine. The pressure placed on the fingers could lead to issues with the tendon in the elbow, but don’t worry! Read through the rest of the article to learn the different ways you can throw a cutter.
The Two Types of Cutter
A cutter is a fastball that is thrown with a different tilt on the center axis. It mimics a slider and a fastball in that it is faster than other breaking pitches and moves sharply towards the tail end of the pitch. Gripping the ball across the seams causes it to move as it travels. The distortion of wind on the seams causes the baseball to tail at around the 60-foot mark. Perfect for pitching.
For right-handed pitchers, the ball moves away from a right-handed hitter and towards a lefty.
The pitch’s purpose is not to be a strikeout pitch, but to cause the impact with the bat to be on the smaller part of the bat. When right-handed pitchers are throwing to a lefty batter, the pitch is moving in so close to the hands that it means no power will be generated if the batter makes contact. Two types of the cutter are:
Just like with most other pitches, this one is all about grip. The pressure created on the ball will cause it to tail and move, all while still keeping the same form as a fastball. The types of cutters are named for the seam number that is pressurized during the pitch. The pressure is of utmost importance to the pitch, and if the ball doesn’t move at first, it will over time with practice.
How to Throw a Two-Seam Cutter
The two-seam cutter is thrown just like the two-seam fastball with a different grip. It is called a two-seam because, during the pitch, only two seams are altered with friction. This altering of the influence of gravity makes the ball have movement. One of the all-time great relievers in MLB history, Mariano Rivera, was a master of the cutter. His explanation for how to throw the two-seam cut fastball are:
- Use an altered grip to change the point of the axis – Using the same grip you use for the two-seam fastball, grip the baseball with a gap between the ball and the palm of your hand. Palming the ball will cause it to float instead of moving swiftly. A floater will get hammered by most batters.
- Close the top fingers – The spread fingers on top of the ball should be closed together. Closing the fingers makes the force from the pitch concentrate on that side of the ball. As the hand whips down, those fingers will flick the ball and cause the pitch’s movement.
- Move the fingers over to the side – Once both fingers are moved to the far edge, and the gap between the ball and palm is open, you are ready to throw the pitch.
- Use your regular throwing motion – Use your regular move to throw the fastball towards the batter. In the sixty feet, the ball travels; it should have moved the last three or four feet. The best cutters could rise or fall, but most often, they move towards the batter.
Throwing the Four-Seam Cutter
The best way to have the ball go in a straight line is to throw it in the four-seam fashion. That means to grip the ball with the top fingers spread and the horseshoe part of the seam running between them. The way to hold a four-seam cutter are:
- Grip like a regular fastball – A fastball is held to pitch fast and straight as possible. The four-seam grip rotates the ball with the same amount of friction on the threads, making it move straight. It also cuts the wind’s resistance down and creates the right environment to move as fast as possible.
- Move the seam between the fingers – Once the pitch is held with the four-seam grip, move the ball slightly. The bend of the horseshoe shape on the ball should be between the fingers. Pay extra attention to put pressure on the middle finger.
- Move your thumb to the bottom of the ball – Your thumb should be on the inside of the ball and cheated back just a bit. The more torsion you get from flicking with your hands and thumb, the more the ball will move. The thumb grip is pivotal and increased pressure does different things to the pitch.
- Use the regular throwing motion – Throw the pitch with the regular fastball throwing motion. A big part of this pitch is the throwing motion and making sure that no excess movement is used during the release. For younger pitchers, a doorknob motion could destroy their arm. Use sparingly if at all with young players.
When a Pitcher Might Throw the Cutter
Throwing the cut fastball is used for closeout and starting pitcher situations. It works best when used by a pitcher with a dominant fastball. The movement is dependent on how much force is generated when the ball is thrown. More velocity equals more movement, and that means hitters have no chance. The best times to throw the cutter are:
- 0 – 2 Pitch Count
- Runner on first and pushing double play
0 – 2 Pitch Count
When it is 0 – 2, and both fastballs have worked – this is the perfect time for a cutter. The hitter will be thinking about breaking pitch or off-speed and will not connect with any power. Keeping the hitter guessing is a huge part of a pitcher’s job. Using a moving fastball in times when a breaking pitch is expected gives you a better chance of getting a strike.
An 0 – 2 is the perfect pitch to try the cutter as a hitter will be swinging at anything close to the plate. Usually assigned for pitches out of the strike zone, 0 – 2 is a place to try any pitch that could have the batter second-guessing what will come next.
Runner on First and Pushing a Double Play.
A cut fastball isn’t always going to be a strikeout pitch. The pitch moves towards the batter’s hands and makes a weak hit that can be easily fielded. Only the best cut fastballs have any vertical movement. Moving horizontally means that the batter can still connect with the pitch because the bat is on the same plane.
Having several pitches in your arsenal isn’t necessary if you have a good fastball. Just shifting the grip will make the ball move and tail in directions that make your fastball seem like different pitches. While it isn’t a strikeout pitch, it can create easily fielded balls perfect for double plays and harmless bouncers back to the pitcher.
It is thrown by shifting the fingers closer to the seams and applying extra pressure when releasing. When the pressure is moved to the baseball side, it makes its axis spin awkwardly and tails as it moves farther away. Though not always substantial, the movement the ball makes is enough to nullify the power of the best hitter and create tons of easy outs for the middle infielders.