HOW TO THROW A CUT FASTBALL (CUTTER)
A cut fastball (cutter) is one of the easiest pitches to learn and command. The reason it's relatively simple is because you aren't doing anything too different from throwing a fastball! In recent years, the cutter has been gaining more and more popularity because of how easy it is to learn and how effective it can be for pitchers. Mariano Rivera is the poster-child for the cutter, having a Hall of Fame career that is centered around his one unhittable pitch. Pitchers like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Dan Haren, and many others have added it to their repertoires. If it's good enough for them, why is it I see so few high school and college pitchers learning it? It's simple, it's easy on the arm, and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones calls the pitch "the bane of (his) existence."
"It's not a fun pitch at all. If a normal pitcher can throw that well, he becomes a really good pitcher. It's frustrating, because a lot of guys are throwing it now. It's another thing we don't want them to throw."
- Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
As a pitcher, your job is to miss barrels. Getting hitters to not square balls up as much as possible is how you achieve and maintain success. The cutter, when thrown correctly, looks just like your fastball but "cuts" (into a left-handed hitter for a right-handed pitcher and into a right-handed hitter for a left-handed pitcher) at the last second. This is why the pitch produces so many broken bats and misses so many bat barrels. Many times, this pitch that only breaks a few inches can be more effective than a breaking ball that moves a foot. Why? Because it looks like your fastball when it comes out of your hand. Two-inches of movement can be the difference in a home run and a lazy fly ball.
You will hear from just about any coach how important movement is. A straight fastball is easy to hit. Guys like Roy Halladay who throw a two-seam fastball and a cutter (along with a Bugs Bunny change-up and unfair breaking ball) make a living on missing the sweet spot on the bats of his opponents. Having command of two fastballs that look the same until the last second, then dart one way or the other helps make him an annual Cy Young candidate and one of the best pitchers in the game today.
How to Throw a Cutter
There are a few different ways, but I'm going to show you how I threw mine (and I had a lot of success with it). I hold the baseball across the two narrow seams and slightly off center. I then SLIGHTLY offset my wrist. From there, with a little pressure on your middle finger, you throw it just like you would a normal fastball. There is no torque on the arm and no twisting to manufacture movement. It's unnecessary and ineffective to do so (not to mention how your elbow will scream at you). Keep your fingers on top of the baseball and throw the cutter hard. In fact, it should only be a couple miles per hour slower than your regular fastball. When your fingers don't stay on top (i.e. they fall to the side of the baseball), your cutter will straighten out and you are putting undue stress on your elbow. If you feel pain in your arm you should stop doing what you're doing immediately.
Play catch with your cutter and get a feel for it. See if you can throw a two-seam fastball that sinks, followed by your cut fastball that cuts. Again, you throw these two pitches almost exactly the same, the only thing that changes is the grip, a slight change in hand position, and finger pressure. Mastering the command and movement of those two pitches will take your game to another level. Add a quality breaking ball you can throw for strikes and an effective change-up and you have the makings of a dominant pitcher at any level!
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