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« Jose Bautista: Selective Endpoints | Main | TruMedia Networks In Sports Illustrated »

Cutters and Hit By Pitches

Jon Lester of the Red Sox explained why the cut fastball is a tough pitch to avoid after he hit Mark Teixeira of the Yankees in the knee Tuesday night.

“The Teixeira ball was obviously a terrible pitch,” Lester said. “It’s what comes with that pitch, sometimes it gets away from you. That’s the bad thing about it. A lot of guys don’t move because of that pitch. It looks like a fastball and breaks in and they don’t have time to react by the time it gets there. It’s tough to hit a guy like that and see him go off the field.”

It sounds like a good explanation, but does it hold water?  The following table shows the most common pitches as percent of the total since 2008, and the HBP for each of those pitches:


Pitch Type% Pitches% HBP
Fastball 47.3 48.5
Change up 11.5 5.5
Curveball 9.3 11.9
Slider 15.4 13.3
Cutter 5.2 7.6
Sinker 9.6 11.4


Pitches that move a lot, or are fast, appear to be tougher to avoid.  The cutter is both.  There is about a 50% increase from the percent of cutters thrown to the percent of cutters that hit batters.  For Lester, change is even more pronounced:


Pitch Type% Pitches% HBP
Fastball 37.4 11.1
Change up 10.7 0
Curveball 13.8 22.2
Cutter 24.9 55.6
Sinker 12.5 0


Lester hits a lot of batters with his curve ball compared to all pitches thrown, but you can see why he thinks his cutter does damage.  Over half the batters he hit since 2008 came on his cut fastball.  Of course, that means his cutter is a good pitch.  It moves a lot, and that makes it tougher to hit.

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