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Phil Hughes' 2010 Cutter

Phil Hughes' season was neither awful, nor spectacular. After a great first couple of months, Hughes slipped a bit with a stretch of less than optimal starts. And despite what the media might say, his problems were probably not caused by a skipped start in June.

I wanted to take a look at Phil's cutter to see if there was any noticeable change throughout the season. Here are a few heatmaps along with some interesting data points.

Phil Hughes' Cutter, April & May

On the left, you can see all the hits coming off Hughes' cutter and their locations in the field throughout April and May this season. On the right, you can see the movement on his cutter. This is determined as the pitch is crossing the plate. The x-axis indicates 13 feet per second drop from a pitch as it crosses the plate, with each grid line equaling 4 ft/sec (one line above the axis would equal 9 ft/sec in downward movement, one line below equals 17 ft/sec). The y-axis equals 0 ft/sec in horizontal movement.

So the above heat map indicates that Hughes' cutter in April and May had an average downward movement of 12.5 ft/sec and a right to left movement averaging 7.8 ft/sec. Here are the heat maps for the rest of the season.

Phil Hughes' Cutter, June & July

Phil Hughes' Cutter, August, September & October (regular season only)

The first thing that stands out is Hughes' June and July heat map. He was not as consistent with his cutter's movement, as you can see the blue creep toward the center of the map a bit more. Same thing from August on, although not nearly as bad. In April and May, Hughes did not seem to throw any flat cutters, as you can see nothing at all nearing that y-axis of 0 ft/sec.

April - May752517.8-12.5
June - July511667.1-12.7
August - October331267.3-13.3

PA: Plate Appearances decided on a cutter
P: Cutters thrown
H-PlateVel: Horizontal movement in feet/sec
V-PlateVel: Vertical movement in feet/sec

April - May83.5%2892.276
June - July81.0%2993.493
August - October76.3%3093.385

Cntct%: Contact Rate (in play + foul / swings) on cutters
Fly-Dist: Fly ball distance on cutters

Interesting that Hughes got more swings and misses on his cutter as the season went on. In the middle of the season, Hughes' cutter had the lowest average right to left movement. Not surprising that he was hit hardest during that stretch. It's also interesting that Hughes' cutter had more drop as the season went on, almost an entire foot per second from the beginning of the season to the end. I'm not sure what exactly this tells us, if much of anything at all. Perhaps it can be connected to a decrease in spin on his cutter, as he maintained an overall velocity of 89 mph on the pitch throughout the season. It could also be attributed to a slight change in release point or delivery.


Huff vs. Hunter

Last night, Aubrey Huff deposited a first pitch cutter from Tommy Hunter into the right field seats for a two-run HR.  It was all the offense the Giants would need to win the game.  In the regular season, Huff was one of the best cut fastball hitters in the league.

Top 2010 NL Batters vs. the Cutter by wOBA (min. 50 PA)Aubrey Huff In Play SLG% vs. Cutters since 2008As noted during the broadcast last night, Hunter had to endure a nine pitch at bat from Freddy Sanchez just prior to Huff's third inning AB.

Freddy Sanchez's 3rd Inning ABMuch was made of how Huff was able to get a good look at Hunter's stuff with Sanchez fouling off pitch after pitch ahead of him.  But as you can see, Hunter pitched Sanchez fairly carefully. That AB probably did more to tire out Hunter and disrupt his rhythm.  After finally retiring Sanchez on a ground out, he then grooved the very next pitch right over the heart of the plate.  Huff did not miss it.

3rd Inning, Hunter vs. Huff


Posey as Berra

Pitches on the edge of the strike zone resulted in the most long hits for Buster Posey this post season:


Buster Posey slugging, 2010 post season.Note that this isn't out of line with his regular season heat map.

Buster Posey slugging, 2010 regular season.The main differences are that Posey hit more pitches near the middle of the plate, and produced very litte power on the lower outside corner.  He's playing the post-season more like Yogi Berra.  While we don't have heat charts for Yogi, he was a notorious bad ball hitter.  He also played great defense behind the plate.

Buster showed good selectivity at the plate in the minors.  I suspect Yogi is the floor of Posey's career, which bodes well for the rookie.