It is pretty safe to say that the duo of Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette and director of pitching development Rick Peterson do not like O’s young pitchers throwing cut fastballs.
During a recent interview Duquette said this:
“First of all, the cut fastball, we don’t like it as a pitch, OK? And we don’t like it for young pitchers because it takes away from the development of their curveball, which is a better pitch long-term and also, the velocity of their fastball. So we encourage development of an overhand breaking ball that has depth along with command of their fastball and, of course, velocity and movement will get the hitter out. ... We don’t like the cutter. We don’t like the cutter as an effective pitch.”
This week, I talked with Peterson to get his take on all this. Here are the questions and answers from that interview.
Do you and Duquette feel the same about the pitch?
Why don’t you like use of the cut fastball?
“What happens is you start to get off to the side of the baseball (with your grip) and then you’re no longer consistently behind the baseball. Typically what we see is the more you throw that cutter, you can become dependent on it and you start to overuse it and typically what happens to guys that overuse the cutter is their fastball velocity drops. That has been consistent over the years.”
Why does the velocity drop?
“It’s the nature of the mechanics of throwing that pitch. Power guys that throw the fastball stay behind the ball consistently. When you start throwing that cutter you start getting off to the side of the baseball. If you want to take velocity off a pitch, get off to the side of the baseball. Your intent to throw the cutter is to take velocity off the fastball and flatten it out. The other factor with that movement for right on right and left on left is it runs into the barrel of the bat. It’s a better right on left, left on right pitch where you can get some jam shots with it.”
So do the Orioles not allow any of their minor leaguers to throw that pitch?
“We have some older guys that are 25, 26, 27 that have thrown the cutter for a while and they are at the point of their career where they probably couldn’t survive without it. But they are also at a point of their career where they might not take another step forward either and maybe at another point of their career, if we had gone in a different direction, they might have developed a little bit differently.”
Do you believe it can take away from the development of others pitches?
“It takes away the development of the fastball and it becomes a crutch. It’s a very easy pitch to throw. There are young power pitches in the big leagues right now that started throwing this pitch a year or two ago and they’ll throw the pitch upwards of 40 percent of the time. There is no other pitch you would throw that often. You wouldn’t throw a curve or changeup 40 percent. When you throw it that much, your velocity starts to drop.”
So with younger pitchers, you discourage use of the cutter?
“Yeah, we’d like them to develop the curveball or the slider as the primary breaking ball, something that has depth to it, not something that is flat. And the cutter is a pitch that typically is thrown later on in your career, often after you’ve been in the big leagues several years. Be it Roy Halladay, be it Cliff Lee, those are pitches they developed later in their career, not when they were young starting pitchers coming through the minor leagues.
“I’m not saying the cutter is not a good pitch, don’t misunderstand me. A cutter used effectively is a nice addition to your arsenal. But a cutter thrown 40 percent of the time for a young power pitcher can become a crutch, then your velocity drops and you fail to develop your changeup and a breaking ball that has depth to it. The cutter overused is normally not displacing changeups and curveballs, it’s displacing fastballs.”
So this is less about any injury factor?
“Correct. This is much more performance related. In developing young starting pitchers, you want to, No. 1, develop a sound delivery that you can repeat consistently to execute quality pitches; No. 2, fastball location preferably at the bottom of the strike zone where the batting averages are at the .220 and below range; No. 3, to develop a quality changeup to control the head of the bat; lastly, to develop a breaking ball that has depth, either a curve or slider.
“Those are your primary foundation building blocks to build quality pitching throughout your organization. After you build that pitcher and he develops into a sound major league pitcher, the additon of a cutter can happen at some point. But it has to be monitored.”
Is there a chance that when Dylan Bundy gets to the majors that he can start using that pitch again?
“Everything is a possibility. But if Dylan develops the way we hope he develops, he might not need a cutter to be effective. (Justin) Verlander doesn’t throw one. And he developed his changeup late. Hopefully Dylan won’t need that pitch until he becomes a free agent (laughs).
“When I had a recent conversation with Dylan, he was saying how much his curveball has improved and how that has become such an effective pitch for him.
“We’re trying to develop Dylan Bundy into the same kind of model of a Justin Verlander. You know, power fastball, curveball, changeup pitcher. Not a fastball, cutter, changeup.”
Does Dylan throw that pitch during side sessions?
“No, he doesn’t throw it all. He hasn’t thrown it since spring training, to my knowledge. Unless he’s thrown it and I don’t know about it, which would surprise me.”
Do other organizations do this with their young pitchers?
“Good question. I don’t know the answer to that.”
I have heard that Oakland doesn’t like its young guys throwing too many curveballs?
“I was talking to Billy Beane the other day and he brought up (Kevin) Gausman. I said, ‘One of the things that makes him so special is that he developed his changeup over his curve in college.’ He said, ‘That’s the difference-maker.’ Oakland shares that same philosophy.”