Mariano Rivera made a name and a legend for himself with the New York Yankees by closing out more games than anyone in baseball and five World Series championships, all with just a cutter in his arsenal. He’s no longer pitching, but his legacy is still shown on display here in this year’s World Series in front of everyone.
“Pitching is everything,” Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. “I think we can thank Mariano Rivera for the cutter. He’s a guy that dominated with one pitch his entire career and a lot of other guys saw that. Very ironic. I make sure to thank Mo multiple times for showing everyone that a cutter makes for a great pitch.”
“Everybody throws cutters now,” Toronto Blue Jays ace David Price said. “Straight doesn’t work. You got to make it move.”
Edinson Volquez toed the rubber for the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday to start the World Series against the New York Mets and began by attacking hitters with a 95-96 MPH cutter. This isn’t anything new. 2015 has been in the year of the pitcher in the decade of the pitcher. Throughout the season, nearly every team has a starting pitcher or two who throws a dominating two-seam fastball that fuses the velocity of a four-seamer with the movement of the curveball.
“They’re so good, that they don’t get into patterns and their stuff is so good that you can’t sit on anything, you can’t be looking for a pitch because even if you’re looking at a pitch, they’re still going to get you out with it,” Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt said.
Vogt sees dominating pitchers on a weekly basis almost getting better – or worse depending on perspective. He recalled a time when the A’s were facing the Seattle Mariners and there was a bases loaded, no out situation and he was due up third. Yet even with the perfect situation on hand, against Felix Hernandez, even he knew it was all futile.
“I didn’t say this to any of my teammates,” Vogt said, “but I saw the look in his eye and his body language and said ‘we’re not getting a run.’ I knew it. You can just tell.”
Vogt believes that the advanced development of the cutter and sinker pitch is what is behind starting pitchers turning into a living terror for batters and completely taking over the game. That, and scientific and statistical advancements made in baseball have only benefited the pitchers.”
“Nobody throws the bonafide four-seam fastball anymore,” Vogt said. “There’s no such thing as a straight fastball anymore. You don’t see it.”
He’s not the only one who discovered this development, either.
“It feels like they don’t throw anything straight,” Seattle Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz said.
“The pitchers are good, man,” Boston Red Sox infielder Brock Holt said. “All of them. There are very few who throw a four-seam anymore. It’s either sinking or cutting or doing something. It makes our job in the batter’s box much trickier.”
Vogt saying that nobody throws a four-seamer anymore may be a bit of a reach, considering that the Mets have four young starting pitchers in their rotation who throw it. Like Matt Harvey for example: against the Royals in Game 1, he attacked the strike zone with a four-seam fastball with the same velocity as Volquez’s cutter/sinker. Jacob DeGrom is no different but Noah Syndergaard nearly approaches 100 MPH with his four-seam fastball.
“It seems a lot more teams hit more home runs,” Baltimore Orioles reliever Zach Britton said. Three out of the four teams that played in the LCS finished the season in the Top 5 of their respective leagues in home runs. “Not too many teams are going to just manufacture runs. So for pitchers, in order to miss barrels, you got to throw something with movement.”
This World Series is a battle between two pitching styles but there is also another possible deciding factor. As great as the Mets rotation is, all of them except Steve Matz is right-handed. It was no surprise that the two heroes of Game 1 are left-handed hitters.
“All of our left handed hitters, they don’t mind facing [Corey] Kluber,” Minnesota Twins Brian Dozier said about the advantages hitters have over pitcher, whether it’s left vs. right or vice versa. “They can see him at a good angle but for us righties, it’s kryptonite. That’s why he carves righties up. It’s crazy how one guy can seem so un-hittable to me but then another guy can see him so well.”
Carl Pavano, 2003 World Series winner with the Marlins, once told me that “the pitcher sets the tone”. This World Series is going to get better by the game, by the pitching matchup. Jacob DeGrom takes on Johnny Cueto on Wednesday.