I’ve been diving into some of the best pitches thrown in baseball in 2018, starting with changeups, followed by curveballs and sliders. Today, we’re going to take a look at the five best cutters thrown in the MLB this past season.
As a reminder, these pitches are ranked by pVAL, and if you aren’t sure what that all means, check out the changeups article, which will explain everything you need to know.
So let’s do it!
No. 5: Wade LeBlanc
Wade LeBlanc doesn’t really have a slider in his repertoire, but his cutter essentially acts like one, with more than 4 inches of horizontal movement on it.
It’s usually been a decent pitch for him, but this past year, the pitch was excellent, as opposing hitters had just a .261 wOBA and .128 ISO against it. It wasn’t really a strikeout pitch for him, generating just a 20.2% chase rate and an 8.8% SwStr rate, but that’s never really been the strikeout pitch for him (that’s typically gone to his changeup).
It was a quality pitch that posted an 11.8 pVAL, far and away the best pVAL of LeBlanc’s career.
No. 4: Anibal Sanchez
Anibal Sanchez was also mentioned in our changeups article, and in that articlem I mentioned that only he and Jacob deGrom had more than one pitch in the top five of its type in pVAL, which is pretty amazing.
One of the keys to Sanchez’s success this past year was his cutter. He’s only been throwing the pitch since 2015, but it’s gradually gotten better leading to an increase in its usage. It also started replacing his sinker, which is good because his sinker is bad.
Sanchez’s cutter actually got a pretty decent 34.7% chase rate (which is solid for a cutter), but the main focus of the cutter was inducing weak contact, and it did exactly that, with a .242 wOBA and .120 ISO against it on its way to a 12.4 pVAL.
No. 3: Jesse Chavez
Jesse Chavez has always had a pretty good cutter, but it turned into a great cutter this past year, which is good considering it’s his most-thrown pitch.
Hitters really couldn’t do anything with it, with just a .197 wOBA and .120 ISO against the pitch. It also worked pretty decently as a strikeout pitch, with a 12.4% SwStr rate and a 32.8% strikeout rate, which is great from your primary fastball offering.
No. 2: Lou Trivino
Lou Trivino hopped onto the scene this past year and showed us all an absolutely filthy cutter that worked as his primary strikeout pitch. It also qualified as a Money Pitch, with a 46.8% chase rate, 45.4% zone rate, and a 21.2% SwStr rate.
Even if batters could hit it, they did nothing with it, posting a .188 wOBA and .067 ISO against the pitch. It was easily one of the best cutters in baseball, and it’s going to be awesome to watch again this year.
No. 1: Corey Kluber
Corey Kluber is amazing at everything, so I guess it’s no surprise he tops this list. Kluber increased the use of his cutter a decent bit this year, and it was a great pitch, posting a 45.3% chase rate, 51.8% zone rate, and 15.7% SwStr rate on its way to a 15.9 pVAL and Kluber’s second Money Pitch of the year.
It’s been an awesome pitch in the past. In fact, its 15.9 pVAL last year is the third-best pVAL his cutter has had. In 2016, it had a 16.6 pVAL, and in 2015, it was 17.6.
Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire
Kenley has the best cutter in MLB, no? I get that this is about pVal… going pVal means that you are selecting guys that threw a lot of pitches cutters, no? Kenley’s cutter is just a 4 seamer that he throws nearly every pitch every year with great success. Pitch classification is fishy business in the first place. Some of these look to have a thing or two in common with what were called Warthen sliders a few years ago. Its also interesting that these pitches don’t exactly have much in common in terms of movement I don’t think – I could be wrong about that. Its kind of like when you have a list of best CB and one guy is throwing more of a slider or vice versa. After all it is just some machine binning pitches and we catalog the outcomes. I would probably be equally as interested in looking at the movement as the outcomes. I would bet you that would be a mess – a fun mess. Some people would throw similar pitches, but one would get smashed. That idea reminds me of the Stroman debacle at Fangraphs where they basically said he had the best pitches of a bunch of great pitchers. It turns out it is a bit more complicated than that, but I am not sure we collectively learned anything with the way people are talking about spin rates… Sorry for the rant – cutters are my least favorite pitch to make generalizations about.
Actually, Jansen’s cutter ranked as the 9th-best by pVAL with a 9.4 pVAL. It was actually the worst pVAL it’s posted since 2013 (last year it was 20.8 and the year before 22.8, both of which would’ve easily led the pack among cutters).
It’s lost a slight bit of velocity over the years (it averaged 94 two years ago, now it’s at 92). He also made a lot more mistakes with it and wasn’t commanding it as well as he has in the past. The zone rate on it was tied for a career-worst last year, and while opposing hitters had a .192 average against it, they also had a .205 ISO, which suggests that he was prone to making a lot of mistakes with it.
So while generally his cutter has been the best in baseball, it took a noticeable step back last year.
I have doubts whether annibals cutter is legit…have to see if the league adjusts. Kluber should just cut his fastball usage in half