That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
And that’s how Shakespeare ties into Carlos Torres. It’s time to take a look at Torres and his nasty off-speed pitch, which seems to me to be a slider. But if you go to his FanGraphs page, it shows him throwing four pitches – fastball, cutter, curve and change. Not a slider in sight, or so it would seem. Their breakdown shows 39.7% fastballs, 42.1% cutters, 15.6% curves, 2.6% changes and 0.4% unknown.
Meanwhile, MetsBlog declared that Torres, “throws about 30 percent cutters and 30 percent sliders.”
In his first start of the year, BrooksBaseball broke it down this way:
For the same game, TexasLeaguers had this breakdown:
So, what the heck is Torres’ off-speed pitch? Before we get to that it’s important to note that classifying pitches is just as much art as science. It’s not like each pitch comes with a certificate of authenticity, telling what it is at it crosses the plate. The math whizzes look at many factors, such as the horizontal and vertical movement of the pitches, to come up with their classification. Which helps explain how one man’s slider is another person’s cutter.
Last year David Laurila of FanGraphs did an article on identifying cutters versus sliders that was made up of quotes from two major league pitching coaches. Here are a couple of quotes from that piece, which is well worth clicking on to read in its entirety.
St. Claire: “For me, a cutter is a fastball that’s moving. It runs in on that left-handed hitter’s hands. There is velocity to it, and there is no spin to the ball that you can pick up. A slider has spin and usually a tight dot to it.”
McDowell: “From a slider standpoint, it’s arm angle. More times than not it’s a lower arm slot. If you’re talking about curveball and slider arm slots, a curveball is more of an over-the-top delivery and a slider is a little lower.” … “The cutter isn’t determined by whether you have a slider or a curveball arm slot. I think you can throw a cutter from pretty much any arm slot.”
In addition to the differences in velocity and arm angle, my take is that a cutter should stay on the same plane and have late movement. Meanwhile, a slider should have more movement throughout the trip to the plate and should go through multiple planes.
Perhaps no one in history has been more famous than Mariano Rivera for throwing the cutter. Here’s a gif of him in action on July 12th against the Twins. BrooksBaseball classified each of the nine pitches he threw in the outing as a cutter.
Meanwhile, here’s Torres in his first start against the Pirates. This is the second pitch to Pedro Alvarez in the second inning, which BrooksBaseball also classified as a cutter.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t make any difference what Torres, the PITCHf/x guys or we call it – the pitch has been extremely useful for Torres and explains how this 30-year-old journeyman has had such great success this season.
In the process he’s come out smelling like a rose.