I had to break out Brandon Maurer into a separate article because examining his Pitch f/x data reveals an entirely different approach that seems to have gone mostly unnoticed.
Maurer had always been considered a “fastball-slider” pitcher, and the data indicated that he used his curve and change less than 20% of the time combined, and the slider 30%. Besides the fact that he seemed prone to mental errors, another common diagnosis of Maurer was that he relied too much on the slider, and it was ineffective against left-handed hitters.
So the Pitch f/x data from BrooksBaseball.net shows up from Sunday’s game, and it shows …
Instead, the data has Maurer throwing a cut fastball 30% of the time.
This was new, and interesting, since it was coming in (according to the Pitch f/x) at 90-91 whereas the 2013 slider was 87-88.
So we had to spend some time figuring out if this was something real or not. And it seems that it is real, but it takes awhile to get to it.
Here are two charts from Sunday’s game, with the “cutters” circled:
Unlike the slider, it does not have the vertical drop. Instead, it stays up there clustered with the fastballs and changeups.
However, like the slider, it doesn’t have the same horizontal movement that Maurer gets on his usual fastball. It breaks like the slider, but without the downward movement.
And, of course, it’s coming in above 90 mph.
We need to give credit at this point to Casey McLain of North and South of Royal Brougham, who seems to be the only one who was onto this development ahead of time after noticing it at a Rainier game last year.
What Maurer was using Sunday appears to be the exact pitch described in that post.
One very good thing about the cutter is that it seemed to make Maurer’s change into a very valuable pitch. The change is 85-86 and has very similar movement to the fastball. Maybe there wasn’t enough differentiation in the past to make the change a weapon.
But Sunday, Brooks reports that Maurer got five swings-and-misses on 13 changeups.
In other words, he was “triangulating” by changing speeds and changing movement among the three pitches.
It looks pretty cool on the graphs anyway, and you certainly can’t argue with the results in the first four innings of Maurer’s start.
As McLain pointed out, it might not, when all is done, help his platoon split that much more than the slider, but the best thing might be that Maurer has confidence (he’s claimed this in the media, anyway) that he lacked last year.
Confidence and an arsenal would make for a very interesting combination for Maurer.
We’re looking for an upward trajectory here.