That's right, the subject is Cole Hamels, not Roy Halladay, although Doc is not irrelevant to it by any means. Once Doc hangs up his stethoscope and enters the Hall of Fame as a Phillie, the Commissioner who introduces him should rem...
That's right, the subject is Cole Hamels, not Roy Halladay, although Doc is not irrelevant to it by any means. Once Doc hangs up his stethoscope and enters the Hall of Fame as a Phillie, the Commissioner who introduces him should remember to credit him for the teammates who benefited by his example. Kyle Kendrick, as pretty nearly everyone seems aware, is one of these. Another, in at least one regard, is probably Cole Hamels. When Doc arrived in Philly during the 2009-10 off-season, Hamels was coming off a difficult season and was ripe for, if not reinvention, then at least an enlarging of his capacity as a pitcher. As he has since acknowledged, he first took serious note of the cut fastball, or cutter, during Cliff Lee's first brief stay with Phillies in 2009. We all remember how that stay worked out, but the example of Lee's success with the pitch stuck. And then Halladay arrived. Doc had been in the process of partially reinventing himself as a pitcher for a number of years at that point by giving the cut fastball an ever larger place in his pitching repertoire (2004-2.5%; 2005-7.5%; 2006-19.3%; 2007-25.2%; 2008-33.2%; 2009-41.5%), as the two-seam sinking fastball receded as his primary pitch. It's unclear who actually taught Hamels the cutter -- Steve Carlton, Cliff Lee, and former closer John Wetteland have all been credited with providing input -- but it's not a stretch to say that Halladay's arrival catalyzed Hamels' decision to adopt it.
The cutter is essentially a four-seam fastball gripped off-center, with pressure applied to the spin-side finger. Although some pitchers throw a somewhat slower version with the addition of some wrist pronation, the true cutter is several MPH off fastball speed with a fastball release. The spin produced is meant to result in a late break that is less than that of a slider with more lateral and less dipping movement. This open-source graphic of a Roy Halladay cutter (opens in a new window) illustrates the eccentric release and resulting spin very nicely.
Mariano Rivera, from whom Halladay has been said to have learned his version, will ride the cutter into the Hall of Fame and is often credited with making the pitch fashionable. But in recent years a number of nay-sayers have complained about pitchers' "falling in love" with the pitch, neglecting their fastball, and in fact losing speed on their fastball as a result. There is no doubt that the measure of a cutter, as with any other pitch, is in the ability to control it and to use it appropriately. Kyle Kendrick had a significant lack of success in using the cutter as a replacement for an equally unsuccessful slider to remedy his inability to get left-hand batters out. There's nothing magical about the pitch for pitchers who throw it too predictably or simply don't throw it well enough.
2009 was not quite the disaster for Hamels that it was popularly portrayed as being. A slow start, a sore elbow early in the season, an ugly looking 4.32 season ERA, and a less-than-stellar World Series made it easy for critics to label the season a failure. Hamels himself played into the narrative by admitting that making the rubber chicken circuit after his and the team's magnificent 2008 World Series performance cut into his off-season conditioning. His much misunderstood comment about wishing he could wipe the season out before he had even finished it put an exclamation point on "failure." In fact, Hamels' FIP, xFIP, and SIERA, as Schmenkman recently pointed out, were all pretty much in line with 2008 numbers, and a career-high BABIP of .317 points to a certain amount of bad luck. Still, the 2010 season was ripe for change. Hamels has admitted that up to that point he was pretty much a two-pitch pitcher. In 2009, he had used his curveball a career low 10.5% of the time (10.1% by Pitch f/x). Never more than a mediocre pitch for him, the curve graded out at -1.5 by Fangraphs line