Mo’s cutter the eighth wonder of the world

Things are looking patchy for the Yanks in ’09
RAB Live Chat

We don’t need statistics to tell us that Mo’s cutter is one of the best pitches, if not the best pitch, in baseball history. Hitters know it’s coming. It consistently sits 92-94 mph, so they can time it. Yet they cannot make good contact. It has been this way for well over a decade now, and Mo willing it will continue for at least two more years.

The craziest part about Mo and his cutter is that it has seemingly gotten better with age. He might not have broken any saves records last year, but Mo posted one of the most dominant seasons of his career, registering a 0.67 WHIP and walking only six hitters in 70.2 innings. How does he do it? Thankfully, we have pitchf/x to help us answer, and iamawesomer at Beyond the Boxscore takes a look at the data.

I could probably just quote the entire article, because it’s pretty mind-blowing. The most important point I took from it is that we really shouldn’t refer to the pitch as “the cutter.” Rather, it should be “a cutter,” since he throws it with varying degrees of spin. This ranges mostly between 150 and 200 degrees, so he’s mixing up the pitches even though he’s not mixing up the pitches.

Mo overall threw the cutter 82 percent of the time, with the rest being four-seam fastballs. Yet against lefties he throws the cutter almost exclusively. Not only that, but his pitches to lefties tend to concentrate in one area: high and tight. This is even more amazing because of the speeds of his pitches:

Doesn’t need to mix it up speed wise, with the vast majority of both the cutter and fastball clocking in between 92 and 94 mph. By some quick rough calculations it comes out to about a hundredth of a second difference in time to reach home plate (.435 seconds for 92 mph and .446 for 94 mph.) The fact that hitters can more or less time themselves to within a hundredth of a second of when to swing and still can’t do anything about Rivera’s pitches speaks volumes of them.

You know what lefties hit against Mo last year? .147/.173/.194. So let’s get this straight. Lefties know the pitch type, speed, and location before they even step into the batter’s box, yet they can’t even come close to replacement level production. There’s a reason why we say praise be to Mo.

To close things out, here’s an animation of Mo against the Padres last year. Those chumps didn’t stand a chance. I could seriously watch this video all day long. (As to not slow down the main page you’ll have to click on read more to see it.)

Things are looking patchy for the Yanks in ’09
RAB Live Chat
  • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    It’s like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistene Chapel.

    • jsbrendog

      or jenna jameson do…anyone

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        It’s like watching The Artist formerly known as “Steve” trick Demi Delia into thinking he’s Andy Phillips.

        • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

          im still kind of impressed than any porn star out there knows who andy phillips is

          • jsbrendog

            i think she misheard and thought he was steve phillips so she tossed him a courtesy bang out of pity.

  • frits

    great post, and great animation. its mesmerizing. those mechanics are so sweet too.

  • http://Thumb? Mike T

    THAT video was MOvelous! This will be my 42nd year of watching Yankee baseball and NO ONE has provided more thrills and excitement than Mo. I usually get seriously on people’s nerves when he comes in with what has been termed my ‘friggin ‘higher-than-thou attitude’. Since there aren’t many Yankee fans here I guess it could be a bit arrogant to start ‘Turn out the lights’ in a tone deaf pitch before he even warms up! Thanks MO!!! AND thanks for the great vid RAB!!!

  • GG

    but what about Paps?????

  • JeffG

    Awesome – I want that vid as my screensaver. Any way to make that happen?

  • J.R.

    I just wish Hoffman would retire so Mo could make a legit run at the saves record.

    • jsbrendog

      unfortunately it doesn’t look like mo wil get the saves record. although he could pitch into his mid-late 40s if he loses velocity and his changeup is good (as mentioned by someone below)

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I just wish Hoffman would retire so Mo could make a legit run at the saves most meaningless record in all of baseball.

      I love Mo as much as the next guy, but I’m perfectly fine with somebody else having more of those stupid “things” than Mo. Saves are a dumb stat. Mo’s the best reliever of our time, even if Hoffman accumulated more of a certain number than he did.

    • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

      Mo will still lead in the AL in saves for possibly all time, for what its worth.

  • steve (different one)

    does Mo have the greatest mechanics of all time?

    there is really no way to answer that i guess.

    • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

      good question… him and clemens have the best ive ever seen… and though im not a scout or pitching coach, i would assume any of those types would be inclined to agree

  • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

    i dont know man… hes good and all, but k-rod had 62 saves this year… we cant ignore that

    • Expired Milk

      My sarcasm meter hasn’t woken up yet. I dont know what to think of this post.:(

      • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

        it was sarcasm… i guess i relied too much on reputation and didnt include enough “!!1!!!11!!1!”

        • jsbrendog

          hey man, sometimes the sarcasm meter just needs a break. i got you tho.

    • jsbrendog

      YEAH he had 62 saves!! besides WTF is whip?11!?!!?!11 K-ROD SAVES GAMES!1!!11!!

      • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

        rivera’s highest whip since 96, when he became full time reliever?

        1.186

        wowwwwwwwwwww

        • jsbrendog

          ::head explodes::

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        WHIP?!?!?!??!

        GO MAKE LOVE TO YOUR SPREADSHEETS, NERD!!!!!!!!!!!

        • http://www.supertangas.com The man with 33 fingers

          Don’t knock it tell you’ve tried it. Spreadsheets need love TOO!!!

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            No, Tahiticora from France and Eggo from Romania need love. And I’m just the man to give it to them.

  • Simon B.

    I wonder when Mo starts to lose significant velocity (he’s already lost some, but not that much), will he start to throw his changeup again. It’s supposedly a pretty nice pitch, but he probably doesn’t want to dilute the power of specializing in that cutter yet.

    • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

      i dont see him losing any… the guys 39 and never throws more than 80 innings… i think if he was gonna lose “significant” velocity, he would have lost it already

      plus, last year it became clear that girardi went out of his way to keep mo fresh for every situation he pitched in… he threw the least amount of innings since 2002 though we probably needed him the most… i think he’ll be fine stuff/velocity wise for the remainder of the contract

      • jsbrendog

        over under on year mo retires?

        im putting the bar at 45

        • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I assume you mean 2045 A.D., and not simply the year he turns age 45. That would be silly; we all know Mo’s real goal is to break Julio Franco’s record for Oldest Player to ever play in an MLB game (age 81).

          • jsbrendog

            ietc

        • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

          i think its one of those things where he just decides to walk away (like mussina) as opposed to his diminished stuff forcing him out… and assuming that scenario, who knows?

          hoffmans 2 years older and he threw 45 innings of a 1.04 whip last year

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Trevor Hoffman, Career ERA+: 144
            The Hand of Mo, Career ERA+: 199

            • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

              my last comment was in no way saying hoffman is better than mo… in fact it was the opposite

              the point was that an inferior ((albeit still great)) pitcher is still effective at age 41 so theres no reason to think mo wouldnt be

              • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                No, I know that’s not what you were saying. I just wanted to drop those numbers in the thread.

                For the duration of his career, Mariano Rivera has been twice as good as the league. Twice.

                It’s like the other team only has one and a half outs per inning and not three.

                I just jizzed in my pants.

                • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

                  I’m pretty sure Mo’s ERA+ is the best all time for pitchers that have thrown more than 1,000 innings.

                • kunaldo

                  you are correct sir

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

              Yeah, and Mo was in the AL East his entire career, not the sissy NL.

              • Mike Pop

                NL players wear bras and women’s underwear.

              • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

                Don’t forget that Hoffman was in the most pitcher-friend park ever, while Mo has to deal with that short porch for his entire career.

  • jsbrendog

    so what you’re saying is that even tho they know what pitch si coming, the almost exact speed and almost exact location they still cannot hit it?

    seriously, non yankee bias, if you take a non baseball fan and try to convince them of the best pitcher in baseball history who do you put up against rivera? with this it is absolutely mind blowing. (im really glad this wasn’t papelbon, or eckersly, etc who basically was unhittable)

    ps – now we can even further explain the times he has blwon it. the law of averages. at least once, since they know what is coming, someone will get lucky enough to hit it coughcough marco scutaro we’re talking about you cough cough you too sandy alomar junior cough cough. and seeing who the shlubs are who did it (at that point alomar was way on the downside offensively i believe) then that only further increases the evidence of pure dumb luck

    • http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_postseason.jsp?c_id=nyy&playerID=121250&statType=2 Slugger27

      hes the best reliever in baseball history, to answer your question… hoffman in my mind is the only one comparable, but even he cant compare

      if u dont count against because hes a reliever and throws a severe lack of innings in relation to starters, then statistically he might be the greatest pitcher in baseball history… of course thats not practical but still

  • mko

    The coolest Mo-Strikeout I can remember came in 2007 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Mariano was facing Frank Thomas and Frank already had two strikes on him. Mariano throws him another pitch and Frank swings and misses. Typical? No, because Mariano unleashed a two-seam fastball, that was moving in the opposite direction as the cutter. Frank stared him down and went back to the dugout, shaking his head.

    Afterwards, the cameras zoom in on Thomas standing at the dugout fence talking to a coach or player. Reading his lips one can make out “What the hell was that pitch?” and “I’ve never seen him throw that pitch.”.

    Hilarious!

    • jsbrendog

      haha that’s awesome. big hurt is no slouch

  • Joe R

    Do you think Mo would last even longer than 2-3 years if he started to use his mysterious changeup and maintained at least a 91-92 velocity?

  • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    After watching that video again, I have only one comment:

    BEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUU-
    WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP!

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      I enjoy just watching Molina’s glove. He doesn’t even have to move it. Ever.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        When Mo’s on the mound, you can just staple a catcher’s mitt to a wooden stake driven into the ground.

        Hideki Matsui could be our late inning defensive replacement for Posada.

        • mko

          But only if he’s allowed to sit on a chair, because of his knees and all…

    • ColoYank

      Ridiculous upside,

      Is that an ump’s strikeout call?

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside
        • ColoYank

          Gotcha. No mental problems there.

          Thanks for sharing.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

          Also the sound a Jackoffasaur makes.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Also the sound a Jackoffasaur dickfor makes.

            Fixed.

    • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I’m a little late to the party, but thanks for that.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Mondesi, when we all go to the RAB game meetup, I guarantee you I will start signing “Afternoon Delight” at some point. I want you with me, bro. Let’s do this.

        • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Clearly you’re Champ. Which is kind of a shame, since I bet Popavero will be jealous of the cowboy hat. We’ll have to work out some sort of compromise.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Well, I’ll do Champ’s whistle, but I’m starting the song. I just need the rest of the RAB’ers to chime in at the right time, with “Wheeeeeeen, everything’s a little clearer in the light of daaaaaaaaaaay…”

            Pop can take Brick’s high contralto part of “Thinkin of you’s working up my appetite…”; that will fit his creepy and effeminate voice nicely.

  • ColoYank

    It seems like the times and speeds in the main story have to be reversed. It would take less time for the faster pitch to arrive, not more.

    Mo is ‘mo’ than amazing. He’s astonishing. He’s a fluid, automatic, send-the-enemy-to-hell, avenging angel.

    I guess I could get into more hyperbole, but what’s the use?

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Good catch, you’re right.

      Joseph, ban yourself immediately.

    • steve (different one)

      It seems like the times and speeds in the main story have to be reversed. It would take less time for the faster pitch to arrive, not more.

      what you are overlooking is that Mo’s cutter is so nasty that it rips a hole in the time-space continuum and the pitch goes through a wormhole and comes out in the catcher’s glove BEFORE he even threw it.

      i just blew your mind.

      • Mike Pop

        I’m very aroused.

        • ColoYank

          Now, which mind was blown, there, Mike?

          Although the different Steve’s explanation goes a long way to … explaining … the timing problems the poor hitters have with Mo. Although, I’d wager it’s more a space problem, trying to hit Mo’s cutter, than a time problem.

    • http://www.oaktownas.com Graham Goldbeck

      You’re right, I mixed the times up. Thanks for the catch.

  • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

    I will say this until the day I die: Mo’s cutter is the single greatest pitch in the history of baseball.

  • Yank Crank 20

    I was at that game with my dad, in the bleachers. great win.

    • steve (different one)

      i was also at that game. Joba started, right?

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA200806190.shtml

      5.2 innings of Joba (curtailed only by the pitchcount due to the transition) with 9 K’s, including the last two hitters he faces;

      Melky works a walk, then steals second AND third to put himself in position for a game-tying sac fly by Hava Molina (nothing like the 8 and 9 hitters contributing);

      Jeter leads off the 6th with a single, steals second, and then ARod knocks him in to take a lead we wouldn’t relinquish;

      Farnsworth and The Hand of Mo strike out the final 5 Padres to step to the plate;

      All that, plus the June afternoon in the bleachers on a lovely Thursday for our seventh win in a row… yeah, I’d say it was a damn good day. I envy you, Yank Crank. I would have liked to have been in the cathedral of Baseball with my dad on that day as well.

  • Kevo

    quick question gang — is it true that if you have bleacher seats you can’t get into the sports bar there?

  • RobC

    Are stats kept on 2 inning saves or 3+ out saves?