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CC Sabathia is learning a cutter

Mar 7, 2014, 8:49 AM EDT

sabathia september

CC Sabathia has a new trick in his bag:

Andy Pettitte did more than simply watch CC Sabathia‘s bullpen session on Monday.

The guest instructor actively instructed, primarily helping to teach Sabathia a cut fastball, something the Yankees’ ace hopes to add to his repertoire this season.

“He was showing me a grip with the cutter,” Sabathia said after throwing a four-inning simulated game indoors at Steinbrenner Field because of heavy rain Thursday morning. “I used it today and it worked pretty good, so I’m anxious to take it into a game.”

I don’t know how pitching works, really. Not in any in-depth way. Pitchers do. Pitching coaches do. Guys that study hard-core pitching analytics and mechanics do. But most of the rest of us are just making observations that are pretty shallow to the experts. He throws these pitches, his velocity is whatever, he’s effective/not effective. That kind of thing.

All of that said, I wonder how it is that a guy can pitch 13 years in the bigs and then just, one day, say “I’m going to add a new pitch.” I gather that’s because it’s hard to master a new pitch and that they have enough other things to work on, but at the same time, when they talk about the new pitch they added, it’s always a story like this: teammate or drop-in instructor like Pettitte here showing them the grip, them doing it a bit and then — voila — new pitch. If it’s that easy, why don’t pitchers all have a crap-ton of pitches? If it’s not, why is it always reported this way?

My guess: if we went back and looked at all the “So-and-so adds a new pitch” stories for the past decade, we’d find that the new pitch wasn’t really added. That, while it may be featured in a spring game or three, it rarely if ever shows up in their regular season repertoire.  That it’s a fancier version of a BSOHL story at the least, a head-game thing for opposing hitters at the most.

But if guys really do just learn new pitches like this and work them in more often than I suspect, man, why aren’t all the pitchers adding cutters and changeups and eephus pitches all the time?

  1. Alex K - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    I think if you’re a pitcher with enough talent to get to MLB then learning how to throw a new pitch isn’t all that difficult. It’s mastering it well enough to feel comfortable throwing it in games which is tough.

    • hankg42 - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:10 AM

      Agreed. Sparky Lyle supposedly taught Ron Guidry the slider in the bullpen. It worked greate for him. If learning a new pitch was easy, we might have LOTS of knuckleball pitchers in the bigs. :-)

  2. 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    Hey, Craig — you’re down in Florida with access to the players and coaches. Maybe you could ask them.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      Hey, 18th Street, I will. But when I saw this this morning it was, like, 7am and I don’t think any of them wanted to talk to me then.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:54 AM


      • proudlycanadian - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        When I saw your headline, I was in need of coffee, and thought that you wrote “cuter” and that you were referring to his weight loss.

  3. tuucamaron - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    After being in the same pitching staff with the man with the best cutter of all times, THE BEST CUTTER OF ALL TIMES, and 6 six years later is when you finally think, :OH, let me give this cutter a try.
    not to mention And Y’s cutter was pretty good too

  4. sdelmonte - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    The only time I ever recall someone learning a new pitch that wasn’t a knuckleball and that really mattered was Mike Scott learning the split finger fastball (which I think is a kind of cutter?). And to this day, there are players who swear what he learned was how to doctor the ball and not change his grip.

    • ewyorksockexchange - Mar 7, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      Don’t forget Cole Hamels learning a cutter from Doc and Lee. It really helped him elevate his game after he lost command of his curve. His pitch repetoir went from four seam- circle change – curveball to four seam – cutter – circle change- show me curve. He really needed a pitch with lateral movement, and it’s made him a much more effective pitcher.

  5. nymets4ever - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Craig is just dying to add the “new pitch” thing to his already-lengthy list of things to be snarky about. This article is just his attempt to justify it to everybody first.

    • silversun60 - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      That’s not even the worst part… the fact that Craig clearly comes to your house/work and FORCES you to read these articles and then FORCES you to comment.

      Man… must be rough.

  6. jmjessemac - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Yeah..,,a cutter and a split finger are not remotely similar.

  7. tuucamaron - Mar 7, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    RIP Carmen Berra, yogi berry wife of 65 years

  8. zdravit - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    He knows he’s in deep sh!t without his beef. Time to get crafty.

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