Throwing the right pitch can confound a batter and earn your team an out, or better yet, earn you a no-hitter. One of the main types of pitch is the fastball, which can be varied by the pitcher's grip, wrist motion, arm speed and angle of delivery. The cutter and the running fastball are two ways of throwing a fastball.
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A running fastball is thrown by a right-handed pitcher to a right-handed batter or a lefty to a lefty. The ball breaks -- or angles -- to the inside of the batter's hands -- towards the torso of the body. Pitching coachJohn A. Bagonzi notes that the running fastball can be the most effective fastball pitch, especially if it is very fast and turns late in its travels.
A cutter is a type of fastball that goes to the inside of a batter’s body, but is thrown by the opposite hand of the pitcher -- for example, left-handed pitchers against right-handed batters. This type of pitch, thrown by pitching great Greg Maddux, looks like it will pass straight over the plate, but curves at the last second, often causing the batter to strike out.
Differences in Velocity
The differences in the pitches come down to which hand is used to throw the ball and hand grip. For running fast balls, it is righty pitchers to righty batters or lefty to lefty, and for cutters it is righty to lefty or, rarely, lefty to righty. Cutters require pressure from the middle finger and a slight spin that helps it turn -- or cut -- late enough to surprise the batter, notes Bagonzi. To throw a running fastball, a three-quarter arm motion with pressure from the index finger put on an 11 o’clock position on the ball helps create the movement of the ball at the last moment. Running fastballs can usually reach full velocity, while cutters may be 2 to 3 mph slower.
Elements of Confusion
While both pitches can fool a batter, a cutter is particularly deceiving as it looks a lot like a regular fastball, Bagonzi explains. While a cutter seems much like a slider, a cutter is more subtle. The slider has a more defined spin, but a cutter is almost impossible to see turn until it is too late.