This offseason, the Colorado Rockies invested a lot of money into their bullpen and one of the relievers that they got was right-handed reliever Bryan Shaw and he happens to have one of the best cutters in baseball, and the stats say so.
Bryan Shaw is, essentially, a one pitch pitcher. He throws the cutter. Sure, he’ll mix in a slider very occasionally but, according to Brooks Baseball, in 2017, Shaw used his cutter for 88 percent or more of his pitches in every month but May (when he used it nearly 84 percent of the time).
His only other pitch is a slider, which has the same directional movement, just more and less velocity. However, in looking to see whether or not he has one of the best cutters in all of baseball, you have to dive deep into the metrics on pitches.
There is a stat that many of you probably haven’t heard of. Heck, I barely knew what it was before when I saw it. It’s called QOPA. It stands for “Quality of Pitch Average” and, essentially, it factors how good a pitch is depending on the pitch type, count, vertical movement, horizontal movement, the situation, number of times through the batting order, etc. If you want to read more on it, check this article over at Fangraphs about the stat and what it encompasses.
For the stat, a 4.00 is below major league average, 4.50 is MLB average, and 5.00 is good. Of pitchers who have thrown the cutter over 500 times, Shaw’s cutter ranks the second best in QOPA, only to Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers closer.
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His former manager and current manager speak highly of it too
Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post spoke with Shaw’s former manager with the Indians Terry Francona and Rockies manager Bud Black about the pitch (subscription required) and they both spoke very highly of the pitch.
“What makes the pitch so good for Bryan? The velocity and the consistent movement and his ability to locate it,” said Black. “It’s hard, it breaks consistently, and he can command it.”
“Bryan can throw the cutter, at times, up to 97, 98,” Francona said. “With the cutter, you don’t see the spin [on it] until it’s too late. Then, the pitch is either boring in on you or moving away [from you].”
Also, Bud Black had one word to describe what Shaw and his cutter bring to the Rockies bullpen in 2018: “Reliability”. And that is all you can ask for from a pitcher.