Andriese and the Cut-Up
The Rays waited for a long time to name a permanent fifth starter, and it was not the guy everyone assumed it would be. Blake Snell certainly has a bright future ahead of him, but right now, Matt Andriese has been arguably the best pitcher on the staff since his recall and he is getting work done with a rather unusual pitch – the Cut-Up.
“He throws a changeup, like a cut-change almost. As a catcher I think it’s going to go to my left and it actually goes to my right. Hitters always turn back and ask, ‘What was that?’ He makes it look like a slider and he’ll mix in a curveball every once in a while and a cutter, but mainly fastball-changeup and it’s successful for him.”
Andriese is able to throw the cut-up as he uses a rather unusual grip on the pitch. Whereas a circle change up involves going along the skinny seams or across the horseshoe, Andriese puts his middle and ring finger along just one of the skinny seams with an off-center grip as shown in the image below:
The unusual action of the changeup has thus far caused problems for batters. Of the 32 cut-ups Andriese has thrown, he has just 5 swings and misses on the pitch, but only 3 have been safely put into play and he has a 60% groundball rate off the pitch. The unusual changeup is not only confusing Casali, it’s also confusing Pitch f/x folks. I recently exchanged messages with Lucas Apostoleris (@DBITLefty on Twitter) who helps with the data parsing and tagging at BrooksBaseball and Andriese is a handful for them too.
So the big thing I notice about Andriese is that his cutter and his changeup often look like the same pitch. I remember parsing out his data last season for Harry, and it was pretty rough. ..The horizontal “cut” on his MLB pitches since his debut, makes it appear that he switched to a more traditional changeup last June before going back to the “cut-up.”.. a view of his vertical movement and shows that as well. It’s quite possible that he has a few different kind of changeups
This is the horizontal cut that Apostoleris is referring to as Andriese’s chart is a bit all over the place:
The inconsistency in the amount of horizontal movement is what led him to believe Andriese has tinkered with his changeup grip. Turns out he is right. The image below shows Andriese’s changeup grip from last June; note the split in his middle and ring fingers which indicates the more-standard circle-changeup grip across the horseshoe seams:
A standard circle-change is going to have fade and drop – like the one Erasmo Ramirez uses. Ramirez has had a consistent amount of drop (4″) and fade (7″) on his changeup with the Rays:
Andriese’s results have been much different. His cut-up is registering almost no movement while his cutter, at essentially the same speed, is showing two inches of horizontal movement.
When the batters talk about turning back to ask Casali what they just saw, this is what they’re talking about. When the data parsers are not sure what the pitch is, this is what they’re talking about. We’ve seen the Neil Allen influence with changeups as well as Thing 1, Thing 2, and even the Vulcan here in Tampa Bay, but the cut-up is seemingly the first of its kind here. In a month where Rays pitchers are struggling to work deeply into games, Andriese is coming in and providing length into the games and giving the bullpen a break every five days while he eschewing the pursuit of the strikeout most times for bad contact. So far, so good.