The good folks at Getting Blanked overwrought themselves yesterday worrying that Henderson Alvarez doesn’t have the ability to get enough strikeouts to be a strong major-league starter. As if in answer, Alvarez rolled out a new pitch last night: a cut fastball to complement his two-seamer.
As one can see from the pitch f/x data, Alvarez was threw about 15 “sliders” between 85 and 91 mph last night, while his ordinary slider came in at 80-84 mph. The cutters didn’t quite have the same glove-side movement as his true slider, but still created good separation from his fastball. Observationally, it looked like Alvarez had better command of the cutter than his slider, and he got a pair of swinging strikes on the pitch, striking out Peter Bourjos with it.
It’s unclear how exactly the cutter will work for Alvarez, as it wasn’t particularly well-defined last night. Some, especially early in the game, looked like true cutters. Others, especially later, looked more like hard sliders. As is often the case, they may well end up somewhere inbetween – but either iteration looks like it will be useful. It may be that the cutter evolves into a Morrow-like hard slider, the strikeout pitch many have hoped Alvarez would develop. If not, it should still complement his two-seamer well; and with his excellent control, could generate a fair number of called strikes by throwing both pitches to both sides of the plate just as Roy Halladay has over the past half-decade.