After failing in his first attempt in the rotation in 2008, Phil Hughes spent most of last season in the bullpen before he got another chance. Well, Hughes certainly learned a thing or two while he was there.
We always knew that Hughes had a good fastball, but before last year he never threw a cutter. He must have had Mariano Rivera help him with it because the pitch has flown past Hughes’ curve as his 2nd best pitch. In terms of wCT value he has also thrown a better cutter than Mariano the Cutter Master.
See FanGraphs is a baseball statistics site that tracks a pitcher’s individual pitches and how good the pitch is on average. If a player has an above average fastball his wFB would be anything greater than zero. If he has a below average curveball his wCB would be any negative number.
So you would expect Rivera to have a sick wCT, he does, because his cutter is so good.
Well look at the wCT, or the value of the cutter, for each pitcher:
Phil Hughes wCT: 5.0
Mariano Rivera wCT: 4.9
Yes, that’s right. In 2010 Phil Hughes has a slightly better cutter than Mariano Rivera.
How can that be? Well that due to a couple of things. First of all, Hughes’ cutter has been improving and he has been working on it more and throwing it more the longer he has been in the league.
More importantly though, Mariano has lost a bit on that cutter this season. A wCT of 4.9 is a pretty good score. That would give him the 5th best cutter in all of baseball behind Hughes and in front of Andy Pettitte this season. The issue is that usually Rivera’s cutter is way out in front.
Over the last three seasons 2007-09 Rivera’s cutter was at 18.83 on average. To put that in perspective, Roy Halladay has the best cutter in baseball this season at 10.8. So normally even very good cutters aren’t as good as Rivera’s.