How to Throw a Cutter in Baseball

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The cutter, short for ‘cut fastball’, is a pitch that has mystified batters and served as an ace in the hole for pitchers across generations of baseball. Mastering the cutter can significantly enhance a pitcher’s arsenal, making them a formidable opponent on the mound. This pitch uniquely blends the fastball’s velocity with the slider’s lateral movement, deceiving batters and leading to critical in-game victories. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the fundamentals of throwing a cutter, from grip to execution, ensuring you have the tools needed to refine your pitching technique and dominate the game. Whether you’re a budding amateur or a seasoned player, understanding how to effectively throw a cutter could be a game-changer in your baseball career.

What is a Cutter in Baseball?

A cutter, or cut fastball, is a pitch in baseball that combines the speed of a fastball with the slight, late movement of a slider. It’s thrown so that the ball veers slightly to the glove side of the pitcher as it approaches the plate. This makes it particularly challenging for batters to hit squarely, leading to weak contact or missed swings. The cutter is unique because it doesn’t require the dramatic grip change or arm action that other breaking balls do. Instead, it’s about a subtle shift in grip and a slight wrist turn upon release. This pitch can be a potent weapon in a pitcher’s arsenal, especially when used to complement their fastball, as it keeps hitters off balance and guessing.

How to Throw a Cutter

Grip the Ball

To begin throwing a cutter, start with how you grip the baseball. Hold the baseball with your middle and index fingers placed directly on top of the seams, ensuring that you’re gripping the narrow part of the seams for added friction. Your thumb should rest comfortably underneath the ball, aligned with your middle finger for balance. The grip shouldn’t be too tight; a relaxed grip will facilitate the slight wrist movement needed to impart the cutting action.

Position Your Fingers Slightly Off Center

Unlike the fastball, for a cutter, you slightly shift your index and middle fingers towards your glove side on the ball. This off-center grip is crucial as it allows you to put pressure on one side of the ball during the pitch, which is essential for creating the cutting motion. Remember, the adjustment should be minimal; even a small shift can significantly impact the ball’s movement.

Focus on the Release

The release is one of the most critical aspects of throwing a cutter. When releasing the ball, slightly turn your wrist and fingers towards your thumb side (glove side for right-handers and arm side for left-handers). This motion is subtle and quick – think of it as turning a doorknob. This wrist and finger motion at the point of release is what imparts the lateral movement to the ball, giving the cutter its name.

Maintain Fastball Arm Speed

One of the keys to effectively throwing a cutter is to maintain the same arm speed as your fastball. This deceives the batter into thinking a fastball is coming, making the cutter’s late break even more difficult to handle. Consistent arm speed across your pitches contributes to a seamless pitching strategy, keeping hitters off balance.

Practice Consistently

Like any pitch, mastering the cutter requires consistent practice. Work on the grip, finger placement, and release technique in your training sessions. Pay attention to the ball’s movement and make slight adjustments as necessary. Pitching in different scenarios during practice will help you understand how to use the cutter effectively in games.

Analyze and Adjust

After throwing the cutter, analyze the pitch’s movement and the batter’s reaction. If the movement is too pronounced or too subtle, adjust your grip or release slightly. Feedback from your catcher can also be invaluable in fine-tuning your technique. Remember, subtle changes can make a big difference in the pitch’s effectiveness.

By following these steps and incorporating feedback into your practice, you’ll develop a cutter that can complement your pitching arsenal and keep batters guessing at the plate.

FAQ About Cutter Pitch

How do you throw a cutter for beginners?

To throw a cutter, start by gripping the baseball with your index and middle fingers positioned across the seams, similar to a four-seam fastball grip. However, slightly offset your fingers to one side of the ball. As you release the ball, focus on applying pressure with your index and middle fingers to create a cutting action. Aim to keep your wrist stiff and your arm slot consistent with your fastball delivery. Practice this grip and release motion to develop control and consistency with your cutter pitch.

Why was Mariano Rivera’s cutter so effective?

Mariano Rivera’s cutter was renowned as one of the most effective pitches in baseball history for several key reasons. Firstly, its deceptive late break mimicked a fastball until the final moment, confounding hitters and limiting their reaction time. Additionally, Rivera delivered the cutter with remarkable velocity, often exceeding 90 mph, intensifying the challenge for batters. Moreover, his exceptional command over the pitch allowed him to consistently locate it within the strike zone, adding to hitters’ frustration in anticipating its trajectory. These elements culminated in Rivera’s cutter being an almost unhittable pitch, playing a pivotal role in his success as one of the premier closers in baseball history.

How did Mariano Rivera throw his cutter?

Mariano Rivera used a unique grip for his cutter, different from the common grip mentioned earlier. He gripped the ball with his fingers slightly off-center and applied pressure with his middle finger, creating a specific spin that caused the ball to cut late in its trajectory.

It’s important to note that not everyone throws a cutter the same way, and what worked for Rivera might not be the best approach for everyone. Experiment with different grips and find what feels comfortable and allows you to achieve the desired movement.

What direction does a cutter go?

A cutter typically moves laterally or diagonally across the plate, breaking in toward the pitcher’s arm side for a right-handed pitcher (away for a left-handed pitcher). The movement is less pronounced than that of a slider but sharper than a fastball, making it challenging for hitters to make solid contact.

Is a cutter a 2 seam fastball?

No, a cutter is not a two-seam fastball. While both pitches involve gripping the ball across the seams, they differ in their intended movement and grip orientation. A cutter is thrown with a grip similar to a four-seam fastball but with slight finger placement off-center, resulting in lateral movement. In contrast, a two-seam fastball is gripped along the seams and typically produces sinking or arm-side movement.

What’s the difference between a cutter and a slider?

The main difference between a cutter and a slider lies in their movement and grip. A cutter moves laterally with minimal vertical drop, while a slider breaks more sharply with significant downward and horizontal movement. Additionally, the grip for a cutter is similar to a fastball, with slight finger placement off-center, whereas a slider is gripped further off-center with more finger pressure on one side of the ball.

Do you throw a cutter like a fastball?

Yes, you throw a cutter with a grip and arm motion similar to a fastball. The key difference lies in the placement of your fingers on the ball and the amount of pressure applied during release to create the cutting action. Maintaining consistency in your arm slot and release point is crucial for effectively disguising the cutter and keeping hitters off balance.


Understanding the nuanced distinctions between pitches such as the cutter, two-seam fastball, and slider is essential for both pitchers and batters. Each pitch type, from the cutting fastball to the breaking slider, offers its unique challenges and strategic advantages on the baseball diamond. Mastering the art of pitching, including the effective use of cutters, not only requires precise finger placement and pressure but also a deep knowledge of how each pitch behaves in flight. The cutter, with its subtle yet deceptive movement, remains a valuable weapon in a pitcher’s arsenal, blurring the lines between a fastball’s velocity and a slider’s break. By harnessing the cutter’s potential, pitchers can keep hitters guessing and off-balance, showcasing the perpetual chess match that is baseball.

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James Arnold
I'm James, and I live in Stanislaus County, California. I'm playing Baseball for many years, and I love this sport so much that I also encourage my kids (Danny and Sara) to play Baseball & Softball.