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What is this pitch from Jalen Beeks?

A morning roundtable from the masthead.

MLB: Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

For today’s roundtable, here’s a discussion from this morning’s Slack on what the heck Jalen Beeks is throwing this season...

Danny Russell: I wrote an article today where you might notice I said Beeks was returning to throwing his slider instead of a cutter.

This was based on his own statements during Spring Training, but when filtering for 2018 and forward, the slider doesn’t even make an appearance in the Brooks Baseball data set.

Ian Malinowski: Brooks won’t know the change, which looks slight but potentially there, and his cutter was always on the slider side of movement. We probably need to talk to him to get at what’s going on there.

Danny Russell: Are you telling me this thing with no horizontal movement is a slider?

John Ford: If that Beeks plot were stars in the sky, ancient people would have dubbed it “The Archer”

Ian Malinowski: I’m telling you that it’s maybe a slider. It’s a ton of separation from the fastball for a cutter. There’s more depth on it this year (but it’s a small difference). Given what he’s said about it, I’m not going to be confident saying a thing either way about it without someone interviewing him.

Dominik Vega: sounds like a job for...

Danny Russell: By the eye, I’m seeing two pitches. Here’s one example “cutter” from 2019 (from the game where Doug Waechter joined the field crew for the day!):

Low-80’s and sweeping out of the zone, that’s a slider, right?

Adam Sanford:

JT Morgan: By eye that looks sliderish, but it could be more location than actual movement. Pitches he threw to Lucas Duda in that start looked more cutterish, but could be just up.

Danny Russell: How about this one?

JT Morgan: I don’t know that looks like it has a hump that just doesn’t move.

Ian Malinowski: But 84 mph cutter off of a 92 mph fastball?

JT Morgan: Ya based on speed I would lean slider.

Ian Malinowski: Beeks’s cutter was already on the way to a slider, though, last year, which is what makes this tricky.

Dominik Vega: What if it’s neither?

JT Morgan: That’s a changeup

Dominik Vega: it’s listed as a cutter on Savant, but that’s exactly what I thought it was

Ian Malinowski: Yeah, classifications are hard. Either by hand or by algorithm.

JT Morgan: No cutter moves like that.

Dominik Vega: Right. The velocities savant has are all over the place. I see the first one Danny shared as a slider.

Danny Russell: Well, here’s another, which had Beeks striking out George Springer:

Ian Malinowski: It looks perfectly straight to me (which would be cut action)

Adam Sanford: That ball has no movement

Ian Malinowski: A fastball with no horizontal movement is a cutter. It looks straight in that shot (while looking different in other shots) because he’s a lefty on the third base side, throwing to the outside edge of the plate, so the whole path of the ball is pretty much in line with our camera.

If he threw that to the inside we’d not think it was as straight.

JT Morgan: Ya he just threw it in 2D

Dominik Vega: Literally.

Brian Menendez: I think all are cutters (except for the one to McMahon, that’s clearly a changeup). I also think he’s not super consistent with it and that’s why there’s variance in movement and velocity, especially glove side. That’s why you may see more slider like velo/movement on those pitches

Here’s my theory: Like Glasnow who thinks fastball but can get natural cut without throwing a true cutter, I think Beeks similarly is thinking cutter but can sometimes get slider just by getting around it a little more. It allows him to change the velo and depth just a little when he needs to.

JT Morgan: Ya it can also be about what he has to do to get the ball to certain zones. The ones that look most sliderish are ones that are away and down to LHB.

Danny Russell: Here’s where the data confusion may come into play.

Let’s isolate everything called a cutter so far, based on the horizontal movement, and plot it against velocity:

It’s quite possible that we’re getting similar movement at varied speeds from the same pitch grip.

***

That’s where the discussion ended. What say you?

Poll

How many pitches are we discussing?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    1 - It’s a cutter
    (12 votes)
  • 12%
    1 - It’s a slider
    (6 votes)
  • 63%
    2 - These are two different pitches
    (31 votes)
49 votes total Vote Now