Brent Sutter, the slowest unicorn
Baseball

Brent Sutter, the slowest unicorn

Brent Sutter doesn’t have to be this good. Honestly, it shouldn’t be Hassan, a period. He threw a fastball in the mid-’80s, and he throws it often. He complements it with a change and a curve ball, but none of these pitches are excellent. No, it’s mostly a slow fast ball; Among bowlers who threw at least 50 rounds last year, Sutter had the fourth-highest fastball frequency (77.1%). If you’re Richard Rodriguez (#2 on the list) or Jake McGee (#1), sure, shoot away. But Brent Sutter? It sounds like a recipe for failure – however, work for it continues.

why? I decided to investigate it, because frankly I love oddities. Do you really need to read about how Max Scherzer succeeded by throwing several excellent pitches with precise control? most likely not; It is just wonderful. But Sutter throws BP fast balls and embarrasses the hitters. look at this:

This is crazy – I didn’t know Jess Peterson could play first base!

Well, sorry about digging the first base position in Milwaukee. I promise it’s the last article like this. Most importantly, this 85 was down the tube, and Pete Alonso, a man known for his ability to hit fast balls practicing hitting very far, featured it. It’s no accident either. Sutter allowed the .369 wOBA when opponents put his Fastball into play in 2021, better than other shooters with brighter heaters: Sandy Alcantara (.370), Robbie Ray (.373), Blake Snell (.374), and Lucas Giolito (.380), to name a few.

How do you prevent opponent hitters from inflicting damage? The simplest way is to have them hit the ball in one of two places: on the ground or straight up. As it turns out, that’s what Sutter does. Opponents hit the ground 49.1% of the time against his four stitchers, the 12th highest in baseball. They hit either a fish or a popup 55% of the time, which is the ninth best sign.

Four Tailors don’t usually build a stack of grounding tools, as you no doubt know. The bowler who got the highest score out of the four tailors? Tyler Rogers, who flips it upside down. second place? That would be Max Fried, and while Fried isn’t as outlandish as Rogers, he locates quickly in the area (relative to where four tailors usually live) on average:

Sutter doesn’t do any of that. He shoots from an overhead arm angle and locates the ball up in the zone. He’s among the top 15% of shooters when it comes to locating his four stitches in the top third of his strike zone or higher. In fact, his presentation site layout looks like a poster for a fly-balls-and-whiffs audience:

When the Sutter leaves the ball high (2.75 feet off the ground or higher is the limit I used, which roughly corresponds to the top third of the area), he runs a 42.9% ball rate. The league as a whole makes 28.6% on those fast balls. That’s a low number – the league’s globe-trotting rate hovers around 43% in most years – but it’s a low number for good reason. Four tailors rise in relation to the fly that does not rotate, which means that the putters generally affect them from below. This also applies to high pitches in the area; It is much easier to swing below the midline for a ball high in the zone than it is for a ball at the knees. Combine the two, and you’ll experience the high notes in the air more frequently. However, here’s Sutter, who threw an 85, and the hitters somehow still couldn’t spot him and put the ball up in the air.

I’ll be with you: I’ve spent some time trying to think of why this is happening and haven’t come up with any quick answers. What Sutter does defies the way a pitch type should work, and it’s not like he’s thrown a weight that tone systems wrongly call a quatrain tailor; The playing field has a bit of a chop, but it gets a lot more vertical movement than the horizontal one. But looking at past years of presentation data gave me an idea:

Fastball format and results

general a barrier xMov (in) vMov (in) GB% SwStr% Wobacon
2016 84.4 -0.8 4.4 47.1% 7.6% .368
2017 86 -0.6 6.2 44.7% 8.5% .328
2018 86.9 0.1 7.2 32.7% 10.8% .397
2019 87.6 -1.2 5.8 54.1% 15.0% .192
2020 85.6 -2.2 5.9 48.4% 15.8% .352
2021 87.3 -2.1 5.7 48.8% 9.7% .369

In 2018, Sutter threw a “perfect” four-seat fastball—no horizontal movement at all, just pure backspin. He didn’t quite succeed at that; It’s definitely not a missing beast, and the opposing hitters did a lot of damage when they called, on the tune of .397 wOBA. He didn’t make up for it with any solid secondary salaries, and it wasn’t surprising when The Brewers sent him to the Bulls position after a two-year trial with the start (he was a junior in the palace, but so is everyone these days).

When Sutter exited the arena the next year, he did so with the shape of a new fastball. It was faster, yes, but it also added some bits to it, giving it a gauntlet-side action that’s rare in fast four-stud balls. How rare? Here is a list of left-handed shooters who threw a hundred four-shooters in 2021 and received a gauntlet fracture:

Glove of Four Tailors by Lefties

It’s really hard to do! I think it has to do with the angle of the arm; Unless you are the correct Over the top, the bend of your arm along with the four-stitch top moves the side of the ball arm. I often return to Kevin Goldstein’s article on what fastball looks like, and how hitters crush fastballs with “standard” action. Sutter has always lived off that axis—he was in the big companies with fastball in the mid-’80s primarily, so he was doing something right—but his new look is more extreme.

I’m not trying to say it’s an uncomfortable game, because a fastball encounter in the ’80s can’t be intimidating to that punch, but it is confusing. The playing field doesn’t move the way you think it should, wait you shouldn’t roll away instead of coming towards me, oh no, it’s time to swing. This isn’t how four tailors usually beat rackets, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

In fact, you can make a good argument that Sutter didn’t even cast four tailors; He’s got a lot of chops on the field. That’s another way of saying it throws in more gyroscopic spin, and less tangential spin, than we’re used to. The perfect quadrupedal sewing tool is the transverse spin–it’s all backspin, which pushes the ball up against gravity. Sutter, on the other hand, is roughly half a turn; Casts one of the four least spin-efficient welders in the game with a cross-sectional efficiency of 65%.

Accidentally getting too many pieces can weaken its effectiveness, but that’s not what happens with Sutter. he intentionally Get a lot of chops on the playing field, and turn the blows upside down. When your only real comparable step is to tailor Clayton Kershaw’s four (Blake Taylor is a less satisfying comparison, so I’m using my written license and ignoring it), you’re definitely doing something right. And why does Sutter get more retirees than Kershaw? Because his tone of voice shoots in and down on the right hitter relative to Kershaw, essentially jamming them.

Am I calling Sutter mainly Clayton Kershaw? I’m definitely not – but I think he has fastball better. It’s one of the few fastballs in the game that doesn’t have a close analog, and while it’s fun and easy to call a “swimming ball”, it definitely isn’t. Odd action, top version, climb/run combination – it’s a look the hitters simply don’t get, and it shows in their scores against a fast ball with below average spin, below average cross spin and below average speed.

If there’s a weakness in Sutter’s game, I think it’s familiar. Let the mixture see enough of those, and they may start working on the movement. When they do, it won’t be a party; It’s, to repeat, fastball in the mid-’80s. Sutter had sharp splits through the system as a start, and while they occurred at a sample size too small to be meaningful, it makes sense that he would struggle against the hitters because they are so used to the dirty tracking. As I mentioned earlier, he doesn’t really have any other great pitches to throw away.

So is Sutter relief only? I think so. But that’s not a bad thing, because he’s been absolutely excellent in this role for the past three years, and he has the stamina to give beers more than a run of work when they need it. Nineteen of his 60 breakout appearances in 2021 took him more than three times longer, and he’s cast more roles than anyone else in Milwaukee. You might think of Josh Hader as a firefighter there, but he’s as close to a park as he gets at this point; Sutter does the multi-stroke job.

On a team with a less dominant background than the Bulls – Hader and Devin Williams are clearly great, and Brad Boxberger looks like a force with his newly emphasized slider – Sutter might be a good pick for high-powered action. But even as this brutal trio shuts down tight matches, it’s key to Milwaukee’s approach. Beer novices don’t face many third-time hitters by ranking, a modern pitching strategy that puts pressure on bulls in exchange for better competition. Sutter handles a lot of that strain, and he does it with an ERA in 3 seconds.

The way he does it may not look pretty. Heck, the way he does it may not last; The hitters made much more contact against him in 2021 than they did in the two years prior to his break, resulting in fewer hits and more walking. But for now, it’s working. A thirty-first-round pick who throws a super-slow ball three-quarters of the time is the glue that holds one of the best shooting teams in baseball.

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