Brandon Maurer‘s beard is gone, which on its own is a major improvement.
It caught some people by surprise when Brandon Maurer made the Mariners roster out of spring training. He’d never pitched above Double-A, and his secondary pitches were relatively weak, namely the pitches he throws after his fastball and slider, the unanimous top two offerings in his arsenal.
Often times pitchers have a hard time developing pitches at the big league level where the stakes and pressure are both equally high. Maurer pitched 10 times with mostly bad results, and struggled to get lefties out yielding a .442 wOBA and posting a 5.60 xFIP against them.
The major problem is that while Maurer has several secondary offerings, most of them are below-average pitches. His strikeout rate was below average and his walk rate was basically average. Maurer gave up 1.82 HR/9IP, nearly double the league average.
So Maurer was sent to Tacoma, ostensibly to work on some stuff. That stuff, logically, could have been to learn new pitches. Maurer’s best pitches both carry the most extreme platoon splits against opposite-handed hitters.
On Wednesday night I went on a mom date, and we sat directly behind home plate at Cheney Stadium, and Brandon Maurer was the night’s starter. Maurer had good velocity (touching 96MPH), and his two-seamer had good run, getting several backdoor strikes against lefties His curveball showed effectiveness at times and his slider was generating swinging strikes. However, the pitch that stood out wasn’t his slider, but rather the second-to-last-pitch of the first inning.
On a 1-1 count against Cody Decker, Maurer threw a pitch with sharp glove-side break. The pitch registered at 90 MPH, and locked up Decker, who put a pretty pathetic swing on it. The following pitch was 84 MPH, also with glove-side break, but a much different angle on the break.
That second-to-last-pitch, at least according to my eyes was a cut fastball. Michael Schwartze and his band of scouts—sitting closer to the plate but also directly behind it—thought the pitch was a cut fastball too, at least so said his between-inning text message.
Brandon Maurer maybe throws a cut fastball. The pitch showed up a half-dozen or so more times in the game, but it announced it presence—to haphazardly borrow a phrase from Nuke Laloosh—with considerable authority.
The first name that anyone goes to as it relates to good cut fastballs is Mariano Rivera. Rivera has perhaps the best cut-fastball that baseball has ever seen, and he’s built an extended and lucrative career off basically one pitch.
Comparing Brandon Maurer’s seemingly good cutter to Rivera’s is like calling someone a long-hitter on the PGA Tour, and then comparing him to Tiger Woods circa before all the weird sex shit.
For what it’s worth, Maurer’s cutter, no matter how good, doesn’t change his bad-against-lefties profile much. Though it’s moderately better than a slider according to Pitch F/X data, it still shows significant platoon splits in the favor of lefties against Maurer.
So I don’t know what this means. It could be spun that this shows some sort of capacity for development, or aptitude for new pitches. Whatever. Brandon Maurer throws a cutter and he didn’t used to throw a cutter based on the best systems we have for determining pitch types. And his cutter looks pretty good.