In terms of American League Rookie of the Year hype, Toronto Blue Jays RHP Kyle Drabek has been overshadowed by his AL East counterpart, Jeremy Hellickson. If you asked 10 experts before the season started to name an AL pitcher who could win the ROY, all 10 would have said Hellickson.
But if Drabek pitches like he did on Saturday against the Minnesota Twins all season, he will give Hellickson and anyone else a serious run for their money.
Drabek was masterful in the Blue Jays' 6-1 victory over the Twins. Drabek allowed just one hit and one run while walking three and striking out seven over seven brilliant innings.
So what was Drabek’s secret on Saturday afternoon? How about a shiny, brand-new cut fastball?
According to FanGraphs, Drabek didn’t throw one cutter in three starts last season. However, in his first start of the season, he threw 14 cutters, and many of them of the nasty variety.
Just ask Denard Span how nasty Drabek’s cutter was.
“It was a cutter, I think,” Span said after the game. “I don’t know. That’s how nasty [Drabek] was today. I just saw the ball and reacted. Thank God we didn’t get no-hit today.”
Out of the 14 cutters Drabek threw, nine of them went for strikes. The key to a great cutter is to keep it down, and that is exactly what Drabek did on Saturday. Take a look at his Pitch Type Strike Zone Plot via PitchFX.
The cutters are shaded in purple, and Drabek did a great job of keeping the pitch down and getting the Twin hitters to swing over the top of it.
Maybe the Twins were thrown off because they were looking at the scouting reports from last season and weren’t expecting to see a cutter, but I think Drabek was just that good.
Nobody expects him to throw one-hit ball over seven innings every start this year, but if his cutter is as good as advertised on a consistent basis, then he will be well on his way to a very solid season in Toronto.
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