Neftali’s new pitch

Neftali Feliz debuted his cutter during Cactus League play on Wednesday. While Jeff Passan is convinced Feliz is best suited for starting, it may be a bit premature to declare the Texas closer a full-blown four-pitch pitcher. This is a new pitch, and scouts generally don’t laud his secondary stuff.

Still, this moves Feliz into the same territory as Bobby Jenks, Joakim Soria and Aaron Heilman—relievers with a starter’s arsenal. These are cherry-picked examples, but it does illustrate the range of pitchers who work out of a bullpen despite having four or more pitches at their disposal. One could argue the “extra” pitches just give a reliever better odds of having a single effective secondary pitch on any given day.

For further illustration of the new offering, the PITCHf/x spin deflection plot for Feliz shows the new pitch right along the vertical axis, snugly between his cluster of slurves and fastballs. Note the velocity of the change-ups (hanging below the cluster of fastballs) and the cutter. This new pitch may be best called a slutter. As shown, Feliz is throwing it close to slider/change-up speed. Finally, his breaking pitch is usually referred to as a slider, but you’ll also hear it called a slurve, which is a better description.

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