What should we call Rivera’s other fastball?

Mariano Rivera is famous for his cut fastball. So famous, in fact, that it’s a common misconception that he only throws one pitch. Of course, from PITCHf/x data, as well as some newspaper reports, we know he throws another type of fastball. I’ve often seen it referred to as a sinker or two-seam fastball, but its spin deflection certainly looks like a classic four-seamer.

In a discussion about Dave Allen’s post about Mariano Rivera that took place at the Book blog, I had the occasion to look for images of Rivera’s two fastball grips. I thought I’d share them here for yuk-yuks with the other two of you in the world who care about what to properly name Rivera’s “other” fastball.

First, here’s his cutter grip, with index fingertip and middle fingertip on the seam. As far as I can tell this is close to a typical cutter grip–a four-seam grip with the ball set a little off center in his hand. (There’s a better picture here, but I don’t have permission to post the image.)

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Rivera throws a cut fastball against the White Sox, July 16, 2006. (Icon/SMI)

Now, here’s the other fastball, the one I tend to call a four-seamer because of how it moves. It’s the one others call a two-seamer, though I’m not sure why. If you look at how many seams he’s holding, should we call it a one-seamer?

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Mariano Rivera throws his other fastball against the Rangers, August 7, 2008. (Icon/SMI)
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Comments

  1. Crane said...

    I think I remember something in an article from Driveline Mechanics about Jon Lester throwing a one-seamer….

  2. RZ said...

    One-seam? I assume that it has more of a slider spin because an actual fastball be hitting more than two seams as it travels.

    Four seam and two seam are named that way not because of the grip but rather how many seams are being hit by the air in front of the baseball.

    By looking that grip, it could be this:http://www.webball.com/cms/Image/grips/3seam.jpg

  3. Mike Fast said...

    Crane, here’s a picture of Lester’s one-seamer, which does look a lot like Rivera’s grip.

    http://www.stevenellis.com/steven_ellis_the_complete/2008/10/how-to-throw-a.html

    It’s the mirror image, of course, since Lester is a lefty.  But Lester gets more sink and tail on his pitch than Rivera.

    RZ may be right that is has somewhat of a slider spin, but he can’t really be using his wrist with slider action because he’s getting full fastball speed with the pitch.

    RZ, you’re also right about the seam terminology coming from the number of seams hitting the air.  Thanks for reminding me of that.

    I’ll have to look at that 3-seam fastball when I get home and can have a baseball in my hand.  I don’t do very well visualizing these things without a prop to look at.

  4. RZ said...

    Looking at Rivera’s grip on his “other fastball” it could be a “cutting two seamer”. It look like it runs on a two seam rotation yet Rivera throws it at less of an angle than his cutter but doesn’t throw like a normal two/four seam fastball. Somewhat of an in-between pitch.

    I assume he eventually figured out how to throw a non-cutter fastball with tremendous movement and high velocity.

  5. steve said...

    I haven’t seen him throw the pitch since but he threw some nasty sinkers a few years back.  It’s ingrained in my memory because he was playing the Red Sox early in the season and struggling.  Then all of a sudden, he breaks out a sinker that was unbelievable.  He induced two weak groundouts and got out of the jam.  I’m not much of a Rivera fan but what he showed that day in how he was able to manipulate the ball, how he has other pitches in his bag if he so desires, made me respect him so much more.

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