Chris Hatcher‘s ERA on June 17 was 6.38, he had just been placed on the disabled list with an oblique injury, and fans had already been calling for him to be designated for over a month. Season over, try to do better next year, right? A funny thing happened, though. On Aug. 14, Hatcher was activated from the 60-day DL to much moaning and groaning, and all he’s done is work his way into a setup role thanks to a 1.31 ERA since the return.
The resurgence has been curious and sudden, and it’s easy to chalk it up to better luck, but there does appear to be an underlying reason. Mainly, Hatcher has been throwing a cutter, which has allowed him to become less four-seam dependent.
Upon being activated, Hatcher has thrown the cutter about 10% of the time, a pitch he hadn’t thrown before other than a couple months back in 2012.
And it’s not that the cutter has made Hatcher more successful, but it’s been a part of a seemingly deliberate plan to make him less reliant on his straight four-seam fastball.
The cutter is definitely a new pitch, and as you can see, it adds another speed hitters have to adjust to. And even more than his new cutter, Hatcher is simply using the four-seam fastball far less than he was before he came off the DL.
Before he hit the DL, he was throwing the four-seam upwards of 70% of the time. But since he’s come back, he’s been more around 50%, working in the slider, cutter, and split more than ever. It’s relatively rare for a reliever to have four or five pitches, so for Hatcher to shy away from using them early in the year was always a puzzling choice. Now that his full arsenal is in play, including his new toy, Hatcher has unsurprisingly seen much more positive results.
The Dodgers have been looking for a bridge to Kenley Jansen all year long, and thanks to a cutter and adjustments in pitch selection, they may have found one in a resurgent Chris Hatcher.
Now the fans and the Dodgers just have to hope the success he’s had to close out the regular season carries over to the postseason.