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Mastering the Changeup: The Key to Pitching Success in Baseball

The art of pitching is one of the most critical elements in the game of baseball. But, to be a successful pitcher, you need to perfect your arsenal of pitches, and one of the most important ones might be the changeup.

In this article, we’ll delve into the most important aspects of changeup pitching. We’ll cover everything from the best pitchers with killer changeups to the fundamentals of the pitch to explain why it’s so important for pitchers.

Let’s get started!

MLB Pitchers with the Best Changeups

Sandy Alcantara

The Miami Marlins ace, Sandy Alcantara, proved to be a force to be reckoned with in the 2021 season. The right-hander led the National League in innings pitched, shutouts, and complete games.

He finished in the top five NL Cy Young voting and was the sole Marlins pitcher picked for the All-Star Game.

One particular reason for Alcantara’s success was his changeup.

Amongst starters, he recorded the second-highest changeup velocity (91.9 mph), providing a significant differentiation from his fastball. The pitch was also notable for its outstanding whiff rate, forcing batters to swing and miss 49.2% of the time.

Additionally, his changeup had the 10th highest spin rate, meaning it would dip and move parallel to the catcher’s glove.

Devin Williams

Devin Williams, a young pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers, burst onto the scene last season with his “Airbender” changeup. The pitch signature trait is its high spin rate, which is by far the highest in baseball.

The spin rate allows the pitch to move erratically, even shifting downwards when it approaches the plate.

In 2020, the right-handed pitcher accumulated 53 strikeouts in just 27 innings and a 0.33 ERA (earned run average) when he implemented the changeup.

Williams’ changeup’s success is reflected in its whiff rate, which stands at 48.6%, well above average, forcing batters to frequently swing and miss.

Patrick Sandoval

Patrick Sandoval, left-handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, immediately harnessed the increased usage of his changeup during the 2021 season. He began to improve his repertoire in both frequency and quality, including an increase in whiff rate and netting a 0.84 ERA during his seven-start run to close out the season.

One of the major factors contributing to Sandoval’s success was his changeup’s location, especially the pitch’s ability to prevent angle and carry for opposing batters. Furthermore, Sandoval’s changeup had a whiff rate of near 32%, above the league average of 16.1%.

The batting average against Sandoval’s changeup was .170, well below the MLB’s average isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) of .210 for fastball speeds 93+ MPH.

Luis Castillo

When it comes to using the changeup effectively, Cincinnati Reds pitcher

Luis Castillo is one of the best in the league. Castillo ranks high in strikeouts and is a crucial component in the Reds’ starting lineup.

His fastball-changeup combination is excellent, providing unpredictability to his pitches that many batters find challenging to hit.

Castillo’s changeup is responsible for a high percentage of his strikeouts, with a 36.9% whiff percentage.

Its movement and location make it virtually impossible to identify the pitch, making it a potent weapon for Castillo.

Importance of Changeup in MLB Pitching

What is a Changeup? A changeup is an off-speed pitch which, when thrown correctly, can deceive opponents and has an average speed slower than that of a fastball.

The pitch’s purpose is to make a batter’s timing off-kilter, making it hard to square off the ball. The ball’s lower speed also helps to off-balance the hitter, forcing them to hit the ball early or late.

Advantages of an Effective Changeup

An effective changeup can disrupt a batter’s coordination, which forces them to feel unsure about when to swing. When the pitch is thrown correctly, it seems to move like a fastball, then slows drastically, catches the batters off-balanced, and forces a late swing.

Because of the pitch’s difficulty level, being able to effectively use a changeup enhances a pitcher’s craft, making them less predictable and more challenging for opposing batters to hit.

Pitch Selection

An effective changeup also helps to balance a pitcher’s repertoire of pitches. When throwing fastballs predominantly, the opposition batters can become comfortable and make adjustments.

A changeup can change the tempo and force the opponent to think twice before swinging. It’s a useful strategy to keep the opposition batters on their toes and within a pitcher’s control.

MLB Players’ Opinions on Best Changeups

According to some experts, the best changeups can come from various pitchers. Pedro Martinez, a Baseball Hall of Fame member and former Boston Red Sox pitcher, referred to Sandy Koufax as the best ever at the pitch.

Fellow Hall of Fame member Greg Maddux named Trevor Hoffman’s changeup as the best he ever saw. Maddux knowingly has a mean changeup, making his opinion well-regarded.

Conclusion

In conclusion, many pitchers in the MLB use the changeup to their advantage in their craft. Pitchers like Sandy Alcantara,

Devin Williams, and

Patrick Sandoval have made a name for themselves, primarily based on the effectiveness of this pitch.

Inventing a break or spin for the changeup can be difficult, but it is critical to any athlete aiming to make an impact in the game. Being able to use the pitch effectively can pay dividends in winning games against tough oppositions.

By balancing their pitching repertoire through subterfuge, it keeps opposition batters guessing, leading to a more substantial probability of success. As Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux agreed, a well-executed changeup can make all the difference.

In conclusion, mastering the changeup is a critical aspect of any pitcher’s craft, and it can help them win games against tough oppositions. This article covered the best MLB pitchers with impressive changeups, the advantages of effective changeups, and expert opinions on the best ones.

A well-executed changeup can disrupt the batter’s coordination, balance a pitcher’s repertoire of pitches and keep the opposition batters guessing. If you’re a pitcher looking to improve your game, be sure to master the changeup.

FAQs:

1. What is a changeup, and why is it essential?

A changeup is an off-speed pitch that helps to off-balance the hitter, making it hard to square off the ball, disrupts a batter’s coordination and enhances a pitcher’s craft. 2.

Who are some of the best pitchers with excellent changeups? Some of the renowned pitchers with remarkable changeups include

Devin Williams, Sandy Alcantara,

Patrick Sandoval and

Luis Castillo.

3. How do effective changeups balance a pitcher’s repertoire of pitches?

When throwing fastballs predominantly, the opposing batters can become comfortable and make adjustments. The changeup changes the tempo and forces the opponent to think twice before swinging, keeping them within a pitcher’s control.

4. Why are expert opinions on the best changeups important?

Expert opinions from renowned pitchers like Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux help pitcher’s validate and improve their craft and encourage them to master the changeup.

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