The Atlanta Braves unveiled a new stud starter on July 31, and they didn't even have to pull off a trade to get the guy. Kris Medlen, who missed the 2011 season following Tommy John surgery and spent the first four months of 2012 in the 'pen, has made a bigger impact than the likes of Zack Greinke and Ryan Dempster since deadline day. Medlen has a 50-to-5 strikeout to walk ratio in 49.2 innings pitched as a starter, posting a 0.54 ERA in the process. No other starter since 1901 has posted a double-digit K-to-BB ratio and had an ERA under one while throwing at least 45 innings, according to Baseball-Reference.
Bill Chuck provided a nice breakdown of Medlen's success, but let's add to the Medlen Bedlam by taking a closer look at his changeup.
- Medlen has thrown his low-80s changeup 21% of the time as a starter. Unlike most pitchers, he's not bashful about using it against hitters on both sides of the plate. Medlen has thrown his change 26% of the time against left-handers and 16% against right-handers. The only starters who throw a higher percentage of right-on-right changeups are Jeremy Hellickson (31%), James Shields (27%), Edinson Volquez (24%), Felix Hernandez (22%) and Kyle Kendrick (17%). Righties are batting .067 (1-for-15) against Medlen's changeup, compared to a still-paltry .103 (3-for-29) for left-handers.
- Medlen has the highest changeup strike rate (80%) among starters throwing the pitch at least 100 times this season. The MLB average is slightly under 63%. They're quality strikes, too. Here is Medlen's changeup location heat map as a starter:
Medlen's changeup location as a starter
Talk about hitting your spots. Medlen has thrown just 18.5% of his changeups over the horizontal middle of the plate. The big league average, by contrast, is slightly over 24%.
- The only starter with a higher changeup chase rate than Medlen (55%) is Baltimore's Miguel Gonzalez (63%). The MLB average is about 36%. Lefty batters would need a boat oar to connect with some of the fading Medlen changeups that they're swinging at:
Average swing rate by pitch location vs. changeups
Hitters' swing rate by location vs. Medlen's changeup since 7/31
- Medlen's change has a 45% miss rate, trailing just Stephen Strasburg (53%), Jarrod Parker (48%), Cole Hamels (47%), and Jaime Garcia (46%). The MLB average is 29%.
- Overall, opponents are batting -- and slugging -- .091 against Medlen's changeup. The average slugging percentage on changeups for starters is nearly 300 points higher, at .389. Congratulations to Steve Lombardozzi, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa and Everth Cabrera for being the only hitters to squeak out a single against Medlen's changeup.