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Ohlendorf's Changeup

In the previous post, Jonathan Scippa commented on Ross Ohlendorf's excellent slider.  The changeup is the evil twin of Ross's slider.  While batters hit just .131 and slugged .237 off the slider, they creamed the change for a .352 BA and a .730 slugging percentage (all stats in this post cover 2008-2010).

The changeup is supposed to look like a fast ball.  To fool the batter, the pitcher uses the same arm speed and release point as the fastball, but holds the ball differently so the speed is slower.  The batter swings at what he thinks is a high speed pitch, but the ball isn't there yet.  A poor changeup, however, gives the batter an easy pitch to hit.

As you might expect, the slower pitch drops more than a fast one:

Ross Ohlendorf fastball movement, 2008-2010Ross's fastball, on average, moves just as you would expect a pitch to move.  You might call it flat.  Hitters, in fact, do well against his fast ball, hitting it for a .306 BA  and a .495 slugging percentage.

Ross Ohlendorf changeup movement, 2008-2010Note that the changeup is anything but flat.  It's moving down at the plate, just what a batter wants to hit a home run.  Ross's fastball get hit 315 feet on the fly; his changeups go 323 feet.  Ross gets the double whammy with the change.  He doesn't throw it well enough to fool batters into thinking it's a fastball, and the drop makes it a great pitch to hit out of the park.  He should stick with the slider.


Ross Ohlendorf Wins Arbitration Hearing

Ross Ohlendorf (1-11, 4.07 ERA) won his arbitration hearing with the Pirates this week and will make $2.025 million in the coming season.

Ohlendorf was right at league average in most categories for 2010, no more so than his 100 ERA+. His HR/FB ratio, however, dopped about 3% to 6.3% last season. For a fly ball pitcher (career 41.7%), this is likely unsustainable. And given that his FB% has increased every year, a HR/FB regression to league average could do some heavy damage to his ERA next season.
His slider, however, was well above league average in opponent batting average and SLG% in 2010. The in play SLG% on his slider also ranked 7th in all of baseball. The Pirates are sure hoping he can build on this success while winning more than one game this season.


Taking Sliders

There’s a world of difference between a minor league slider and a major league slider. Many young hitters often find it hard to adapt to the advanced pitching repertoire they face in the majors, and the slider is often a big reason many fail to make the transition permanent. Part of the problem comes from the harder fastballs they face in the bigs, making the time to identify a slider much shorter.

Since his debut in 2008, Evan Longoria has increased his batting efficiency against the slider each year. Take a look at how his ability to take a slider increased each year:

Sliders Taken by Longoria
Taking fewer sliders that ended up in the strike zone raised Longoria’s expected OBP (eOBP) against sliders from .371 in 2008 to .391 in 2009, and .409 in 2010.