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Entries in Changeup (12)


Martin Perez's Changeup: The Real Deal?


Tuesday night, Texas Rangers starter Martin Perez tossed six innings against the Orioles holding them to two earned runs on six hits, four strikeouts and one walk. Since his 2013 debut on May 27, he's made five starts and the victory moved him to 3-1 this season. His ERA now sits at an impressive 2.08, the lowest among American League southpaws.

2013 is not 2012

After four years in the Rangers' farm system as a starter, the organization wasn't sure what the future held for the still just 22-year old Perez. Last season, he struggled over six starts with the big club posting a 5.88 ERA  and 1.73 WHIP .

But something changed for him pitching for Round Rock Triple A to start this season posting a 1.75 ERA and a 1.028 WHIP.

Rangers third-baseman Adrian Beltre told ESPN Dallas' Jeff Seidel that Perez is "a different guy" than they saw last season, and that he is "attacking the strike zone" much more. Increasing his strike zone percentage from 47.7 percent last season to 51.4 percent thus far in 2013, Beltre is absolutely correct.

More than any other pitch, the difference is Perez's changeup.

Perez changeup frequency over last two seasons vs. righties

As you can see, last season Perez had trouble finding consistency commanding his changeup against right-handed hitters. This season, his command of the pitch has improved noticeably, pinpointing the low-and-outside corner of the zone with consistency.

Take a look at the difference

Because Perez has proved capable of locating the pitch so consistently, opponents have become more willing to expand the zone and chase his changeups outside of the strike zone.

Last season, that wasn't the case. He threw fewer changeups in the strike zone and batters were less inclined to swing at changeups located out of the zone.

Opponents' swing rate on Perez's changeup located out of the strikezone

Because Perez struggled to command his changeup last season, right-handed hitters offered at only 24.6 percent of those located out of the zone. This season, that swing rate has increased dramatically to 42.2 percent and has directly impacted right-handed batters' success against the pitch. 



















Since his May 27th debut: 

  • Perez is throwing more changeups for strikes and generating more frequent swings on out-of-the-zone changeups. Consequently, right-handed hitters have not enjoyed the same amount of success this season as they did in 2012.
  • Perez's .182 BABIP on changeups ranks as the second-lowest among left-handers.
  • His .097 WHAV and .290 opponent slugging percentage are enough for 11th-best against right-handers.  

What does this all mean?

Because of that changeup, Perez is quickly becoming one of the best young left-handed starters in baseball. His refined command of the pitch within the zone has held right-handed batters in check and tempts batters to swing at it even out of the zone.

With the Rangers' shaky rotation, Perez has offered consistency and can continue to do so if he continues to fool batters with this powerful, and often underrated, pitch.


More on Medlen's Changeup

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.



Chris Volstad's Changeup Success: Unsustainable?

Chris Volstad (FLA) has done well throwing the changeup this season.  He's second in opponent's batting average (.063) behind Ryan Madson's change (.057).  Last year, opponents hit .246 against his changeup, putting Volstad in the bottom half of the league. 

Here's a look at how his changeup this season compares to last.

Chris Volstad's Changeup Movement

Volstad has lost a little vertical movement (BrkZ) on his changeup, while gaining some horizontal movement (BrkX).

Chris Volstad's Changeup Results

Batters have swung less and chased fewer of Volstad's changeups this season. Yet, they have swung and missed slightly more and failed to produce more than one hit. Perhaps the increase in left to right movement on the pitch has been more effective against batters, even at the expense of less downward movement.

I'd hesitate to suggest he will be able to sustain this success. Batters still make a great deal of contact against his changeup. Volstad has struck out only two batters with it this season. However, he's only thrown the change 13 times with two strikes. Given that a BABIP correction is more than likely forthcoming, he'll need to start throwing the change more when batters are down in the count.