James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays pitched a three-hitter Friday night evenly mixing in his fastball, change up and curveball throughout the evening. The change up proved to be his out pitch. With two strikes, he went to the change up nineteen times out of 30 pitches thrown. Astros batters went 0 for 12 when they put a change up in play, and struck out on five more.
Shields throws a change that varies in three dimensions from his fastball. First, compare the two pitches on speed and spin:
The fastball is nearly straight over the top with good back spin, thrown about 91 MPH. The change introduces that little bit of side spin which moves it toward the catcher's glove hand. The change averages about 84 MPH.
How do these pitches look crossing the plate?
The main movement of the fastball is toward left-handed batters. The main movement of the change up is down and toward right-handed batters. With the same motion as his fastball, Shields throws a change up with a different speed, spin and the opposite movement. That pitch ate up the Astros Friday night.