When former GM Alex Anthopoulos traded Adam Lind to the Milwaukee Brewers for Marco Estrada the Toronto Blue Jays received a pitcher with one of the best change-ups in the game
Once inserted into the Blue Jays starting rotation, Marco Estrada quickly dispelled the notion that a fly ball pitcher couldn’t be successful pitching in the Rogers Centre. In 13 games in 2015 he went 6 and 4 with a 2.95 ERA while pitching at home, with the quality of his change-up receiving much of the credit.
The change-up is only effective when accompanied with the pitchers ability to command another pitch, preferably a good fastball. The spin a pitcher puts on the change closely resembles that of a fastball, but it lacks the same velocity, at least it should.
Only Chicago White Sox starting pitchers threw the change more frequently than Blue Jays’ Estrada. This article will look at which Blue Jays pitchers throw the change, how frequently they throw it, and with what movement, but first let’s list the top 5 starting pitchers, from each league, who utilize their change-up the most.
American League 2015 Top 5 Change Pitchers
1. John Danks (Chicago White Sox)- 29.0%
2. Marco Estrada (Toronto Blue Jays)- 27.5%
3. Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners)- 27.4%
4. Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox)- 26.0%
5. Edinson Volquez (Kansas City Royals)- 24.8%
National League 2015 Top 5 Change Pitchers
1. Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies/Texas Rangers)- 23.9%
2. Jeff Locke (Pittsburgh Pirates)- 22.1%
3. James Shields (San Diego Padres)- 21.1%
4. Francisco Liriano (Pittsburgh Pirates)- 20.6%
5. Kyle Hendricks (Chicago Cubs)- 19.9%
The top 5 AL pitchers were actually the top 5 pitchers who threw the change-up the most frequently in all of baseball. To further the point that AL pitchers throw the change-up more frequently than NL pitchers, the NL pitchers appeared 7 times in the top 20 pitchers who frequently throw the change-up. The Pittsburg Pirates have 2 in the top 15.
Using 2015 stats accumulated by Fangraphs.com this article lists the top 5 pitchers currently on the Toronto Blue Jays 40-man rosters as of January 31st who will depend heavily on their change-up in 2016.
Again, using 2015 stats accumulated by Fangraphs.com this article lists the top 5 largest velocity differences between a pitchers fastball and change-ups thrown by pitchers currently on the Toronto Blue Jays 40-man rosters as of January 31st. The value shown below in the difference in mile per hour from the pitchers fastball, which could be of the 4-seam variety or 2-seam or cutter….you get the point.
Once again utilizing the fantastic stats library at Fangraphs.com, here’s a look at the top 5 pitchers with the most vertical movement on their change-ups.
This exercise shows why Estrada’s change-up is considered one of the best in baseball. Not only does he throw it with a confidence, he fools batters by throwing it 10.5 mph less than his fastball with the best diving action on the Blue Jays and of any qualifying starters in baseball. Estrada’s 78 mph change-up keeps batters from sitting on his average 89 mph fastball which he throws about 61% of the time.
In closing, let us be hopeful that fellow Mexican, Roberto Osuna, follows in Marco Estrada footsteps by increasing the frequency he throws an already impressive change-up. Batters would look really foolish gearing up for Osuna’s 95 mph fastball, only to realize it’s an 82 mph change.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.