Going Deep: The 5 Best Changeups of 2018
Pitching is great. I love it; you love it; we all love it. This offseason, we’ve been taking a look back at a lot of the best pitches thrown in 2018. I’ve done some pieces on the most-chased pitches of 2018, as well as some pieces on different pitchers with Money Pitches.
So now, as the offseason is coming to a close, I want to take a look back at the best of each type of pitch from last year, and today, we’ll start with changeups.
These pitches are ranked by pVAL, which we’ve talked about a lot here. (For a more in-depth explanation of how pVAL works, check out this article.) It’s worth noting a few things about pVAL before we dive in — pVAL is not the be-all and end-all pitching statistic. No single pitching statistic is, and it’s worth looking at in conjunction with other pitch-specific stats (which I will do).
It’s also not a predictive stat, which Alex Chamberlain explains very well in Rotographs. However, it’s a useful stat, and it’s always fun to look at great pitches.
Let’s dive in.
No. 5: Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke‘s changeup has always been a really nice pitch, and last year was no different. He threw it a bit more in 2018 than he did in 2017, but it was a similar pitch, posting a 46.9% chase rate, 30.6% zone rate, and a 16% whiff rate on its way to a 12.6 pVAL.
Now, that 12.6 pVAL is slightly lower than the 14.3 pVAL the pitch had in 2017, but that’s hardly something to knock Greinke for too much, considering it was still an excellent pitch.
It produced an absolutely absurd 70.8% ground-ball rate, which explains why opposing hitters had just a .224 wOBA and .097 ISO against it.
No. 4: Jacob DeGrom
Jacob deGrom didn’t win the Cy Young for nothing, and while his changeup wasn’t necessarily his best pitch, it certainly was a really good one. The Mets ace saw his changeup produce the best pVAL of his career with the pitch, up from 1.1 in 2017 to 13.0 in 2018.
Hitters could do nothing with it, with just a .167 wOBA and a .077 ISO against the pitch. Even if they could hit it (and they often didn’t), they didn’t do much with it. It was also one of his better strikeout pitches, with a 40.7% chase rate, 41.9% zone rate, and 16.5% whiff rate — giving deGrom his only Money Pitch on the year.
And believe it or not, the pitch was his third-best pVAL on the year (behind his fastball and slider). deGrom was just amazing last year.
No. 3: Trevor Richards
This changeup is a work of art, and it popped up on my previous list of the 10 most-chased pitches in all of baseball (ranking seventh).
Seriously, this thing was ridiculous, with a 52.3% chase rate, 24.2% whiff rate, 35.8% strikeout rate, and a .226 wOBA against on its way to a 14.7 pVAL.
Unfortunately, the rest of Richards’ arsenal wasn’t quite up to snuff, including an awful fastball with a -14.0 pVAL and a .212 ISO against last year. He also had a curveball that left a lot to be desired. But man did he have a nasty changeup.
No. 2: Anibal Sanchez
Fun fact about Anibal Sanchez: In this series that I’m starting looking at the top five pitches for each type of pitch, there are only two players who threw multiple top-five pitches. One is, unsurprisingly, deGrom. The other is Anibal Sanchez.
Sanchez’s changeup was also featured in the most-chased pitches article, ranking 10th in the league at a 49.3% chase rate, and it was a fantastic pitch. Along with the chase rate, it posted a 20.9% whiff rate with just a .185 wOBA and .061 ISO against on its way to a 15.1 pVAL. And that 15.1 pVAL is the best pVAL he’s had on a pitch in his entire career.
No. 1: Kyle Hendricks
Honestly, if you’ve been following Kyle Hendricks‘ career throughout the years, this really shouldn’t surprise you. Hendricks has been known for his filthy changeup for a while now; it’s always been one of his best (if not his best) pitches, and last year was no different.
The pitch fell just short of our qualifications for a Money Pitch here, but I don’t really care because the numbers it posted were so good. That’s a 49.2% chase rate and a 19.8% whiff rate, so I don’t really care about the 36.6% zone rate considering hitters were missing it so much.
That pitch was also good for the 11th-most chased pitch in all of baseball last year (he juuuuust missed out on making the most-chased pitches article), and it logged a 17.4 pVAL.
Believe it or not, a 17.4 pVAL isn’t the best season he’s had with his changeup. The best season came in 2016, when it logged a ridiculous 21.3 pVAL.
Photo by Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire