I’m in the midst of my pitch review series, taking a look at the best of each pitch type from last season, and today we’re going to take a look at the best changeups from 2019, ranked by pVAL.
If you want more of an explanation of this series, check out the top curveballs article.
But enough intro, let’s get to the pitches!
No. 5: Zack Greinke
At age 36, Zack Greinke, probably one of the greatest pitchers of this generation, had yet another incredible season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and later with the Houston Astros, posting a 2.93 ERA, 3.22 FIP, and a 0.98 WHIP.
A big reason why was this fantastic changeup, which posted a 45% chase rate, 13.9% SwStr rate, .230 wOBA against, and a .107 ISO against, on its way to a 16.9 pVAL (which, oddly enough, is exactly what the pVAL of his fastball was).
In fact, Greinke really only had one bad pitch last year, which was his sinker (surprise surprise, sinkers are always bad). Otherwise, Greinke didn’t have a single pitch with a wOBA against above .307.
No. 4: Zach Davies
After a couple okay years with the Milwaukee Brewers and one really bad one in 2018, Zach Davies weirdly went off and had the best ERA of his career to date at 3.55. However, it’s worth noting that that came along with a 4.56 FIP, 5.43 SIERA, and a measly 15.2% strikeout rate.
All that being said, one thing Davies did very well with last year was his changeup, posting a 46.1% chase rate, 15.9% SwStr rate, .236 wOBA against, and .107 ISO against with the pitch on its way to a 19.1 pVAL. That’s a pretty significant improvement over the -1.2 and -3.9 pVALs the pitch had posted the past two years.
What makes me nervous about Davies is the rest of his repertoire. He’s got a nice changeup, but that’s about it. His curveball, which he hardly throws, very much a get-me-over pitch, with a terrible 2.1% SwStr rate last year. And aside from his changeup, he didn’t have a single pitch with a positive pVAL, which is not encouraging at all.
No. 3: Mike Minor
Since really getting back into baseball in 2017, Mike Minor has been quite volatile. In 2017, he had an incredible year out of the bullpen with the Kansas City Royals, pitching to a 2.55 ERA and a 28.7% strikeout rate, and then in 2018, starting with the Texas Rangers, he had a rough year, with a 4.18 ERA and 20.6% strikeout rate.
Cut to 2019, and Minor splits the difference, posting a 3.59 ERA and a 23.2% strikeout rate. That ERA came with a 4.25 FIP and 4.51 SIERA however, but still, Minor looked pretty decent and hit 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career.
Part of that was thanks to this changeup, which had a 34% chase rate, 15.8% SwStr rate, .226 wOBA against, and .087 ISO against last year, all of which culminated in a 22.3 pVAL.
His fastball was similarly good. While not a swing-and-miss pitch, it induced plenty of weak contact, with a .316 wOBA against, though Minor did make plenty of mistakes with it, leading to a .184 ISO against.
And therein lies Minor’s problem—he’s got two very good pitches in his fastball and changeup, and two very bad pitches in his slider and curveball. Being a two-pitch pitcher can work in the bullpen, but it doesn’t often work as a starter.
No. 2: Hyun-Jin Ryu
This shouldn’t be all that surprising, especially if you read my article on the most-chased pitches in baseball, because Hyun-Jin Ryu’s changeup topped the list.
That’s right, this pitch had a ridiculous 56.6% chase rate alongside an 18.8% SwStr rate, .215 wOBA against, and a .103 ISO against, alongside a 24.1 pVAL. Yea, it was a totally ridiculous pitch and certainly helped Ryu on his way to a career year with a 2.32 ERA.
And what’s great is that, while his changeup is his best pitch, Ryu’s changeup isn’t his only pitch. In fact, last year Ryu threw five different pitches at least 300 times, and every single one of them had a positive pVAL. He’s just that good.
No. 1: Luis Castillo
This one shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise, because if there’s one thing Luis Castillo is known for, it’s his beautiful changeup. If his fastball is working like it can, Castillo’s fastball/changeup combo can be deadly, as it was last year, leading Castillo to a nice 3.40 ERA, 3.70 FIP, and 28.9% strikeout rate.
And his changeup was on last year too, posting a 50.2% chase rate (good for seventh-best in the league), a 26.6% SwStr rate, .193 wOBA against, .071 ISO against, and a 46.6% strikeout rate, leading to a 26.6 pVAL, the third-highest pVAL of any pitch in baseball last year.
So, suffice to say, Castillo’s changeup was absolutely filthy last year.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)