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When Stephen Strasburg was the big-time draft prospect and overall one of the up and coming pitchers for the Nationals. Scouts, coaches and fans all knew about how good his changeup was. Now his changeup in 2020 has continued to be an elite pitch and one of the big reasons for his ongoing success at the Major League level.
With baseball so close to finally happening, I wanted to start a series where I breakdown the stats and characteristics of a pitcher’s best pitch to better understand what makes it so dominant.
In 2019, Strasburg threw his changeup 20.7% of the time and 700 changeups overall. While his average velocity has been the worst in his career at 87.7 MPH and the lowest spin rate in his career as well at 1679 RPM. Strasburg’s 32.1 inches of vertical drop was 16th among pitchers that threw at least 500 changeups in 2019. On the other side, his 15.5 inches of horizontal movement was 12th among pitchers that threw at least 500 changeups in 2019. Looking at spray charts, Strasburg can consistently spot his changeup down in the zone and it has so much depth that it will drop into the dirt that gets plenty of swings and misses. Strasburg has a circle-change grip and with his arm speed makes his changeup a disgusting pitch.
Now let’s see how opposition hits against the changeup:
Batters whiffed 44.2 percent of the time and he put away hitters 22.9 percent throughout the 2019 season. Continuing on, opposition hit .140 against and slugged .238 while also having a .190 wOBA against Strasburg’s changeup. Strasburg has started throwing his curveball more at about 30.7 percent of the time, but his changeup has remained his best secondary weapon.
Strasburg has been baffling hitters for a decade with his arsenal and leading the way is his changeup that was electrifying in his MLB debut that included him striking out 14 Pirates, five of those strikeouts coming on the changeup. He will have continued dominance in his career. It’s time now to sit back and watch him continue to frustrate hitters-even in his late 30’s.