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Royals vs the Changeup

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The offspeed pitch that gives the Royals hitters woes

Jason Miller

Last night while watching Lorenzo Cain record his 104th strikeout on the year via a Carlos Carrasco slider, I went diving into his pitch F/X data since it seems like breaking ball pitches (sliders in particular) kill him. It's true; they do.

Lorenzo Cain has seen 303 sliders this year (his second highest pitch type outside of fastballs) and has hit .202 against them. Over his career he's seen 941 sliders and hit .231 off them. Lorenzo Cain vs sliders is not only a weird court case title, but also isn't the point of my article. While digging through his pitch F/X data I came across this:

In his career, Lorenzo Cain has seen 660 offspeed pitches and hit exactly one home run off of them. Cain isn't a known slugger, but his home runs by pitch type goes:

Hard - 10

Breaking - 9

Offspeed - 1

That's a pretty uneven spread. That one offspeed home run came off a splitter that was served up by Jose Valverde (RIP) in 2013 in the bottom of the ninth to tie the ball game. A GIF can be found below (h/t to our "brother site" Bless You Boys):

Cain_homer_6-12-13_medium

My final Lorenzo Cain stat is that he's never hit a home run off a changeup. In 548 changeups, one has never left the park. The furthest he has ever hit a changeup was May 19th of 2013 which he hit 346.25 feet in which Cory Blaser was the head umpire. Man I love pitch F/X.

A pitcher with a good changeup can be a deadly weapon. Using it in the same arm slot as a fastball with roughly 7 or so MPH difference between the two, it looks like a fastball out of hand then of course drops as it tumbles towards the plate. It the most effective pitch (a little better than a curveball) against opposite handed batters (reverse platoon).

Here are your leaders in wCH/C or weighted changeup value per 100 thrown from 2012-2014:

Name wCH/C
Hiroki Kuroda 3.85
Cole Hamels 2.24
Johnny Cueto 1.74
Jason Vargas 1.67
Chris Sale 1.65
Anibal Sanchez 1.63
Jeff Samardzija 1.61
Stephen Strasburg 1.54
Kyle Lohse 1.17
David Price 1.16
Felix Hernandez 1.15
Zack Greinke 1.11
Yu Darvish 1.07
Doug Fister 0.99
Cliff Lee 0.78
James Shields 0.75
Mike Minor 0.73
Jon Lester 0.72
Rick Porcello 0.68
Gio Gonzalez 0.67
Homer Bailey 0.6
Madison Bumgarner 0.48
Jered Weaver 0.47
Yovani Gallardo 0.42
Justin Verlander 0.23
C.J. Wilson 0.13

Basically a who's who of the leagues best pitchers sprinkled with other really good pitchers. Here's how the league is hitting changeups using the same wCH/C stat above:

Season PA wCH/C
2010 185553 -0.11
2011 185245 -0.08
2012 184179 0.05
2013 184873 -0.05
2014 177562 -0.16

Because this is a Royals website, though not endorsed by the Royals themselves, we can look at how the Royals themselves are hitting the changeup.

Season wCH/C
2014 -0.35
2013 -0.69
2012 -0.44
2011 -0.08
2010 -0.61

Here's the Royals league rankings in that span:

2014 20th
2013 28th
2012 24th
2011 15th
2010 26th
2010-2014 25th

So generally the Royals fell in the bottom 25ish in the league when it comes to pitch value on the changeup and over a 5-year span they are 25th worst.

Also because the internet is awesome we can break down the main 2014 core has done in their career vs changeups:

Name wCH/C
Eric Hosmer 1.39
Omar Infante 0.81
Billy Butler 0.35
Norichika Aoki 0.25
Alex Gordon 0.08
Salvador Perez -0.61
Mike Moustakas -0.65
Alcides Escobar -0.9
Lorenzo Cain -1.07

Now how about that same core with just this year:

Name wCH/C
Eric Hosmer 1.59
Alex Gordon 1.39
Billy Butler 0.12
Lorenzo Cain -0.06
Norichika Aoki -0.3
Omar Infante -0.37
Alcides Escobar -0.99
Mike Moustakas -1.1
Salvador Perez -2.4

So Hosmer over his career and this year has been a better than average changeup hitter and this year Gordon and Hosmer are in the top 35 in the league for changeup run value. Meanwhile Sal Perez has been one of the worst 10 changeup hitters this year.

A little more on Hosmer for his career vs changeups.

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Changeup 1016 26 33 12 0 38 17 1 11 .253 .449 .196 .253

Of the career 58 home runs Hosmer has, 11 of them (19%) of them have been off changeups. Here's your spray chart of those home runs.

Chart__2__medium

That image, courtesy of Baseball Savant, shows 12 home runs while Brooks Baseball only lists 11. From my understanding Baseball Savant is raw pitch F/X data while Brooks Baseball slightly tweaks the pitch inputs so perhaps that's where the discrepancy is but even so it's only a one home run difference.

This year for Hosmer two of his home runs, all 8 of them, have been off changeups and he's hit that pitch well as reflected above and now below.

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Changeup 234 62 9 2 0 9 7 0 2 .290 .500 .210 .314

Like the terrible and inaccurate Clint Eastwood movie, Hosmer has trouble with the curve.

2014:

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Curveball 265 60 17 1 0 7 2 0 2 .183 .317 .133 .220

Career:

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Curveball 1167 291 71 9 0 47 8 1 7 .217 .323 .107 .263

Easily Hosmer's worst pitch this year and over his career only the slider is worse. Here's his breakdown by pitch category for his career:

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Hard 5861 1363 199 133 7 284 94 6 38 .310 .471 .161 .341
Breaking 2446 628 143 22 0 104 14 2 10 .207 .283 .076 .253
Offspeed 1311 343 47 15 0 61 18 2 12 .271 .440 .169 .285

Hard stuff and offspeed pitches are no problem for Hosmer. He hits them for not only average, but also power. Offspeed pitches are generally are a weapon against opposite handed batters and but Hosmer has hit the reverse-platoon fairly well alongside the the traditional platoon.

vs LHP

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Offspeed 89 25 5 0 0 5 2 0 2 .360 .680 .320 .389

vs RHP

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Offspeed 1222 318 42 15 0 56 16 2 10 .264 .421 .157 .278

Changeups vs Hosmer by same lefthanded pitcher per season:

2014 - 24

2013 -22

2012 - 8

2011 - 23

As for the man struggling to hit changeups this season, we can take a further look at Salvador Perez's results.

2014

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Changeup 185 57 14 2 0 10 2 0 1 0.228 0.316 0.088 0.286

Career

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Changeup 450 152 17 4 0 33 7 0 2 0.276 0.362 0.086 0.301

So Perez is just struggling a bit this year as he's normally hit changeups well for his career.

Perez by pitch category for his career:

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Hard 3437 958 75 43 7 204 52 3 35 0.307 0.477 0.170 0.305
Breaking 1607 432 98 11 3 75 22 2 8 0.248 0.363 0.116 0.304
Offspeed 555 191 28 5 0 39 9 0 3 0.267 0.361 0.094 0.3

It's amazing he's getting thrown so many fastballs given his struggles with other stuff relative to the fastball.

About 1/3 of his fastballs seen have been first pitch fastballs.

0-0 count:

Pitch Count AB K BB HBP 1B 2B 3B HR BAA SLG ISO BABIP
Hard 1144 165 0 0 0 37 13 1 8 0.358 0.594 0.236 0.325

Perez has swung at about 25% of the time when he gets a first pitch fastball and put the ball in play about 15% of the time with ~2.5% whiff rate.

This article kinda veered away from what the title suggested and that's on me, but the main point still stands: the Royals aren't very good at hitting a changeups and teams are aware of that it seems.

Royals rankings by pitch type percentage (most seen):

Type % Rank
SL 17.10% 1st
CU 9.90% 1st
CH 10.30% 10th
FC 5.30% 17th
FA 34.5% 18th
SI 6.10% 24th
FT 13.10% 25th

So teams are pounding the Royals with sliders and curveballs. How are the Royals doing against that?

Type Value Rank
wSL/C -0.35% 11th
wCU/C -0.52% 26th

Good with the sliders, but not so good with the curveballs.

Name wCU/C
Norichika Aoki 2.1
Alcides Escobar 0.89
Mike Moustakas 0.13
Lorenzo Cain -0.03
Salvador Perez -0.67
Alex Gordon -1.01
Billy Butler -1.16
Eric Hosmer -1.19
Omar Infante -1.46


As you'd expect given the team number, most of the team is doing poorly.

Other random numbers:

  • In 1479 pitches seen, Billy Butler has only hit one curveball for a home run
  • Much like Butler, Moustakas only has one home run in 979 curveballs seen
  • Infante isn't a speedster, but of the 28 triples he has since 2007, none have come off of offspeed pitches
  • We know Aoki doesn't strike out a lot, but of the 767 offspeed pitches he's seen, he's only struck out on 13 of them (~0.015%)
  • Every pitch Dyson has seen more than 100 times in his career (3,659 total pitches) he has a triple off all of them
  • Gordon has swung at 50% of the changeups he's seen in his career (1,672).  He's hitting .254 off them
  • You all know how swing happy Perez has been in his career but here's more proof:
Pitch Swing%
FA 51.54%
SI 51.13%
CH 62.14%
SL 50.05%
CU 46.38%
FS 61.96%