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What’s The Best Pitch In Baseball?

What’s The Best Pitch In Baseball?

The fastball – scorching hot fastball, right?  Wrong!

Well then, it’s the 12-6 big curve-ball?  Not even close!

Oh, it’s the cutter.   NO!  Slider?  No!  Split-fingered fastball?  Nope!

It must be the knuckle-ball.  No, you knucklehead!  … or that knuckle-curve, or slurve, yeah that’s it, right?   WRONG!

It’s the change-up!  Well, that’s no so sexy!

It may not be as sexy, but it’s effective, and it’s part of the reason Chad Billingsley got beat last night.  Oh, he didn’t get beat badly.  He pitched pretty good actually – 11K’s in less than 8 Pitchinnings, but beat nonetheless.  Of course, he had no chance of winning since the Dodgers only got 2 hits and failed to score.  Jason Marquis threw 86 pitches in 9 innings while the Dodgers Ace threw 118 in 7-2/3 innings.  Dodger pitchers often feel they have to “blow-away” the opposition and we may have more hard-throwers on our team than any other team in baseball.  By actual count, we currently have only two pitchers who cannot bring  heat to the tune of at least 95 MPH (Wolf and Milton), although it may be close with Weaver, who I think can still bring it 95 if he has to.  I think the Dodgers have a flawed concept of what makes a good major league pitcher, and I have a plan of how to fix it and catapult the Dodgers into the pitching Mecca of the Galaxy.

Chad Billingsley threw 1 change-up.  ONE!  It was a first pitch change up to Brad Hawpe who promptly hammered out out.  It’s obvious to me that you don’t throw a “first-pitch” change-up, because at that point it looks like  fastball and if you are tick slow, you will still hit it out.  The change-up is a “setup” pitch, a pitch to keep the other team off balance.  Jason Marquis threw 11 change-ups in his 86 pitches, about one in eight pitches was a change.  I think anyone with eyes can tell you that Billingsley has better “stuff” than Marquis, but he has to blow people away to get them out, while Marquis keeps them off balance with a variety of pitches, including the change-up.

The Dodgers need a change-up in philosophy!   A little background and history here:  I live in Indianapolis, which is the home of the AAA affiliate of  the Pittsburgh Pirates – the Indianapolis Indians.  Recently,  the organization announced that all of its pitchers must learn the change-up before advancing.  I believe that the change-up is baseball’s most effective pitch and that most of our pitchers don’t know how to throw it effectively. 

It’s not a sexy pitch.  You won’t get notoriety for it, and it doesn’t buckle knees, but you do get results with it.  Guys like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine used it effectively for many years.  Of todays best pitchers, Santana, Lincecum and Sabathia all have excellent change-ups.  There are several reasons to emphasize the change-up more often:

  1. It creates less arms strain than , cutters, curves or split-fingers;
  2. If thrown properly, it looks like a fastball because the spin and arm motion are identical (or should be identical) to a fastball, but the speed needs to be about 8-10 MPH slower;
  3. It takes the aggression out of a swing in that hitters become defensive and just try and keep the ball in play;
  4. It can be taught and learned by anyone;
  5. The change-up enhances the effectiveness of every other pitch; and
  6. It results in more fly-ball and ground outs, thus less pitches and “wear-and-tear” on the arm.

A change-up is classified as a “feel” pitch because it might take years to perfect the way it “feels”  It involves risk because if the delivery looks different from the fastball, hitters will recognize it and jump all over it.  I suspect that is the case with Billingsley.  He throws it so infrequently, that he’s probably not good at it.   Many professional hitters will flat-out tell you that a change-up is really the best pitch in baseball, but it’s no easy task to teach it to a bunch of guys who never even considered it.  We have been the best in baseball in pitching nearly all year.  Can you imagine how much better we would be if our pitchers could master the changeup?

To implement this, I suggest that a new organizational position be created by the Dodgers.  I will call it Special Pitching Assistant to the GM.  Greg Maddux would be my first choice to fill this position, but there are others, including Orel Hershiser who could do an admirable job.  This person will be responsible for implementing the necessary training, routines and exercises requisite to putting all of our pitchers on a “fast track” to learning the proper way to throw a change-up.   All of the current pitching instructors and coaches can stay (or leave), as long as they “buy-into” and follow through with the program.  Can you imagine how good Billingsley and Kershaw would be with a great change-up?  In order to begin to implement these programs in the off-season, that person needs to be hired soon.  Like tomorrow!

TONY JACKSON UPDATE:

Tony Jackson called me yesterday and we talked for about 20 minutes,  He is well, working out everyday (he has lost 11 pounds) and is trying to decide what he wants to do when he grows up.  He has a case of the “burnout” and is just kicking-back and taking it easy.  He’s in no rush, but he plans to stay in Phoenix and we made plans for having a beer or two next spring.  Good Luck, Tony!

About Mark Timmons

When you see the invisible, you can do the impossible!

50 Responses to “What’s The Best Pitch In Baseball?”

  1. Bill Russell says:

    There once was a man named Mark
    His bite is worse then his bark
    He runs a Dodger web site
    That causes everyone to fight
    But look at the lessons we learn.

    People read his site everyday
    Instead of work we all tend to play
    Marks ideas are right
    But wrong he reserves the right
    And once he tried to make us all pay.

    He brought in a guy named Miguel
    I think he found him in jail.
    His background I think we won’t tell
    So far he fits in very well.

    He tried a guy named Tony
    But Haze thought his stuff was baloney
    We couldn’t afford his pay
    So he left the very next day
    But we wish him the best just as well.

    Mark has a thing about Big E
    He debates it with everyone he sees
    He can’t stand his success
    Which causes a mess
    But he’s right no matter what we say.

    If Mark was the GM for a year
    Draft picks would be savored like beer
    8 years from now we might be good
    Attendance would dry up like wood.

    The current team would get old
    But Martin would still be in the fold
    Catching with a cane
    Just wouldn’t that be insane
    But look at the money we would save.

  2. Bill Russell says:

    Seriously, Thanks for having the best Dodger site on the planet. And heal up so we can run a foot race in Spring Training next year.
    Peace

  3. kensai says:

    Totally agree. The pitchers who advance with a lack of a changeup actually disturbs me. This should be the first off-speed pitch taught to kids when they are even really young.

    It puzzles me as to why hardly any Dodger pitchers utilize it. Brent Leach has a great changeup, and it’s a huge reason for his success.

  4. Badger says:

    It’s the fastball. Always has been. Without it, your change up means squat. Without it, people can sit on other pitches.

    Now having said that, if all you got is a fastball, people will sit on it. That is why at least 2 pitches is necessary. That’s what Gagne had, a 96 mph heater and that devastating change. And by the way, you don’ have to have a 96 mph fastball, as Maddox proved for years. Move your fingers under the ball, mix in 2 seamers, find the black and you can get away with a high 80′s heater.

    Marquis threw 20 pitches out of the strike zone in 9 innings. Bills threw 44 in 6. Whose stuff was better?

    Note to all Dodger pitchers. Strike one.

  5. Blue Haze says:

    BRuss getting his “drink on” last night, excellent!

    I will say it again, we are not getting Manny in here a moment too soon. This team has definitely loost something in the offensive attack (retreat) over the last 30 days or so. Hopefully Manny’s presence, more in the clubhouse than the field, should ignite some fireworks for this team. I have to admit it, this offense is, well, boring. We are experiencing both the “career best” years from some players, while being offset by a number of guys having “career worst” years. I would give the team until the middle of July (Manny will have been back two weeks or so, by then) if certain players like Martin and Furcal (to mention a couple) have not shown any signs of a pulse, I would basically bench them, make them earn a chance to play again. I don’t buy the argument that Martin is just doing a great job with our pitchers. Everyone bitches about how many pitches our pitcher (most) throw, don’t you think Martin has some responsibility in this department. Yes, he is blocking balls well, but any catcher at level should and can do as well as Martin. Martin just isn’t helping the pitchers, both in handling them nor with any hitting support, the guy needs to be relegated to second string. Now, Furcal — if he doesn’t hit, he doesn’t help us. We have a very capable SS in Castro and he is hitting around .350 (yeah, a career best year for him), while Furcal is hitting somewhere near .240, (yeah a career worst year). Time has passed for these two guys, in particular, to be two bags of shit that the other guys have to carry around on their backs. Get serious, Joe, and do some tough managing, Mr. Nice Guy needs to leave the building and get his “face” on and put a fire in the “drag on the team” players.

    Joe, don’t sit and watch, doing nothing, while this thing slips away from us.

  6. Roger says:

    When is the time — to deal with more pitching?

    Some here (and all over Dodgerland) feel and know that the Dodgers need more pitching. Felt: the odds are against going all the way now, with a rotation of:
    Billingsley
    Kershaw
    Kuroda
    Milton
    Wolf

    In reality, there does not appear that there is Anyone in the present Dodger system to take even on spot of that rotation. In fact, several in the five above should probably not be there.

    So, some want to make a trade in the next, say, 20-25 days before the deadline. Even if it means giving up some key prospects.

    Others say NO. The Dodgers will figure it out by Sept. with what is on the 40-man roster.

    HERE IS MY POINT. Pay now or pay later. If a trade is made for a solid, professional, #1, #2, #3 rotation type, yes the Dodgers will loose a key player or two from the system — But a trade is a trade, to get something good, you must give up something good. Or, hook a FA and spend the money.

    If no key trade is made, or signing a FA — then someone will be signed over the winter, or a trade made over the winter — re-loading then — but it will then take bunches of money, and/or loose those type of prospects or present roster players THEN. See, Pay now or pay later.

    It is like when we were kids and had 40 favorite toys in our closet. And Mom and Dad said, your closet of toys is not the best in the neighborhood — and I know that you really would like to have that NEW TOY YOU SAW IN THE STORE YESTERDAY. We can go buy it, but you have to give up 3 of those 40 toys to get the 1 you really like, and will let you be the “kid with the best toys in their closet” in the neighborhood. What should we do?”

    There are too many teams between now and the end of the World Series and have better starting pitching than the Dodgers. (And please, do not throw some stupid stats to say how the numbers in someone graph show the Dodgers are first or second in MLB pitching.) Like last night, this team of hitters, can be shut down. Billingsley is our Ace, but was out-Aced last night. We need more pitching, Pay now or pay later.

    Which toy/s do you want to give up??? Pr, just go with what you have now???

  7. Roger says:

    Which toy/s do you want to give up???

  8. Roger says:

    Dodgers have played 78 games, in 3 more games will be the half way point. Do we really think we will win 50 more games after the half way point with this roster??

    The other teams will do what they have to do to make a difference.

  9. Mark Timmons says:

    I guarantee Ned is working the phones, but everyone who has (or will have) a top pitcher available is mentioning namdes like Kemp, Kershaw, Ethier, Loney and McDonald, maybe Lambo. If you want Halliday (assuming Toronto would even decide to trade him), three of those names will have to be given up.

    Elbert? No a lot of interest due to arm history. Lindblom has more interest. Hu? None. DeJesus? None. Repko? Paul? Hoffman? All viewed fairly low.

    Cliff Lee? Maybe a little less.

    Who do we give up? See, beyond Boston, most other teams have issues with starters as well. Look at Philly and the Mets for example. I still say we are in good shape with starters, but we could get better.

    …and it’s not Martin’s fault no one has shown C-Bill how important a changeup is.

  10. Mark Timmons says:

    Badger,

    If the fastball were the best pitch, all these guys with blazing fastballs (Kyle Fransworth, et al) would be stars, but quite often a guy with a lesser fastball and a great changeup is the best pitcher.

    Michael Young says “The change-up is the best pitch in baseball.”

  11. Mark Timmons says:

    It will take a lot more for Joe to sit Russ and Raffy due to their defense. He is however, giving Russ another day off today and then with the off-day on Thursday, he effectively gets 3 days off. I think Joe should just send him home and not even pich-hit again today.

  12. Mark Timmons says:

    I do agree that we are getting Manny back just in time. It will be interesting to see how he performs.

    Friday’s Lineup:

    1. Raffy SS (he wontt be hitting in this spot long unless he steps it up)
    2. O-Dog 2B
    3. Manny LF
    4. Ethier RF
    5. Blake 3B
    6. Loney 1B
    7. Kemp CF
    8. Martin C

    Let’s see what that does….

  13. Badger says:

    I still disagree mover. Most every expert on the subject will tell you that everything in the aresenal comes off the fastball. I agree that the change up is a must pitch, a deadly pitch, you have heard me a hundred times in here say it. But, without a fastball you can throw for strikes, the other pitches are meaningless. In other words, without a fastball, there is no “change up”. What are you changing up on? The FASTBALL!

    All catchers will tell you that they prefer catching a pitcher who has control. We have a group of pitchers who throw way too many balls and many of those balls are no where near the strike zone. Martin is working his ass off with this staff. I don’t think it’s his fault they can’t find the strike zone. Imagine how easy it was for Ianetta last night. He caught 86 pitches. Only 20 of them were out of the strike zone. Our catchers caught 140 with 54 of them out of the strike zone.

    Note to Dodger pitchers. Throw strikes.

  14. Bill Russell says:

    I think O-Dog might be a better lead off hitter. Furcal can bunt him to second when he gets on. I like the lineup however.

  15. Badger says:

    Jim Kaat said it best in 2004:

    “The fastball is still the best pitch in baseball.

    Not only is the fastball a deadly weapon in its own right, but it also is the basis for most pitchers’ entire game strategies. Everything works off the fastball. Once you establish your fastball in a game, every batter has to be geared up for it since it might come on any given pitch. Once a pitcher has a batter in this overtensed, hair-trigger state, it’s much easier to fool him with off-speed and breaking pitches.

    But it all starts with the fastball.”

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/outdoors/sports/1283281.html?page=2

  16. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    The best pitch is probably the fastball, but it’s worthless without other pitches to complement it. Big league hitters can hit a high 90′s fastball if they’re sitting on it. But w/o a doubt, an effective change can be a devastating pitch.

    However, I’m not sure there is a need for a special emphasis on the change. We already have three pitchers on our staff with very good to excellent change-ups. Stults, McDonald, and Leach. Kershaw also has one in development that probably needs at least another spring training before it’s truly ready for prime time. I believe Kuroda throws one, and probably everyone else on the staff employs it from time to time, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

    Command and movement are also essential parts of the package, which explains the success of Greg Maddux and others. To a certain degree Stults reminds me of Tom Glavine (before the current decline). He has a decent high 80′s to low 90′s fastball, a better curve than Glavine ever had, and a change that moves away from righthanded hitters. So why isn’t he the next coming of Glavine? The simple explanation is that he lacks Glavine’s command. Whether he ever gets that command is anybody’s guess. In any case, if he’s going to find it, it should be soon, since he turns 30 in December.

    I’ve seen McDonald throw 94 mph change-ups following 94 mph fastballs. As with his curve, his extra large hands and extra long fingers are probably a huge factor in the effectiveness of his change. In fact, it’s those hands and fingers that make me think that he could also develop a devastating splitter. Which reminds me. How good does Broxton get if he ever develops the splitter he’s been working on the past few years? In fact, although Broxton credits the WBC for some of his success this year, I can’t help but think that having to pitch in meaningful competition kept Broxton from working more extensively on that pitch this past spring (albeit, I heard that he picked J.J. Putz’s brain about his splitter while they were WBC teammates).

    I’m always amazed that Torre doesn’t use Leach more often against righthanded hitters. His change moves down and away from righthanded hitters (much like a screwball), which probably explains why righthanded hitters have a lower batting average against him than those hitting from the port side. He also complements his excellent change with a solid 90-93 mph fastball, and a nice curve. He too would benefit from better command.

    And throwing a change to a hitter on the first pitch is perfectly acceptable, especially if the hitter is geared up to hit the fastball. Even throwing back to back change-ups works. I cetainly remember seeing Andy Messersmith do it effectively when he pitched for the Dodgers, and the same can be said for John Tudor, Eric Gagne, Johan Santana, etc.

    I don’t think the change-up is necessarily an easy pitch to throw. Having large hands certainly helps. It’s pitch that probably requires touch, which I guess comes naturally to some, and requires continous repetition by others. Whatever the case, I agree that it’s a hugely important pitch when mastered and thrown effectively.

  17. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    Last night I got the Colorado feed of the Dodger game on Extra Innings, and picked up this little tidbit. Apparently, the Dodgers have gone longer than any other team in the NL West since appearing in their last World Series. Every team in the West has appeared in the WS at least once since 1988.

  18. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    That is, every team EXCEPT the Dodgers.

  19. Mark Timmons says:

    When a batter swings, in order to hit a pitch he has to both time the length (speed) and put the bat in the right location. With a great fastball (unless you are Koufax), they can always time it at some juncture, but mix in an effective change-up and then they have approximately 50% less chance to hit it. You do have your Nolan Ryans and Roger Clemens, but most of the best pitchers today in both leageues: Halliday, Sabathia, Santana and Linecum all have EXCEPTIONALLY good change-ups and very good fastballs. I maintain that those guys can lose 5 or 7 MPH on their fastballs and still be effective. Why? Change-up!

  20. SpokaneBob says:

    Torre said Manny would hit 3rd or 4th. I really hope he considers hitting Manny 4th and Ethier 3rd. I think it would do wonders for Ethier and serve to spark our offense.

  21. Mark Timmons says:

    I agree SpokeBob.

    This afternoon’s lineup:

    1. Pierre, LF
    2. Kemp, CF
    3. Hudson, 2B
    4. Ethier, RF
    5. Loretta, 3B
    6. Loney, 1B
    7. Ausmus, C
    8. Castro, SS
    9. Kershaw, P

    Looks like Joe is giving both Raffy and Russ 3 days off. Good!

  22. Badger says:

    OK, any major league hitter could catch up to a 96 mph fastball if that’s all you threw.

    I wonder what would happen if all you threw were change-ups.

    The change-up is worthless without the fastball.

    And here we go again.

  23. Roger says:

    The on fastball. I agree, fast is good. But there is a “But” here.

    The fastball has to have some movement on the ball.

    Example: back in the mid-1950s, when I was growing up in Tucson, AZ. Hi Corbett Field is where the then Cleveland Indians held their spring training. We lived about 1 mile from the field. I would go Sat & Sun on the weekend, all day. And after school, get off the school bus there, and get to see the last several innings of the games, standing up on the right field fence.

    One Saturday, after they opened the gates, I was standing down in the box seat area where there was a practice pitching warmup area.
    Rocky Colavito, their right fielder, power hitter, was warming up. I was standing in front row, only about 10 feet away, in the middle, between Rocky and catcher Jim Hegan. The ball was going right in front of me. Rocky could throw so hard, that later he was sometimes called in from right field to pitch in games.

    Anyway, when Rocky was through, Mike Garcia, one of the key pitchers on that strong pitching staff of the Indians started to warm up. The manager and several other key folks were right there watching. Garcia was throwing bullets. Very very very fast. As they all looked on, Mike Garcis stopped and said — “See, my fast ball is straight as a string. It is not moving. I have lost my fast ball movement.” That was at the end of his career really.

    Last night Marquis had great movement. The Dodgers could hardly get a foul ball.

  24. Roger says:

    I hear that S.F. is looking hard to add J. Dye in a trade before the end of the month. That could put them in a very strong position. With that move — they very well might over come the Dodgers. We cannot match their pitching.

    Colorado could do the same thing.

    If some of you think that not making a key trade for a pitcher and this present team can continue to win and win it all, I think you are dreaming. The talk of someone coming up like: Stults, Schmidt, Elbert and pitching lights out, what are you drinking? Sure, the Dodgers can change of the pen folks, with Ohman, Kuo, Elbert, etc.

    Maybe an outside chance that McDonald will be forced into a start and ALL OF A SUDDEN become a Tom Seaver, but that is a long shot.

    Maybe the Dodgers almost total lack of hitting of late can turn a corner, and start with Furcal and Martin waking up and playing some reall baseball. Kemp hitting more balls than he has been missing and causing all those Ks . . . and Manny being the old real Manny.

    But this weak hitting with this staff will not make it to the top of the mountain.

    I am tired of waiting for a solid team. I think if we stay pat, we will have till wait till Mark as to operate on the other hip.

  25. Mark Timmons says:

    I can’t go back and re-create Gameday Premium which I watch most games, but Billingsley’s movement was better than Marquis. Gameday Premiem is only 20 bux a year and is a really cool tool. It shows EXACTLY how much movement is on a pitchers ball. Most people in the pressbox rely on it. Marquis pitched an awesome game – his best of the year. On 20 of his outs, the batter had seen less than 3 pitches, but my point is that Billingsley had more movement, maybe too much.

  26. Mark Timmons says:

    OK Badger,

    Answer this:

    If a fastball is the best pitch, why do major leaguers have their highest Batting Avearge against it?

    If the change-up is not as good, why do they have a lower batting average against it?

    Explain that one!

  27. Badger says:

    You are still missing the point.

    Before I answer your question, answer mine:

    What if all you had was a curve and a change up. That’s it. No heater. How long would you last at A ball before you had to take up another line of work?

    Now I will answer your question and I will do it they way you do sometimes, I will yell at you so maybe this time you will actually hear me – the change up is effective because you have SET IT UP WITH THE FASTBALL!!!!!!

    Did you read the article I posted by Kaat? You think you know more about pitching than he does?

  28. Mark Timmons says:

    I am beginning to wonder if it’s exceptional pitching or exceptionally bad hitting. Maybe a little of both?

    Loney breaks up the no-no!

  29. Mark Timmons says:

    I read it. It was very good.

    You are hurting my feelings.

  30. Mark Timmons says:

    NOT!

    So, it’s down to the chicken or the egg.

    Actually, if all you have is a fastball and a curve, the same thing will happen.

  31. Badger says:

    In May we were second in MLB in hitting at .286.

    In June we were 24th.

    We are currently 9th for the year, and obviously dropping like a rock.

    Seems to me it was asked in here how long we would lead MLB in hitting. Turns out, not very long. It was also asked if this really was a 100 win team. Remember, we were on pace to win 120? Anyone still think we will win 100? In the NL West that all of a sudden is the best in baseball?

    Come on in Manny. We need an infusion of offense.

  32. Mark Timmons says:

    Here’s the difference too. At the MLB level, just about everyone can hit a fastball, so is it the fastball that makes the change-up great or the change that makes the fastball great?

    I think we will win around 92-96 games.

  33. Badger says:

    Kershaw 97 pitches to get through 5.

    How good is this kid going to be when he can actually throw strikes?

    At the ML level, everyone can hit a fastball. You don’t make it to the ML level if you cannot. Every pitcher (esception – knuckleballers) at the ML has a fastball. You don’t make it to the ML level without one. As Kaat so elequently put it, “it all starts with the fastball.”

    I regurgitate, the fastball makes the change up deadly.

    Blake…….. steeeeeerike 3! Runner in scoring postion dies at third. Very, very soft.

  34. Mark Timmons says:

    Yes, that is the very definition of “soft.”

    Blake has lost his mojo and is sinking back to Andy LaRoche territory.

  35. Roger says:

    There was no doubt in this game . . .

    Dodgers had twice as many hits as the Rockies . . .

    Dodgers had 100 percent more runs . . .

    Dodgers had 100 percent fewer errors . . .

  36. Blue Haze says:

    100 X 0 actually equals 0, but I think I get your point.

  37. Badger says:

    The Dodgers have scored 1 run in the last 2 games and somehow they are 1-1 in those games.

    Yeah, no doubt.

    Is Manny here yet?

  38. Badger says:

    Say mover, did you see the finish in the Orioles Red Sox game?

    Down 10 to 1 in the 7th and a series of soft hits and what do you know? The O’s win 11 to 10.

  39. Blue Haze says:

    That could only mean one thing, Badger, the O’s are soft. I guess the O’s realize that they give you 27 outs per game, which means every at bat is pretty important.

  40. DRomo says:

    Many experts agree with Mark as to the change being the best pitch to know. It is the “great equalizer”. With even a GOOD change it makes your fast ball more effective. I think Mark and I agree on something here! wow

    I also like his lineup for Friday night! Holy crap what going on here?

    If we add pitching it will be a guy like Marquis, or a second teir guy that will not cost the farm maybe just money. Rosenthal has said the Dodgers will add payroll if necessary this year because they feel they have a real shot at winning it all with the right pieces. I hope he is right for once.

  41. Badger says:

    Who has the best change-up in the league right now?

    Who threw the best change-up you have ever seen?

    What do they have in common?

  42. Roger says:

    Badger, if you ask Mark who has the best change-up in the majors tody — I bet he will say Kershaw.

    Poor Clayton, he works so hard to pitch a ball game. If the Dodgers keep using him like they have — he will be to his limit by August 28th.

    Maybe he should just trying to pitch a few innings where he pitches nothing but strikes. Using that great fastball, curve, change. Nothing but strikes. I bet he gets out of those inning in 12 pitches or less.

  43. Badger says:

    I think the general consensus is that Johan Santana has the best change-up in the Majors. It’s filthy. Nearly unhittable. Dude throws 94 mph.

    The best change-up I ever saw was Eric Gagne’s. Dude threw 96 mph.

    If Kershaw only had a change-up he could throw for strikes. Or a fastball. Or a curve.

  44. DRomo says:

    Gagne had a crazy change up , but if I remember correctly he threw a 70 MPH curve that was the dagger. When he was healthy he was amazing.

  45. Roger says:

    any of you watching the Cards vs. Giants?

    Card “were” holding a 1 to zip on the Giants until the 8th, now 1 to 1, bases loaded 2 outs.

    Cain pitching for the Giants. OK, 3rd out, now to to the bottom of the 8th.

    Cain is out, no decision for him.

  46. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    Koufax and Ryan had exceptional curves to go along with their exceptional fastballs. As good as their curve balls were, they were made all that more effective because hitters had to gear up for the fastball.

    Although I live in NY, I don’t watch the Mets too often, since I don’t have the time to watch them and the Dodgers. However, I don’t think that Santana hits 94 that much anymore. But I could be wrong.

    Following are my answers to the questions posed by Mark.

    “Answer this:

    If a fastball is the best pitch, why do major leaguers have their highest Batting Avearge against it?

    Answer: They see it more often than any other pitch.

    If the change-up is not as good, why do they have a lower batting average against it?

    Answer: They don’t see it nearly as often as the fastball.

    Explain that one!”

    If hitters saw the change-up as often as they saw the fastball, they would crush it, regularly.

    If a pitcher has an exceptional change, he can throw it pretty often, but not as often as a pitcher can throw a well placed fastball (especially if it has movement).

    There are a lot of factors that make a successful pitcher. Pure stuff, movement, location (including command), and the ability to change speeds and the hitters eye level. With the exception of knuckleball pitchers, most pitchers work off their fastball.

    I don’t agree that the change is the best pitch in baseball, but I do agree that having a good one gives a pitcher a huge advantage.

    The pitch we never see anymore is the screwball. I’ve heard that it was abandoned because of the fear of injury. Would Fernando have ever been Fernando w/o the scroogie? Mike Marshall used it a long time w/o injury. Jim Brewer used it successfully for a number of years with the Dodgers. And of course there was Carl Hubbell. And I’m sure there were others. Everytime I watch Eric Stults pitch, I wonder how good he could be with an effective screwball. Given his solid curve and excellent change, I have little doubt that he could master the screwball. Let’s suppose after 4-5 very successful years he hurts his arm (and I don’t think that would necessarily be the case). Is he still not better off having made a bundle of money during that relatively short period of time than he would have been just being a marginal pitcher?

    By the way, does Broxton throw a change, or does he achieve the same effect with his slider. Add a good change to his repertoire, and he would be even more lights out. But then again, if he ever develops the splitter he’s worked on, the effect would be the same. But again, the slider, splitter, change become that much more effective when the hitter has to gear up for the fastball.

  47. Badger says:

    Well put Brooklyn. I think the screwgie is today’s change up. It’s thrown with less snap on it now, it’s more about finger placement. The circle change is a version of the screwball.

    Know why it is called a screw ball?

  48. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    Badger,

    I didn’t know why it was called a screwball, but I suspected that it might be because it took a “screwball” to throw it. Based on the following, it appears I was on the right track.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/printarticle/what-a-screwball/

    According to the article, Rob “Neyer argues that the screwball has been largely supplanted by the split-finger fastball and the circle change-up….” So apparently you’re correct in your assessment that “The circle change is a version of the screwball.”

    Must be what Leach throws, because his change definitely fades away from righthanded hitters. So does the change that Stults throws, but not, at least in my observations, nearly as much as Leach’s change.

  49. Badger says:

    Fascinating article Brooklyn, but it misses the real point.

    My grandpa told me about the screwball when I was about 8. He was a pitcher in the old Texas League. He was right handed. In the old days, left handed pitchers first threw the screw ball and it was called a screw ball for a very good reason. Back then there were no real power tools. To screw in a screw, and mostly into old growth hardwood in those days, the left hander turning the screwdriver inward developed a strong twist that direction. Right handers turned it the opposite direction. Picking up a baseball and throwing it the same way you turned screws was a natural motion for left handers.

    True story. Came from a guy who pitched to Babe Ruth during exhibition games.

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