Gennaro: Which starting pitcher owns baseball’s best changeup?

From SABR President Vince Gennaro at Diamond Dollars on July 8, 2013:

I’ve always been fascinated by the change up. Slower than a fastball, with less movement than a typical slider or curveball, it thrives on deception–appearing to be something other than what it is. According to the pitch f/x data, 92 starting pitchers have thrown change ups this year. On average, they account for about 14% of their pitches, are 7.6 miles per hour slower than their fastball, move a total of 11.8 inches. The vertical movement of the change up accounts for 4.4 inches per pitch, or about 37% of the total movement of the pitch. Some pitchers throw a change up one-third of the time (Justin Verlander), while others throw it as little as 1% of the time (Edwin Jackson).

Which starting pitcher has the best change up in baseball for the first half of the 2013 season? I’m not in favor of looking at the batted ball results of change ups put in play, as it can be a misleading measure. No one pitch-type can be judged by how batters perform against it, in isolation. Pitches live and die by the sequence  that precedes them. A change up that follows a fastball is very different than a change that follows two previous change ups.

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Originally published: July 8, 2013. Last Updated: July 8, 2013.