The pro-changeup argument is unassailable. Still, there are many many pitchers out there that can’t manage the pitch. And not every single one of them is destined for the bullpen. There is an alternative.
Pitchers who throw the changeup a lot may have the best injury outcomes. Based on research done by Jeff Zimmerman, below is a table that shows the disabled list percentages for starters based on their favorite pitch. Looks like there’s something healthy about the changeup. For each bucket, we tried to use cutoffs that led to similar samples, so the slider-heavy pitchers (starters that use the slider more than 30% of the time) throw more sliders than the change-up pitchers (starters that use the change more than 20% of the time) throw changes, but that’s just because there are fewer heavy-change pitchers.
|Type of Pitcher||DL %|
|Plus Control (>51% Zone)||35%|
Beyond health, there are plenty of reasons to promote the changeup as many organizations do. They bust platoon splits by offering a pitch that breaks in a different direction than sliders and curves, at least. And they go slower than sliders and faster than curves, so they also offer a change of pace.
But there is one pitch that can do many of these things almost as well as the straight change. The roundhouse curve.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.