The slowest changeup thrown by an Angels pitcher does not belong to Jered Weaver, he of the 82-mph fastball. No, it belongs to right-handed reliever Mike Morin, whose fastball has touched 95 this year. And for that reason, I hereby declare Mike Morin’s changeup to be The Silliest Changeup in Baseball.
I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but despite solid peripherals, Morin struggled to prevent runs last year, and so all he had was this silly, silly changeup. As things stand now, though, he’s got a 1.84 ERA and a 3.10 FIP, and the changeup is still preposterous, so I figure this is my chance.
The changeup is silly for mostly this one reason:
It’s Morin, who averages a nearly 20-mph difference between his changeup and his fastball, and then a gap, and then Fernando Abad, and then a really big gap, and then three more guys, and then a gap to the field. What I’m saying is: Morin changes speeds between his fastball and changeup more than any pitcher in baseball, and the degree to which he does that is truly remarkable.
It’s very important to note, too, that a wide velocity gap isn’t the only way for a changeup to be great. In fact, Zack Greinke has famously altered his changeup over the years to reduce the velocity gap as much as possible, taking after Felix Hernandez’s legendary changeup. But Morin’s way can be just as effective, and even more fascinating.
What are the characteristics of this changeup, you might wonder? Using the sortable BaseballProspectus PITCHf/x leaderboard, we can answer that very question by looking at the 553 pitcher who have thrown at least 200 changeups since 2007. The most remarkable thing about this pitch is that, of those 553 pitchers, Morin’s changeup possesses the second-highest pop-up rate on record, at 19%. The only pitcher with a higher pop-up rate on the change is the sidearming Pat Neshek, who is one of two pitchers (the other being late-career Mike Mussina) with a slower average velocity on the change than Morin.
This change also gets tons of whiffs! Again, pulling from that pool of 553, Morin’s 40% whiff/swing rate ranks 51st! And also, the swing rate ranks ninth! Tons of swings that lead to tons of whiffs and tons of pop-ups! That’s a really good pitch!
Also, Morin varies the shape of his change, giving him one variation to use against righties, and another to use against lefties. You can see this phenomena in our PITCHf/x game charts:
See how two separate green blobs exist on either side of the “0” on the x-axis? Morin alters his grip so that the Silly Change is always breaking away from the hitter’s barrel.
Of course you want to see this thing in action. So that’s how we’ll end this. Behold, this incredible sequence to Prince Fielder from earlier this year, with three (!) speed changes of 19 (!) miles per hour each:
Fastball at 92:
Sillychange at 74:
Fastball, up to 93:
And the sillychange, at 74:
August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at [email protected]
I recall hearing that some scouts thought he was throwing a curveball when he was coming up through the minors.
One thing with Neshek’s change, he significantly reduces his arm speed in order to lob his change-up to the plate. To my knowledge, Morin does a much better job making his change-up arm action look identical to his fastball arm-action.