Chase Anderson started out with a curveball, back when he was barely a teen. But the young Diamondback starter was told to shelve it, found a changeup, and the rest is history. Except that it looks like he has two changeups, which is even more fun than one.
“My curve ball when I was younger was a better pitch than my changeup,” said Anderson before a game with the Giants in early September. “But I learned my changeup when I was 13 and threw it more because it was easier on my arm as a kid,” Anderson continued before admitting that, yeah, his dad told him to stop throwing the curve.
The curve has been a great pitch for Anderson this year (“my equalizer”), mostly because it gives him another option when his fastball command is gone. “My fastball command has been spotty in certain starts, but the curveball I’ve been able to throw for strikes to get ahead,” said Anderson.
He’s been just as likely to throw his curve as his sinker on the first pitch this year. “It’s a really good 0-0 pitch to get you over and get strike one and get ahead,” he admitted. The change is a better swing and miss pitch because “They can see the curveball, but the changeup is hard to see, looks like a fastball and then it’s slower, messes with your depth perception,” the pitcher pointed out. “Curveballs they can see out of your hand unless it’s Clayton Kershaw’s and you can’t see it at all.”
And so Anderson works to get ahead so he can use the change and curve to put batters away. Sometimes, he uses the changeup to get ahead, but he wants to be careful about how often he does so. “You have to learn to have confidence to spot a 2-0 or 3-1 heater — if you throw a 3-1 changeup in the first inning, they’ll know you go to your changeup when you’re behind in the count,” Anderson said. “You don’t want to get into patterns.” It’s either fastball or change in 2-0 counts, but Anderson has only thrown two 3-0 changes all year. (Maybe he could consider throwing a few more. Maybe even a lot more.)
About those 2-0 changeups. They look a bit different than his 0-2 changeups. Anderson changes his change depending on the count. “I almost throw two changeups — a strike changeup and a strikeout changeup,” Anderson said, adding that the two-strike pitch comes with “more pronation.”
If that seems surprising, maybe it shouldn’t be. Pronation is key to great changeups, and he’s been throwing the change forever. If there are ‘inside of the ball’ and ‘outside of the ball’ pitchers as Gavin Floyd suggested, Anderson knows which group is his: “I’m an inside of the ball guy.”
What does that extra pronation do to the pitch? Here are his changeups in buckets depending on how many strikes the count started with:
Looks like pronating more led to more drop on the pitch, and slightly more horizontal movement. Here are two changeups at the extremes of those ranges — the get-me-over on the left, and a two-strike diver and darter on the right. The two-striker moved six and half inches more horizontally, and dropped three and a half inches more vertically.
Almost — but not quite — two different pitches, no?
Chase Anderson still has to work on fastball command, though he thinks it could be about confidence. “I think it’s a mental thing, you try to make the perfect pitch instead of letting the pitch do what it’s going to do,” he said about occasional bouts of homeritis brought on by getting into hitter’s counts.
But even when his fastball isn’t quite there, he has good command of a big breaker, and two changeups. That’s usually enough. “If you have a three pitch mix, and you can locate one or two — somedays three — you can do well,” said Anderson.
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.