The Nuttiest Pitches: Changeups

Sometimes, in the middle of a larger research project, you run into random things that make you sit up straight. Like this one: in 2011, Chance Ruffin threw a changeup that registered 20 inches of arm-side run and ten inches of drop. Wut?

We don’t have video of 2011 — I wish I’d spied this before the calendar turned, because we only go back to 2012 now — but we do have some video. And it’s Friday, so let’s just take a look at some of the nuttiest changeups thrown by righties in the last three years.

The change might be best known for its fade — it’s certainly not a curveball in terms of drop. So let’s look for the pitch (with video) that showed the most horizontal movement in the database.


This is what 18 inches of arm-side run looks like. Zack Greinke. See how it seems to keep moving behind Jedd Gyorko, who has no chance on the pitch? See how it seems to end up behind him? That’s 18 inches of arm-side run.

One thing you’ll notice as you peruse the changeups with the most run is that they are also almost all frisbees like this one, with little drop. Only two pitches with 17 inches of run had negative vertical drop numbers, and this one from funky David Carpenter to Colby Rasmus was one of them. It may not look like it has a ton of arm-side run, but look how the pitch looks like it’s heading inside, and then takes a detour for the outside part of the plate.


The funky deliveries have a little bit of an edge when it comes to drop. That’s because of the physics of throwing a baseball. So it might not be any surprise to see David Carpenter with the most drop among frisbees, and then this next guy with the most drop of any change in the database.


This changeup had 13 inches of drop compared to a spinless ball. This changeup had 17 inches of drop compared to an average changeup. You can call it cheating because of his arm slot — there’s no other guy with his arm slot that throws a changeup — but it’s an impressive pitch. When I pointed out to him this spring that nobody throws a change with his slot, he laughed and said with good reason, it’s hard to do.

There was only one pitch in the database, which goes back to 2007, that had double digit drop and double digit fade. Maybe you’ll recognize the righty throwing it.


The pitch before this change was a high fastball — 97 mph. This pitch went 81 mph, so it went 16 mph slower than the pitch before it, had ten inches of fade and ten inches of drop. It looks like it’s going to hit him in the belt buckle and it ends up hitting the plate. This is filth, dried out, stitched up, and thrown at another human being.

When you’re looking for slow changeups, things get sticky. There are a bunch of 45 mph changes in the system, but when you look at GameDay, they disappear. So maybe this isn’t the slowest changeup in the system, but this 66 mph wonder from Rick Porcello… well it’s worth watching.


“I don’t know if Porcello’s cleats got stuck, but that was awfully awkward,” says a member of the Tigers broadcast team, in an understatement. It’s awfully hard to throw a ball 60 mph without changing your arm speed, but I guess if you’re falling down while you are throwing, anything is possible.

I don’t know if we learned anything today, but it’s Friday. And this was an edition of The Nuttiest Pitches, featuring changeups.

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.

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8 years ago

On that last .gif of Porcello, it seems like first, his front foot drags across the dirt/resin on the mound, resulting in his back foot to lose its footing and cause such awkwardness, as witnessed above.