Notes on Yovani Gallardo’s Changeup

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In case you missed it, Yovani Gallardo had another great start last night, allowing one run over seven innings while striking out nine. Gallardo made a few mistakes during the game – two of the four hits he allowed were doubles – but he appeared to be playing cat-and-mouse with the Phillies lineup for most of the night. Look at this clip of his nine punchouts and pay special attention to the one of Ryan Howard in the sixth inning.

Yeah, that’s a 2-2 changeup Gallardo threw to Howard, who really did not see the pitch coming – judging by his swing and subsequent reaction, he might as well have been dealt an unexpected eephus pitch. His confusion actually isn’t all that surprising, as Gallardo rarely ever throws a change now.

When Gallardo was coming up through the Brewers’ system, he was similar to most high-school pitchers in that his fastball and breaking ball (he had – and still does have – both a curve and slider) were far more advanced than his changeup. He continued to throw the pitch, though, and in his first 2-3 years in the majors, it accounted for 5-7% of his offerings. In 2009, Gallardo’s changeup (which he mainly threw to lefties) induced the highest rate of whiffs of all his pitches, and in 2007, it finished a close second to his slider.

Something changed in 2010, however. Gallardo began throwing the pitch less often, and it has seldom shown up in his repertoire over the last three years, being used around 2% of time – the equivalent of 1 or 2 a game. During that time, his performance against lefties has gotten significantly worse:

LH OPS against Gallardo:

  – 2007: .693
  – 2009: .652
  – 2010: .781
  – 2011: .710
  – 2012: .733

In spring training this year, one of the minor storylines was that Gallardo was fine-tuning his change with the intention of throwing it more in 2012. However, it still doesn’t get used nearly as often as his other pitches – just 4% of the time this year. It would be interesting to see what would happen, especially against left-handed hitters, if Gallardo started to feature the pitch more, but he also has a full arsenal that works just fine without another offering.

(All pitch data courtesy Brooks Baseball) 

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