Tuesday Notes: Changeups, Cuts, Pinto & Destroyed Bats
Pitchers Buying In On Changeup
One of the bigger stories of the year has been the hiring of Neil Allen who brings with him the change-up secrets from the Rays organization. Over the last three seasons, no team has thrown more change-ups than Tampa Bay -- almost 1,000 more than the next closest team. Their .604 OPS against on the pitch was the fourth-lowest. Throwing more change-ups was a point of emphasis and Allen has his staff confident that they can succeed with the pitch.
“My change-up is my best offspeed pitch so why not throw it to both sides?” left-handed starter Tommy Milone said of the philosophy of more changes. Coming into the spring, Milone had thrown a same-sided change-up 7% of his mix to lefties. And it clearly is his best pitch considering it gained him the highest number of swinging strikes of his repertoire. Expanding the offering to lefties should making him more effective.
In his most recent spring start, Ricky Nolasco battled through a tough first inning but was able to limit the Orioles after that because he focused on using his change-up. “I threw a lot of good change-ups which is what I wanted to do.”
Relief pitcher Blaine Boyer, who was informed that he made the opening day roster this week, said that he had rarely thrown a change-up in his career but has incorporated a change-up that he has enjoyed this spring. Boyer uses a non-standard change-up grip that is similar to a two-seamer with a slightly wider split and he places his thumb on the side and he said it has been sitting at 84 mph for him in his bullpen sessions. “This is a legit change-up,” Boyer said of the new pitch. “I can’t wait to use it in my arsenal.”
READ: Walking Away Gave Blaine Boyer's Career A Second Life
Starter Kyle Gibson has had a plus-change-up for most of his baseball career dating back to high school when he first began throwing the pitch because his Dad would not allow him to throw curves. According to PitchF/X data, like Milone, Gibson did not use his change as much against same-sided hitters, throwing a change just 3% of the time to righties.
“Coming into spring, that was the one thing Neil and I were talking about a lot and that I really wanted to work on: executing change-ups to righties,” said Gibson. “It’s a pitch that looks really similar to my sinker whenever I have the same release point and I think it is something that will help my sinker against righties.”
So far this spring, Gibson has seen a spike in strikeouts which he attributes to being able to throw the change to righties. “I know the one things that has gotten me a few more strikeouts is throwing the change-up to righties,” Gibson said.
Allen brings with him the data that the analytic Rays organization uncovered that supports the logic behind increasing the change-up in certain counts and throwing it to same-sided batters. More importantly, he has been able to impart confidence to his pitchers.
Josmil Pinto “Feeling Good” After Passing Concussion Test
Josmil Pinto was all smiles in the Twins’ clubhouse this morning after returning to action on Monday for the first time since taking three blows to the head from Orioles’ Adam Jones bat on March 21.
“He played well,” Ryan said. “I think he was back there for three innings. He did a nice job actually. He handled [Tyler] Duffey, which was good, because he was somewhat familiar with him. It made sense to put him back there when Duffey was pitching. We just got him reacclimated.”
Ryan said Pinto did not have any complications but they will continue to have him play in minor league games.
“We’ll ease him in on the minor league side and it accomplishes two things: it will get him reacclimated and just in case something happens, we won’t jeopardize days.”
Twins Cut LHP Aaron Thompson
With the roster deadline nearing, the Twins continued to trim numbers. This morning left-handed pitcher Aaron Thompson was notified that he would be optioned to Rochester. Thompson did well in the spring, working 8.1 innings and allowing only two earned runs with six strikeouts and two walks. The Twins are now down to 29 players in camp.
Napoli Destroys Bat, Ball and Duensing
In the middle of Monday night’s rough inning at JetBlue Park, Boston Red Sox Mike Napoli was able to drive a Brian Duensing fastball over the faux Green Monster despite his bat breaking in two at the handle.
WATCH: Mike Napoli Destroys Bat, Ball And Duensing
While NESN commentator Jerry Remy mentioned that the broken-bat home run was a prime example of how strong Napoli is, Alan Nathan, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois and a baseball researcher, shared research on Twitter that the act has less to do with strength or “muscling” the pitch out of the park than two other factors. Napoli’s quick reflexes played a role but his ability to get the barrel to square the ball was more of a factor.
The home run sent Duensing into a downward spiral and an inning that just wouldn’t end. After allowing runs in only one previous spring training outing, the Sox on six runs on eight hits.
“I told him, I said, that’s obviously not a good night for yourself. You couldn’t make pitches, you got behind but he has had a good spring overall,” said Molitor after the game. “Things snowballed on him. The broken-bat home run was certainly a bad omen of things to come.”