Designing a Changeup
The changeup is like a fastball in that most every pitcher can throw one. When executed properly, it can be one of the hardest pitches to hit. A changeup should look similar to the fastball before the added run and vertical drop affect the ball. There should be anywhere between 7-12 mph of velocity separation and a substantial drop in spin rate.
According to Bryan Leslie, Driveline's manager of pitching, two ways to kill the carry on a changeup is to reduce the spin and change the axis of the spin. By having the ball spin at a 3:00 axis and 9:00 for LHP, we are converting the vertical movement to lateral movement and the carry is reduced. This tilt makes the ball look like it is spinning like a frisbee as it travels to the plate.
Spin Efficiency Goals:
A good changeup has an efficiency above 80% to maximize the horizontal and vertical movement with 100% being our ultimate goal.
On the right is Trevor Bauer throwing his vulcan changeup. Bauer tinkered with his changeup often in his career and started using this grip to consistently generate a near 3:00 tilt.
In Lance Brozdownskis article, "The Art of the Changeup", he spoke about a conversation Trevor Bauer had with Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi about his changeup:
“Because of Bauer’s old hand position with a standard four-seam changeup grip, the pitch was naturally released with a degree of backspin that created some lift. With the help of high-speed Edgertronic cameras at Driveline, Bauer was able to see in fine detail how he released the ball out of his hand. He altered the grip of the pitch so that when his last finger to make contact with the ball released, his middle finger, it would slip and rotate the ball laterally. By wedging the ball between his middle and ring finger, it allowed him to release the ball with this ideal side spin and achieve a similar hand position as his other pitches.”
There are a number of different grips that have been used to generate the desired drop in speed and spin rate for a changeup. Below are some examples: the claw, circle and vulcan.
"The Claw" is focused more on decreasing the spin and speed of the ball rather than creating the desired 3:00 spin axis. Depending on your repertoire, this kind of grip is beneficial, but it is by far the least used.
The circle change is one that I see most often. The two middle fingers are focused on creating the 2-seam spin that generates our horizontal movement while the pointer, pinky and thumb are used to decrease the spin. If your hand is pronating correctly, you can feel the ball slide from your fingers and spin close to a 3:00 axis.
This gif shows multiple angles of Padres 16th rounder Joey Cantillo’s vulcan changeup. It is nearly the same grip as Trevor Bauer’s except Cantillo has a more drastic separation of his middle and ring fingers. Just like Bauer, his goal is to have the ball slide between his fingers at release to create the 3:00 spin axis.
Trevor Bauer and Max Scherzer have nearly perfected the art of the changeup, consistently spinning it up there at a 3:00 spin axis and dropping their spin rate below 2000rpm. The vertical drop, exceptional horizontal run, and consistent fast arm action allow these guys to create two of the most effective changeups in the game.
The changeup has been one of my favorite pitches ever since I started pitching them way back. Next we will get more in depth with this pitch discussing a splitter! Keep up to date by subscribing on the desktop page.