Lost Art of the Chang-Up?


#1

Is it me or does the change-up seem to be a lost art when it comes to todays young pitchers? I noticed when I was in high school and now even watching collegiate and even playing in my 18+ league that not many people have an effective change-up or have one at all. Even those that do, never seem to use it much.

In my opinion the change-up can be a game changer, and a GREAT PITCH! I have never been one to have a change-up myself. I never found a comfortable grip, or managed any control over one. But, recently I have found a good grip, and one I have been able to throw for a strike, and get K’s with. It is slower than my fastball and has MOVEMENT.

I think a lot of the change-ups non-use, has come from the fact people do not see how useful of a pitch it can be, and also that it seems like a boring pitch. Most people, in my opinion, see it as just a slow fastball, and thus not very effective. But, I think if more people realized that the change-up can be used as a pitch with movement as well as a speed change, and appear more interesting of a pitch, it would be used and mastered more often.

Also I think many batters, I know in my league especially, if they get down are thinking, “ok its either a fastball or curveball.” Or basically straight or moving. And that seems to me to be just how predictable pitchers have become. (Some not all)

THE CHANGE-UP WOULD FIX THESE KINDS OF PROBLEMS! If someone can have a change up in their repertoire the batter now needs to think “ok it can be fast or slow, or it can move or curve…but wait this guy can trick me to with a pitch that looks fast and straight but isn’t.” Do you see where this can deceive a hitter? And how this can be a KILLER pitch to have up your sleeve?

It could just be me, but I think those with a good change-up have a step up on the competition. The pitch can honestly be a game changer, and an OUT pitch if worked on. And I think it will make pitchers become less predictable to the batters they face.

It may just be me, but I think the change-up has almost become a lost art.


#2

1st of all magic, you’re correct in that the CU is a great pitch and would be a benefit to any pitcher’s arsenal. Having said that, there’s a couple of things in the mix that are at odds with the thought of how it gets used.

At the core, a CU is nothing but a pitch with a different grip and a different action, just like any other pitch, so anyone can learn to throw it if they’re willing to practice. Also, as everyone knows, there are about as many different ways to throw a CU as anyone can imagine, so if one particular “style” isn’t working for a P, there are always others he can choose from. So between it just being a different pitch and there being so many different ways to get the same result from it, there’s really no reason every pitcher doesn’t have the pitch in his complement of pitches.

So, the reason for it not being used isn’t that it’s a difficult pitch to throw or just can’t be mastered by every pitcher because it takes a different sized hand or arm action than they have. The reasons are a bit more subtle than that. For one thing, the entire concept of throwing a ball to a batter on purpose that doesn’t have high velocity or great movement definitely goes against conventional thinking. That kind of thinking brings with it the fear that a CU will be pounded into oblivion if the slightest mistake is made, and is difficult to overcome.

Then comes what I believe is the most common reason you don’t see many pitchers throwing one. Let’s keep this thread focused on the group you singled out, “YOUNG PITCHERS”. Hopefully this won’t be taken as a shot at coaches, but it goes back to something that’s been discussed here before. Who calls the pitches?

I know there are those who don’t even want to discuss the subject of who calls pitches, but the reason it keeps coming up is because it really affects a great many things about pitching, and this is surely one of them. So, assuming the coach is calling pitches from the bench, what pitcher will risk his playing time by throwing a pitch the coach doesn’t call? And if he doesn’t throw it in a game, how can he ever really perfect it?

In the final analysis, here’s what you have. Coaches GENERALLY tend to choose knuckle dragging behemoths who can throw a strawberry through the side of a battleship for pitchers at every level. Think about that. Why would a coach choose Johnny Fireballer, then purposely have him throw weak pitches up there that a girl could knock out of the park?

Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t speed up the bat of a weak hitter by throwing him OS stuff?” Well, at most early levels, the majority of hitters will be weak, so who would get thrown the CU?

So what it becomes is, while people give the CU lots of lip service, its still not universally accepted as being a great “out” pitch, even though so many ML pitchers have shown it to be just as devastating as a 105MPH FB, a rainbow curve, or a snapping slider. The thing is though, how many of the “best” pitchers in the ML game today don’t have a great CU?


#3

[quote=“scorekeeper”]1st of all magic, you’re correct in that the CU is a great pitch and would be a benefit to any pitcher’s arsenal. Having said that, there’s a couple of things in the mix that are at odds with the thought of how it gets used.

. . .

Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t speed up the bat of a weak hitter by throwing him OS stuff?” Well, at most early levels, the majority of hitters will be weak, so who would get thrown the CU?

So what it becomes is, while people give the CU lots of lip service, its still not universally accepted as being a great “out” pitch, even though so many ML pitchers have shown it to be just as devastating as a 105MPH FB, a rainbow curve, or a snapping slider. The thing is though, how many of the “best” pitchers in the ML game today don’t have a great CU?[/quote]

Good points. I’ve tried to incorporate a CU in my son’s bullpen sessions, and he’s had a difficult time commanding the pitch. He can place a cutter or a slider, and has decent command on the breaking pitch, but has no command of the CU. Only two more weeks left before shutting down for the spring. We’ll try again next March and see if he’s able to command it. He still has two more years of LL; yet, if he could command the CU during the next two years he’ll be set for ball beyond youth years. For whatever reason, he doesn’t feel comfortable about throwing a CU.

Rest of our pitchers use the CU on a regular basis since they are more finesse type pitchers.


#4

[quote=“shoshonte”]Good points. I’ve tried to incorporate a CU in my son’s bullpen sessions, and he’s had a difficult time commanding the pitch. He can place a cutter or a slider, and has decent command on the breaking pitch, but has no command of the CU. Only two more weeks left before shutting down for the spring. We’ll try again next March and see if he’s able to command it. He still has two more years of LL; yet, if he could command the CU during the next two years he’ll be set for ball beyond youth years. For whatever reason, he doesn’t feel comfortable about throwing a CU.

Rest of our pitchers use the CU on a regular basis since they are more finesse type pitchers.[/quote]

Who calls the pitches on your boy’s team. I know there are those who get tired of hearing me ask that all the time, but to me it makes a major difference in judging certain things.

What grip is he using? What I’ve found is, the younger the pitcher the easier it is for him to use a 3 fingered grip on the CU as opposed to other more “exotic” grips. When I say 3 finger grip, I’m talking about the standard FB grip, but moving the ring finger up behind the ball. One thing that seems to make a difference is, make sure the width he spreads his fingers for his standard FB, is maintained, and the same width bout between his middle and ring fingers.

Even if that’s all he does, and doesn’t “tuck” or “choke” the ball back toward his palm, the velocity between that and his FB should be noticeable.

Although ASMI has done a small study which they say found college pitchers reduce their arm speed when throwing a CU, I doubt you’ll find many knowledgeable baseball people who would advise anything other than a pitcher maintaining his arm speed at a FB arm speed. That close arm speed, combined with the velocity drop, the same arm slot, and the same ball rotation is what makes the pitch deceptive.

Be careful about judging the effectiveness of a CU by the velocity difference between it and the FB. The only true way to judge it is by the results. One of the things wrong with using velocity difference is that most people use the “standard” of 10MPH difference that’s come into the dogma of the CU. Trouble is, that 10MPH is based on MLB pitchers at 60’, not any level lower.

Here’s how to get a decent read on velocity difference. The average velocity for a MLB FB is about 92. A drop of 10MPH takes it down to 82. That’s a drop of very close to 11%. Trying to get Billy, who plays LL and throws at 65MPH at his best to get a 10MPH drop is really looking for something ridiculous because its well over a 15% difference! So how is Billy supposed to do something that MLB pitchers can’t do, without doing something overt, like slowing that arm down?

If you or anyone else is trying to use a gun to make that determination, keep in mind the 11% rule. If its good enough for a MLP pitcher, its good enough for anyone. If Billy’s best heater is 65, then if he can get his CU to 57-58, he’s doing great.


#5

My son is 13 and is a pretty good pitcher. All he throws are two fastballs (4 and 2 seam) and 2 different types of change ups.

His first change up is what we call a palm ball. For the palm ball, he puts three fingers on top and pushes the ball as far back in the fingers as possible, without actually touching the palm. The arm action is the same as his fastball (low sixties) but comes in about 10 MPH slower (low fifties). He loves to throw this to the big kids who are looking to bash because they almost always roll over on top of it for a ground out to short.

His second change up is a circle change. Again, the same arm action, but his speed drops between 7-10 mph from his fast ball. His circle is different in that it tends to drop down and away from right handed batters, whereas his palm either goes fairly straight or drops off the table near the plate.

He has been very successful pitching against some very good teams with just those 4 pitches.

Just as a side note, my son suffered an elbow injury on July 12. He went almost 2 months without throwing at all, followed by a week by week build up of his arm (fairly limited throwing building up to some long toss, etc.). He threw a 20 pitch bullpen last night at a tryout for a new, higher level team. His fastball was pretty good, but his change up was awesome. I just got a call from the head coach who offered him a spot on the team. I can’t wait to tell him. Today is a good baseball day.


#6

KCDawg, I’m a little confused. I got you and shoshonte mixed up. Would you be more exact about what level and field size your boy is playing? The last thing I want to do is insert my big fat foot in my mouth. :wink:


#7

I don’t know about the changeup being a lost art. What I have seen—except in the major leagues—is not many pitchers are using it, and I’m sure it’s because of the undue emphasis on speed. Blow’em away. Brush 'em back. Knock ‘em over on the tush. The faster the better. And too many coaches are, willy-nilly, encouraging this. That is a shame, because some of the best pitchers around are the ones who have a really good changeup—or two—or three—and who take full advantage of it. Some of these pitchers don’t have much in the way of speed, and so they rely on the breaking stuff.
I was one of those pitchers. When I knew, early on, that I would never be a rip-roarin’ fireballer like Feller, Raschi, Gibson, Verlander or Sabathia, I decided to go in the other direction. I became a snake-jazz pitcher, one with a sizeable arsenal of breaking pitches, and I became a very good one with the help of an incredible pitching coach, an active major league pitcher who told me among other things that just about any pitch could be turned into a nice changeup. I learned to do this, and I learned many variations on some standard pitches, and the end result was a lot of wins and a lot of rescued games (what would be called saves later on), not to mention a lot of crybaby batters who couldn’t get the ball out of the infield against me.
And even if you do have the velocity, you need to add a changeup or another breaking pitch in order to maximize your effectiveness. It was Babe Ruth who once observed that a good changeup will cause batters more grief than anything else—and he ought to know, because before converting to an outfielder he was one of the best pitchers in the American League! So go ahead—get yourself a changeup or two. :slight_smile: 8)


#8

[quote=“scorekeeper”]

Who calls the pitches on your boy’s team. I know there are those who get tired of hearing me ask that all the time, but to me it makes a major difference in judging certain things.[/quote]

He does. Catcher gives a sign and he either shakes it off or obliges. He’s pitched enough and is starting to get a feel for what pitch to throw.

He’s tried circle change and palmball grips. Neither feels comfortable.

He’s tried circle change and palmball grips. Neither feels comfortable.

He uses the knuckle-curve as his off speed, which is a huge change is velocity, drops between 6" and 18", and he gets it for a strike 50% of the time.

Arm speed and arm slot is the same no matter the pitch. Only the grip changes.

Excellent point.

We don’t worry about the difference in velocity. At this age it’s only trying to keep the best hitters (maybe it’s only one player per team) honest and from teeing off on the FB.

Still haven’t put a “gun” on him. Everyone is curious, though. He had the best FB at 10U in the Majors last year, and now he has a catcher whom he’s comfortable with throwing to. His catcher is the smart and baseball savvy, and understands ball movement. He knows the knuckle-curve is going to drop in the dirt, the 2-seamer comes in on the RH hitter and the slider goes away. We’re still trying to figure out consistency in the cutter; he grips it several different ways (depending on what is comfortable on any particular day), and the movement usually rides into the RH hitter, but sometimes it drops a little and other times I’ve seen it tail to the outside. He rarely throws the 4-seamer as he doesn’t feel comfortable with the grip (in comparison to the 2-seamer), but he’s very accurate with it during bullpen sessions. He’s working on the slider to keep LH hitters honest, and he’s liking this pitch more and more. At LL level, Billy’s best heater at 65 is good enough for 95% of the hitters.


#9

Scorekeeper, my son is currently playing on 54/80 fields. He will play primarily the same dimensions in the spring with a few 60/90 tournaments thrown in.

Back to the change up question, I talked to my KCDawgjr’s pitching coach, and during his bullpen his fastball cruised at 60 mph and his changeup was at 52-53. So, you are right that the 7-8 mph drop (between 11-13%) can be very effective.

As for getting me and Shoshonte mixed up, I don’t see how that is possible, as I am obviously better looking 8) . In fact, I think I could be a star because someone once told me that I have a face that’s perfect for radio.


#10

What your saying is, he has total freedom to disregard any pitch or location called. I like hearing that, and I sure hope it continues to be true through his HS career and beyond.

No big deal. That’s the great thing about a CU. They come in all shapes and sizes. Have him try just the 3 fingered grip without stuffing the ball back into the palm. Remember what the object is. Its to change speeds while giving the impression that your not.

What I’m saying is, have your boy just keep experimenting and eventually he’ll find something. Here’s the grip my kid finally settled on after experimenting all through LL and HS, and he was still experimenting when he quit. He liked this one because he could slightly move either his middle finger or thumb and the ball would do different things.

http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/CUnew.jpg

I sure wouldn’t knock the KC, or really any other pitch, but even though it is an OS pitch compared to a FB, I don’t think I’d advise using it in place of a straight CU. Let me explain why.

The easiest pitch to control is the one that moves the least because it has the least amount of “travel”. That’s why a FB is always the easiest pitch type to control. If you read what laflippin was kind enough to contribute to what I’d asked about physics, you’d know a baseball at 60’ and 80MPH, drops about 4’ just because of gravity. Throw in another 6” to 18” and that’s quite something to try to get into a space the size of a strike zone.

And look at the things that can go wrong with the two types of pitches. If you don’t execute a CU very well, what you end up with is a pitch that misses its location. But, not only can you miss a location with a pitch that depends on rotation, you can also not get the rotation correct and throw up a “hanger”. Its definitely a great pitch, but not really one I’d prefer to see a pitcher use as his main or only OS pitch.

That’s really the best thing that can possibly happen. But how can his arm action not change to get the ball to break as much as it does?

That’s a great mindset, don’t lose it!

Good! Keep the guns away as long as possible. As for all the other stuff, I can’t really say. Do you have any numbers on him such as strike percentage or 1st strike percentage?

Here’s a piece of advice some folks might disagree with, but FWIW, here it is. Keep track of balls, strikes on BIP and other strikes for all the games he appears in. By doing that you’ll always have a record of his pitch counts, and you’ll be able to have a base line for comparing his strike and 1st pitch strike percentages too.

Here’s an example of what you’d end up with.
http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/4so.pdf


#11

WOWSERS KCDawg! Its rare that one gets the opportunity to use recently acquired knowledge, but here seem to be a great case for it.

If you remember the thread where laflippin was kind enough to tell us about that study where they compared pitching accuracy at different distances, you’ll probably remember that the result was that pitchers weren’t as accurate at distances other than what they’d been training at. If you allow your son to practice and play mostly at 54’, don’t be too surprised if when he gets on a 60’ mound he has an unusual amount of “trouble”.

Have any of you folks who’ve got experience with mixing distances notice any “issues”?


#12

I believe the plan is to play the 60/90 tournaments toward the end of the season, later in the summer months. Totally agree that they shouldn’t be mixed - going back and forth between one and the other.


#13

Is there anyone out there who has experience going the other way? I.e. like someone playing LL Inc at 46’ and playing tournament ball at 54’ at the same time?


#14

A knuckle curve and a slider at 10 years old? That seems dangerous for his arm. Im 16 and I’ve been an effective pitcher my whole life without throwing any pitch that could damage my arm.


#15

A knuckle curve and a slider at 10 years old? That seems dangerous for his arm. Im 16 and I’ve been an effective pitcher my whole life without throwing any pitch that could damage my arm.[/quote]

you never threw a fastball? Fastballs wrecked my elbow…

I agree that a slider and curveball at ten years old isn’t a smart decision, but any baseball pitch is dangerous if you’re not conditioned properly… heck even sometimes if you are conditioned properly they can still be dangerous. I guess i’m just not for the “curveballs and sliders wreck your arm” mentality… pitching in general wrecks your arm…


#16

[quote=“Highschoolpitcher9”]you never threw a fastball? Fastballs wrecked my elbow…

I agree that a slider and curveball at ten years old isn’t a smart decision, but any baseball pitch is dangerous if you’re not conditioned properly… heck even sometimes if you are conditioned properly they can still be dangerous. I guess i’m just not for the “curveballs and sliders wreck your arm” mentality… pitching in general wrecks your arm…[/quote]

There’s a difference between curveballs and sliders WILL wreck your arm, and curveballs and sliders IF NOT THROWN CORRECTLY, ARE MORE LIKELY TO wreck your arm THAN OTHER PITCHES. :wink:

Everything depends on one’s perspective. If the perspective is that of someone considering a HSV player, then yours is a sound one. But, if its of someone considering a 10YO kid, yours becomes much more “dangerous”.


#17

[quote=“KCDawg”]

As for getting me and Shoshonte mixed up, I don’t see how that is possible, as I am obviously better looking 8) . In fact, I think I could be a star because someone once told me that I have a face that’s perfect for radio.[/quote]

I’ve been confused with a younger Robert Redford. :lol:


#18

[quote=“scorekeeper”][quote=“Highschoolpitcher9”]you never threw a fastball? Fastballs wrecked my elbow…

I agree that a slider and curveball at ten years old isn’t a smart decision, but any baseball pitch is dangerous if you’re not conditioned properly… heck even sometimes if you are conditioned properly they can still be dangerous. I guess i’m just not for the “curveballs and sliders wreck your arm” mentality… pitching in general wrecks your arm…[/quote]

There’s a difference between curveballs and sliders WILL wreck your arm, and curveballs and sliders IF NOT THROWN CORRECTLY, ARE MORE LIKELY TO wreck your arm THAN OTHER PITCHES. :wink:

Everything depends on one’s perspective. If the perspective is that of someone considering a HSV player, then yours is a sound one. But, if its of someone considering a 10YO kid, yours becomes much more “dangerous”.[/quote]

I wasn’t condoning a 10 year old player throwing a slider/curveball, their arms probably aren’t mature enough, they seldom know how to throw it correctly, could injure themselves, and on top of that i think that until you’re 14 or 15 (well i guess until you’ve hit puberty really) the focus should be on increasing fastball velocity and hitting your spots with a fastball… getting comfortable with a change-up is also good, but a lot of pitchers turn their change up’s over, and that’s dangerous for a young elbow as well.

My only point was that pitching in general is dangerous, not just throwing sliders and curveballs… nearly every time i tell someone i had tommy john surgery they say something to the matter of “were you throwing to many curveballs?”. It’s only when i hear a response like “what do you think caused it, poor mechanics? Overuse?” that i know i’m talking to a real baseball person.


#19

This question came up again at yesterday’s game between the parents. A group of them were studying his motion trying to figure out how he gets so much speed and movement. So I looked at the video from when he was 10. He ends his pitch (this was a FB) with his thumb facing towards the ground and his palm and elbow facing out.


#20

[quote=“Highschoolpitcher9”]
I wasn’t condoning a 10 year old player throwing a slider/curveball, their arms probably aren’t mature enough, they seldom know how to throw it correctly, could injure themselves, and on top of that i think that until you’re 14 or 15 (well i guess until you’ve hit puberty really) the focus should be on increasing fastball velocity and hitting your spots with a fastball… getting comfortable with a change-up is also good, but a lot of pitchers turn their change up’s over, and that’s dangerous for a young elbow as well.[/quote]

Keeping things in perspective, he played this summer at 5’-4" and 125 pounds. He towers over most 10U kids. Secondly, he threw 99% 2-seam FB this past year during games. This Fall, he’s now 11, he’s mixing his pitches more. His strike % for games is 68%. He’s adding the slider to get LH hitters out, the KC to get the 3-4-5 batters out, and the cutter is for fun. Still, his bread and butter pitch is a 2-seamer that is estimated to be between 62 and 65 MPH, and that most LL haven’t a chance on hitting. I believe he even threw a 4-seamer in his last game. :lol: This Fall, in ten innings, he has 27 Ks, has given up 3 hits (all bloop singles that should have caught for outs) and 2 BB. His last game was against an All-Star team.