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Statcast Changeup Movement Profiles for Week 12


Welcome back to RotoBaller’s pitchers advanced stats and StatCast studs and duds article series! Each week we will select an advanced stat, choose two studs and two duds, and analyze what those stats could mean for future fantasy output. This will be my second installment using Statcast's new pitch movement tab to look at pitchers' changeup movement; the first investigated curveball movement. 

Statcast's pitch movement data breaks out each pitch by vertical and horizontal movement in inches compared to average movement. For vertical movement, positive numbers refer to relative rise while negative numbers refer to relative drop. For horizontal movement, positive numbers refer to relative break while negative numbers refer to relative lack of break.

Rather than choose studs and duds per se, I will pick one pitcher from each of the four quadrants and analyze how their particular movement has helped or hurt them this season. Pitchers' secondary pitches are key to gaining strikeouts, so taking a look at them can shed insight into their overall fantasy performance. That being said, let's dive in!

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Changeup: Strong Drop and Break

All stats current as of 6/17/19, courtesy of Baseballsavant.com 

 

Sergio Romo - Miami Marlins

Vertical Drop: 4 inches greater than average
Horizontal Break: 4.9 inches more than average

Our first pitcher has an unorthodox way of pitching but has been fantasy relevant before in his carer and may be so again. 36-year-old veteran Sergio Romo's side-arm delivery is odd, as is his pitch mix of a primary slider (53.9% usage), followed by his changeup (19.6% usage), and then his sinker and four-seamer. Romo currently has an ugly 5.25 ERA but also has converted 12 of 13 save opportunities for the Marlins. Could Romo actually provide more fantasy value than his peripherals suggest? 

Romo's slider and changeup both have a ton of spin on them (2,852 and 2,156 revolutions per minute, respectively), hence the vertical and horizontal movement on his changeup. He has generated a respectable 14.5% swinging-strike rate with the pitch, and while his batting average against it has been .292, the expected batting average is at a lower .192. Romo's pitch movement has also allowed him to avoid hard contact (84.9-MPH average exit velocity, 23.6% hard-hit rate).

As for his ERA, Romo's season mark has been jacked up from two outings in which he allowed four earned runs each. Of his remaining 22 outings, he has allowed one earned run six times and no earned runs 16 times. So while his ERA may not reflect it, Romo has actually done a pretty good job at limiting runs and converting saves this season while posting a respectable 20% K rate. His movement on his changeup and slider have allowed him to be relatively successful fantasy-wise, and, at just 43% ownership, he is available in deeper roto leagues.

 

Changeup: Strong Drop

All stats current as of 6/17/19, courtesy of Baseballsavant.com 

 

Carlos Carrasco - Cleveland Indians

Vertical Drop: 5.6 inches greater than average
Horizontal Break: 4.4 inches less than average

Carlos Carrasco has had an unfortunate season to this point, pitching well-below his standards (4-6 record with a 4.98 ERA) and also recently being placed on the IL with a blood condition. Obviously, we all hope that Carrasco is ok and will soon return from his condition. That being said, from a fantasy perspective, Carrasco's poor performance and injury present an excellent buy-low opportunity, as his underlying stats have been much better than his peripherals, thanks in part the use of his changeup as a swing-and-miss pitch. Let's take a look at the evidence to support Carrasco.

Several strong indicators stand out. The first is Carrasco's strong command. His K rate of 28.7% is above his 25.3% career mark, thanks to his slider (22.4% swinging-strike rate) and changeup (18.5%). Carrasco's changeup is so deceptive due to its lack of spin (1,433 revolutions per minute), which leads to its drop. Also, his 4% walk rate is a career low. Despite this, Carrasco has a bloated .353 BABIP, well above his .309 career mark. This screams positive regression. 

Another indicator is Carrasco’s batted-ball profile. His 90.9-MPH average exit velocity and 47.3% hard-hit rate are both in the bottom seven percent of the league and are significantly higher than his averages since 2015 (87.4 MPH and 34.3%, respectively). Despite these numbers being skewed, Carrasco has still managed to pitch with strong command (see above). Additionally, his 3.38 SIERA indicates that he has pitched much better overall despite the kind of contact he has given up.

Carrasco is a top-end fantasy starter when he is healthy, thanks in part to his changeup. His velocity and strikeout ability are still there (one of the main things to go for declining pitchers as they age) and his command and SIERA suggest that his stuff is still there, so I am not worried about the 32-year-old. He is a buy-low candidate with the only caveat being the question of his health. I would be willing to take the risk given the potential reward.

 

Changeup: Strong Break

All stats current as of 6/17/19, courtesy of Baseballsavant.com 

 

Mike Soroka - Atlanta Braves

Vertical Drop: 3.5 inches less than average
Horizontal Break: 4.7 inches greater than average

Our next pitcher has been highly touted for a few seasons as a prospect and is now showing the fantasy world why. 21-year-old Mike Soroka has been incredible for the Braves this season, going 7-1 with a 1.92 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 60 strikeouts over 70 1/3 IP. He relies primarily on his sinker but also mixes in a slider, four-seamer, and changeup. His fastballs are not overpowering, averaging about 92.9 MPH, but both his slider and changeup have insane movement on them (2,729 and 2,220 revolutions per minute, respectively). Let's look at how Soroka's changeup has helped him this season.

The movement Soroka gets on his changeup is simply stunning. The pitch doesn't drop all that much but has a ton of horizontal movement on it, acting almost like a reverse slider. Soroka doesn't throw it a ton (10.8% usage) but has found great success with it (.200 batting average against, 22.7% swinging-strike rate). It is his best swing-and-miss pitch, so it is actually surprising that he doesn't throw it more.

Further, the movement on all of his pitches allow Soroka to avoid damaging contact. His batted-ball profile is quite impressive (86.2-MPH average exit velocity, 31.8% hard-hit rate, 2.1-degree launch angle); he has been able to keep the ball down in the zone and batted balls on the ground. Soroka's strong command (0.97 WHIP, 6.3% walk rate) is impressive given his age and is a positive sign of his skills being legit.

Soroka is clearly a valuable fantasy asset in dynasty leagues as well as single-season leagues. It seems like he even has room to grow in terms of his strikeouts given his changeup. If he can mix the pitch in more frequently, he could add strikeout pitcher to his list of accolades.

 

Changeup: Below-Average Drop and Break

All stats current as of 6/17/19, courtesy of Baseballsavant.com 

 

Jose Quintana - Chicago Cubs

Vertical Drop: 1.1 inches less than average
Horizontal Break: 4.0 inches less than average

Our final pitcher's changeup has both a lack of vertical and horizontal movement compared to the league average, which isn't necessarily a negative thing. Jose Quintana's changeup may not be as useful of a strikeout pitch as some of the others we have discussed, but, when working effectively, the pitch can be deceptive. Let's take a look at Quintana's use of the pitch and how effective or not it has been for him this season.

Quintana has never been a high-strikeout pitcher and this has continued to be the case this season (20.2% K rate, 9.1% swinging-strike rate). His changeup follows suit; he has only a 12.3% swinging-strike rate with the pitch. However, his changeup can be used as a crafty change of pace and a different look because the pitch's velocity is just different enough from his fastball to throw hitters off (86.4 MPH for changeup, 91.5 MPH for fastball). The problem is that hitters are not always fooled by the pitch. Quintana has yielded a .311 batting average with the pitch. Fortunately, he doesn't throw the pitch much (10.7% usage), but, unfortunately, he is not finding success with a pitch that has worked for him in the past. 

Quintana hasn't pitched poorly by any means, but he hasn't been special either. His 3.87 ERA and 1.34 WHIP have been decent but not close to the level he pitched at when he was with the White Sox. Due to his lack of strikeouts, Quintana doesn't offer a ton of upside as a fantasy pitcher. The lack of difference between his fastball and changeup have particularly limited his strikeout upside this season. Quintana should continue to be an unexciting back-end fantasy starter.

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