Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Neil Allen and the changeup

If we're looking for something specific that new pitching coach Neil Allen brings to the Twins, it might be this: a commitment to the changeup.

Mark Simon of ESPN back in November tweeted a ranking of MLB teams by percentage of changes thrown during the past three seasons (2012-14). Tampa Bay led the way by a wide margin -- 18.1 percent of  their pitches were changeups, and the next highest figure was 14.2 percent. The Twins were 17th, at 9.3 percent, a bit more than half the Rays' rate.

Allen, of course, wasn't the Tampa Bay pitching coach during that period, But he was their Triple A pitching coach and had a hand in the development of almost every every pitcher the Rays developed -- and the Rays developed almost every pitcher on their roster.

It seems odd to think of the Twins as a below-average change-up team. It wasn't that long ago that the Minnesota staff boasted some of the best changeup artists in the game -- Johan Santana and Brad Radke, for certain, and Francisco Liriano's change was often touted even through he seldom tried to actually get outs with it with the Twins.

But this stat fits with the current reality of the Twins. We tend to associate strikeouts with velocity -- the overwhelming fastball overpowering hitters. The reality, at least in the majors, is that the fast ball can get you to two strikes, but strike three most often comes on something else -- a breaking ball or the change. The Twins staffs with the outstanding changeups ranked high in strikeouts; the Twins staff without did not.

If in fact Allen is a stronger advocate of the changeup than Rick Anderson was, let us hope he's not going to force the issue on Phil Hughes. Part of Hughes' turnaround last year came from discarding his changeup almost completely. If Kyle Gibson and Hughes don't have effective changeups -- and I believe they don't -- it's not a good idea to make them throw it.

Anderson does leave behind a couple of starting candidates who rely heavily on their changeups. Tommy Milone ranked 13th in MLB in 2014 in percentage of changeups thrown (100 LP minimum), according to Simon. And the change is regarded as Trevor May's most effective offering.

Of course, right now it's difficult to imagine the Twins rotation with both Milone and May in it.

No comments:

Post a Comment