There are very few pitchers in baseball who can get by as a starting pitcher with just two pitches. Having a larger arsenal to go to keeps hitters guessing a little bit more. It gives hitters different zones that they need to account for, different movement on pitches to account for, different velocities that they have to account for. On the first day of spring training both Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo spoke with the media about something they focused on during the offseason and the change up was something both of them brought up.
“Working on my third pitch, and I feel great about it (his change up),” Greene said. “I obviously spent a lot of time working on that. It was my main focus, to have that pitch in my repertoire going into this year is going to be really exciting. It will help with lowering my pitch count and having early contact, so an extra tool to become even a better pitcher. That’s helped a lot with my own development and my own expectations.”
Hunter Greene was good last season, posting a 4.44 ERA (101 ERA+) with 104 hits allowed, 48 walks, and 164 strikeouts in 125.2 innings. He even pitched 7.1 innings in a team combined no-hitter that the Reds somehow found a way to lose in Pittsburgh back in May. From August 1st through the end of the season he made five starts (he missed six weeks on the injured list in this time) he allowed two earned runs in 29.0 innings while giving up just one home run – an issue that plagued him earlier in the season. He made adjustments throughout the season, but one of those adjustments wasn’t really throwing his change up more.
During the season his change up usage was between 3% and 6%, with the exception of April when it was 8%. But when it comes to pitching to right-handed hitters, the change up wasn’t even on the table. In 257 match ups against righties in 2022, Greene threw two change ups. Against left-handed batters he threw 114 of them in 274 plate appearances.
Many pitchers will use their change up against opposite handed hitters and go more with a fastball/breaking ball combination against same handed hitters, but they will occasionally show that third offering to keep guys a bit more honest. You don’t have to be Luis Castillo (he threw his change up 15% of the time to righties and 29% of the time to lefties) with the usage of the change up, but you should probably throw it more than twice in 125 innings to guys in one batters box.
What was interesting for Greene, though, was that at the end of the season his change up did become a different pitch than the one that he had earlier in the year. It began to drop off more and it had a little more run on it, too. The pitch also had more velocity (as did his fastball and slider). In the chart below from Brooks Baseball you can see the clear difference in the plotting of his change ups when it comes to how they move.
It’s a similar story with Nick Lodolo. In 2022 he had a 3.66 ERA in 103.1 innings while allowing 90 hits, walking 39 batters, and picking up 131 strikeouts (he also led the league with 19 hit batters). He used his change up more than Greene did, but it was still a focus of his this offseason.
“I think as I watched back games (in the offseason), realizing how much my change up – if I continue to progress on that and mix that in more can really help me.”
Lodolo threw 174 change ups during the 2022 season. Only one of them was thrown to a left-handed hitter. It’s also worth noting that in the first 10 starts he made last year he used his change up far more often than he did after that. In each of the first 10 starts he threw his change up at least 11% of the time, going over 25% twice. During his final nine starts he never threw it 10% of the time in a single game, with multiple outings where he was under 4%.
For both guys it’s not just about finding spots to throw the change up more – doing that on it’s own probably isn’t the right answer. Being able to have a quality change up matters, too. It’s the worst pitch for each guy, which isn’t exactly a bad thing given just how good both guys are with their fastball and breaking ball. Lodolo may need a little more velocity separation between the change up and fastball as there’s just a 6 MPH difference based on last year’s data. Greene’s velocity separation was 8-9 MPH from the fastball to change up in 2022.
Having the confidence to throw it more, knowing when to throw it, being able to do so with the same arm speed and action, and having enough difference in both movement and velocity on the pitch is going to be needed. Every year there are guys talking about things they worked on in the offseason. Sometimes those plans get scrapped when real games begin. But sometimes those things work out, and if Greene and Lodolo can both make progress with their third pitch it could be a difference maker for them.
There’s some mood lifting news.
Greene with an effective change will be awesome.
With a Soto / Castillo change? Unhittable.
Just stay healthy. Above all else. Then the Reds may win a few games.
For power pitchers, a good changeup can take them from “pretty good” to “Ace”. If Greene can master a changeup and deliver it in the exact same way he throws his fastball, hitters are going to have a nervous breakdown trying to time their swings. Throw in a decent slider, and we have Luis Castillo 2.0.
Hopefully he, Lodolo, and Ashcraft all continue to develop into the next “Big 3” for the Reds.
I think one of the initial problems with Hunter Greene’s change-up was that it looked like a room service major league fastball, so it was pretty hittable, after seeing his blazing 100 mph fastball.
Years ago, a lot of left hand pitchers threw a “screwball”, which tailed away and sank, from right-handed hitters.
I think what both Greene and Lodolo will develop (?) is something like that, which has more movement on it than just a straight change up. You need to get sink and movement on the change up, or it just looks like a meat-ball fastball. From my limited understanding, I think it has a lot to finding the right grip on the ball to make it do what you want. The arm slot and arm velocity are the same, but the grip will detemine what the ball does. So likely Greene and Lodolo had come up with grip that works for them, which is not a trivial thing.
Gary Nolan, at his peak, had a great change up. Mario Soto had a great change up off his fastball, and lead to a lot of strike outs. I think Mario was instrumental in teaching a good change up to Luis Castillo.
I think that Fernando Cruz has a good screw-ball (changeup) that he throws, that makes his fastball look…FASTER! Contributes to his KO’s.
Mario Soto taught Bugs Bunny his change up and Bugs used to get 3 strikes on one pitch. Completely unhitable, just like Soto.
Best 2 pitch pitcher I have seen (Soto, not Bugs). I do not think that Bugs had Soto’s fastball
Probably had more carrots, though.
Better late than never I suppose. I remember commenting/complaining about Greene’s starts in the minors where only one or two changeups were called for in an entire start. That’s an organizational decision in the same way the manager and catcher will also need to buy into this process this year. So far that brain trust hasn’t shown a willingness to do anything other than pump fastballs and sliders. His inflated HR totals early last year was a dead giveaway he was too predictable.
At the risk of looking through Romine-esque rose colored glasses, having a backstop who has the knowledge and skill to help these kids master their art is key. You could practically see the mental connection between them last year.
Spot On. I was lucky enough to see a handful of Green’s starts in the minors and noticed he used his change up only as an after thought. Hard to understand why the Reds don’t start emphasizing this pitch at the Single A level and beyond?? As mentioned above, it takes a while to develop the right grip and pair it w/ your natural throwing motion. Not everyone will have success w/ the same grip. With Lodolo using more of a 3/4 arm slot, one would think he’d could have a lot of success w/ the circle change type change up? Green is a more over the top so finding something that will give him movement and still able to locate could be more of a challenge??
Never understand the complete lack of commitment to throw it. Even if it is a completely mediocre offering, you think you’d roll the dice on the cost-benefit of flipping it up there a couple times a game just as a show me pitch vs the chance both you leave it over the middle and the hitter is ready to punish it
That’s often a Brantley remark, as well, DHud. Committing to the pitch.
If its just gonna get smacked, then why bother throwing it. I’d rather they pitched to their strengths. Obviously it makes them stronger if they can use it effectively. If it needs work, then tinker with it between starts or the offseason, not in games.
Throw it straight in the dirt then
At least you put “hey this guy has a change up” into the batters heads
If its not a good pitch, then thats just putting yourself behind in the count purposefully when a well located fastball gives you a better chance. It sounds like Greene was doing that exactly what youre referring to and it wasnt working. Abandon the pitch until you can refine it and use it effectively.
I was gonna respond the same as 2020, but he beat me to it. If it is not a quality pitch and has no deception, throwing it in the dirt does nothing but add to the count. It’s not going to register in a batter’s head as a threat unless it can be thrown in the zone with swing and miss capability.
I’m not sure we know just how intelligent Hunter Greene is. His comment above sounded like it came from a Ph.D. of Pitching.
Greene is a phenomenal athlete & is the total package for sure.
From what little I’ve seen, he appears to be “coachable”. He and Lodolo maturing are reasons for following games. I take this all as positive news.
Now to stay healthy.
The abandonment of the change up/split is what killed Amir Garrett. He used to throw the change and get soft contact roll-overs making his slider and FB more effective and getting more outs.
For all the negativity, krall has said developing young pitching is organizational priority #1 and DJ was brought here to be the pitching whisperer. Give both credit for advancing that in 2022. More of that in 2023.
Which is why bringing up Williamson, despite his “control” issues, might be a good thing for his development. He would be under the tutelage of Derick Johnson all the time, and actually might progress faster.
As to Hunter throwing his change up more, I think he was having bad results, because his earlier change up was “meat on the plate”, ie, too easy to hit. But this again goes back to teaching at the minor league level. He wasn’t getting it until he got to the ML level and worked with Derick Johnson.
I think that Derick is likely doing a great job, despite having (overall) not a lot of talent to work with, besides Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Diaz and maybe San Martin. You can’t make a thoroughbred out of a draft horse.
Alright, the Reds sign yet another ace. This time a Cub/Tigers reject – Daniel Norris. Can’t wait for the season to begin and be over. Oh, and Bell’s next extension in about August when it’s clear the Reds are going to lose 100 games yet again.
“Can’t wait for the season to begin and be over.”
For how much pain this all seems to be causing you, why do you continue to follow the team?
jeez, all that from them just signing some SP depth.
It’s quite possible that I’ve been following the Reds longer than you’ve been alive. Mediocrity offends me. Bad management offends me. The Reds glorify both as do too many of their fans. Cheering the Reds for signing a Cubs cast off is a manifestation of Stockholm Syndrome, at best.
Fair enough, I guess I’m a fan of the game more than I am a fan of the Reds, so rooting for the season to be over offends me. But if you want good FO management and top notch field managers, I don’t see the Reds as ever being that kind of team. They’re the scrappy underdog if anything with the way the game has skewed towards big money teams, I guess I accept that. If that’s mediocrity then whatever sure. I dont think anybody is “cheering” these signings. We 100% agree they should be doing more.
It’s a harmless way for him to channel his negativity.
People are tired and angry, I get that. Most of us are. The futility of 2022 is nothing. Reds have not been seriously relevant for over 30 plus years. I have visited daily the main Reds websites that allow comments. I’d say 75% of comments are just like LDS’s. People are allowed to complain if they want but it’s just that it’s akin to beating a dead horse. You would think at some point these posters who always do nothing but complain would just stop coming to these websites or find a new team to root for.
great discussion. i guess I am the opposite of 2020 ball. i am a huge fan of the reds and have been since the Frank Robinson days so I am old. I don’t really like the game much anymore . Is it because the reds have been so bad for so long? The last fun reds team for me was the 1999 team. Great combination of hitting , speed, defense. You just don’t see that much anymore. now it is all about the pitching and advanced sabermetrics stuff that frankly i don’t understand.
I share LDS’s frustration as well. i still will probably go to my customary 20games a year. more out of habit and loyalty i guess. but it does frustrate me to go to gabp and get our brains beat out of us in front of 15,000 mets or braves or cubs or dodger fans in our home town. the thrill of a player just trying to work a walk or just close his eyes and swing for the fences i guess is not enough to overcome the disappointment of the reds getting destroyed night in and night out. So like LDS, I too, will likely be begging for the season to be over fairly quickly I am afraid
I was a Bill James fan growing up. I got over it in grad school. Most of the baseball world hasn’t.
Both of them got shellacked more than a few times but recovered to a very nice season’s end. The sophomore season can be rough on pitchers as other teams study film and batters adjust. So, the pitcher needs to continue development. Some like Castillo are exemplary year after year even though it is hard to explain how he does it.
I have no idea if Lodolo and Greene will improve much on last year’s results. They are both obviously very talented but it is much harder to have a really great seasons than a very respectable rookie year.
My concerns would be the pitch count and perhaps some instability in the rest of the staff affecting them. There are a lot of innings to be covered by the 4,5 and probably 6 (TBD) starters to make this all work.
We’ll see how it goes, but I feel better about Greene, Lodolo than I did Castillo, Mahle when they came up. It’s always good to hear people say the right thing, it’s much better to see them do the right thing. That offseason work will hopefully translate into more success in 23.
Move the fences back like 40 feet now.
Well, it’s not like removing seating would eat into attendance at this point, right?
To me the only pitch better than a good change up is a well placed fastball so yeah. If they can perfect that pitch it would be awesome. It’s less stress on the arm too which hopefully will translate to less time on the IL.
Hopefully we can come up with some offensive runs to support these two and the other starting pitchers and that Bell won’t treat them like Babies.
Doug – great article. Loved the charts.
I think we take for granted how hard it is to throw a good major league changeup – especially for a young pitcher. Early in their career they are just trying to work on being consistent and able to put their fastball where they want it. The big 3 are miles ahead of where typical 23-24 year starting pitchers are. We just need to hope for their health. They have the work ethic and mentality to become exceptional. Add in another 1 or 2 by end of the year (Abbott, Philips) and we will be cooking.
If you haven’t read Eno Sarris over at The Athletic and his “Stuff+” pitch data analysis, I highly recommend. He lists Graham Ashcraft as one of the pitchers he thinks most likely to break out soon based on his pitch movement and velocity.
A lot of folks mentioned “staying healthy” which we all know is not always easy to do. However, w/ a good changeup, it becomes much easier IMO. The change up allows the pitcher to rest “some at least” and hope to get a swing and miss or soft contact. Likewise, at the ML level, a good “pitcher” is trying to slow down big bats. In Green’s case, too many times he would give up a couple of dingers early and then be gassed n the 4-6 innings from too many (100) max effort pitches. And, cranking on more curveballs can be a recipe for arm injuries just as overthrowing too many FBs can be hurtful to the shoulder. Good news is Greene realizes it’s something he needs to work on and is doing it. It shows maturity and a willingness to move from a thrower phase to more of a pitcher and that’s something I think we all can look forward to.
Agreed MuddyCleats. Good post. Reds need to do everything possible to avoid the crazy rash of injuries we had last year.