Cole Hamels’ best pitch this year is, once again, his changeup. The pitch, which generally clocks in around 78-81 mph, on average, was thrown just over 30% of the time in 2009. It serves as Hamels’ main strikeout offering and, according to pitch value data, was 11.7 runs above average, the second best changeup value in the NL (only Tim Lincecum’s changeup was better). He’ll throw the changeup to right-handed hitters—low and away—as well as left-handed hitters—low and away—and, when facing righties, Hamels is not afraid to come inside with the pitch to induce a weak groundout. Therefore, while Hamels doesn’t have an overpowering fastball (90 mph, on average), his changeup is deceptive enough to help him strike out 7.81 batters per nine innings. Basically, expect to see a lot of fastballs—just under 60% of the time—and changeups, with the occasional curve mixed in.
So, Hamels’ changeup is good, that much is clear. However, who can we expect to have success against it?
Here are the Yankees’ season numbers against changeups, according to pitch type value data (runs +/- average).
Jorge Posada 6.7
Derek Jeter 4.9
Mark Teixeira 2.6
Melky Cabrera 1.4
Nick Swisher 1.1
Johnny Damon 1.1
Alex Rodriguez 0.8
Hideki Matsui 0.1
Robinson Cano -1.9
With the exception of Cano, everyone on the Yankees can hit a changeup, as they’re either average (e.g., Matsui, A-Rod) or above average (e.g., Posada, Jeter) against the pitch (and even Cano isn’t far off from average territory).
Do these numbers indicate that the Yankees will do well against Hamels’ changeup? Not necessarily, as these are season numbers that aren’t exactly predictive with regards to one outing against a specific pitcher. Hamels changeup is also one of the best in baseball, therefore, it’s problematic to assume that they’ll do well given the aforementioned value data (I’m also not sure as to how a pitcher’s left or right-handedness affects these numbers). However, what we can glean from these figures is that the Yankees, in general, can hit changeups, collectively. Based on pitch value data, they were actually the second best hitting team against changeups this season (the Blue Jays were first). They’re not like the Cardinals, for example, or the Royals, two teams that weren’t able to hit the changeup at all in 2009.
Hopefully, tonight, the Yankees will be able to show Cole Hamels just how good they are at hitting his favorite pitch.
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
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