One of the points of emphasis for Jhoulys Chacin during Spring Training is looking to improve his changeup. He is in line to be the Milwaukee Brewers number three starter this season, and the changeup might be the key to his success.
Chacin’s goal is to become better against lefties this season, and he thinks that improving the pitch will help him to do that. Adam McCalvy writes more about that here. The changeup can be one of the most effective pitches in baseball. Chacin, and the Milwaukee Brewers, are hoping it will be for him in 2018.
A few years ago, Chacin featured his changeup a lot more. From his debut in 2009 until 2014, the use of this pitch dropped below 10 percent once. That was nine percent in 2013. From 2015 on, he did not throw it as much. Last season, Fangraphs says he threw it only 5.9 percent of the time.
Changeups Against Lefties
The point of improving his changeup is to be better against lefties. Last season, when he did not use it much, lefties hit .251 off of him with 12 homers. And when compared to righties, that is not good at all.
To figure out if it makes a difference, the best year to compare is 2011. That is one of two years where he pitched in 31 games, which is close to the 32 he started in 2017. That is also the highest changeup use among the two 31 game seasons.
This is not perfect because we are talking about a six year gap. Plus there were several injuries to Chacin between then and now. But, he actually threw to more lefties than righties in 2011. They hit .231 with 13 homers.
Does It Help?
Despite all the numbers that point to the contrary, yes it does. One thing to keep in mind when looking at those two seasons is that Chacin faced 427 lefties in 2011 and 380 in 2017. Also remember that he was pitching with Coors Field as his home early in his career. Last year he played for the Padres in Petco Park.
For righties, Chacin has a good slider that breaks away from them. But it breaks into lefties, making it tougher to find success against them. The downward movement from a changeup, that will also be a speed change, will be a better bet against left handers.
It will be an important pitch for Chacin to throw. If he can be more successful against lefties, as he hopes to do, he will put together a solid season for the Milwaukee Brewers. Without Jimmy Nelson, the Crew will need strong performances from every pitcher in the rotation.