James Shields and Felix Hernandez feature two of the best changeups in baseball, and both were on display Sunday in dominating performances. Shields struck out a career-best 13 -- including eight on his changeup -- in a three-hit shutout.
HernandezJust 28 minutes after Shields walked off the mound, Hernandez threw his first pitch in a dominating eight-inning, 13-strikeout performance (nine on his changeup). Both pitchers relied on excellent command with their changeup to put hitters away. Yet they did it with very different stuff and located the pitch primarily in different spots.
Hernandez features a power change that sits at 90 MPH, the fastest among all MLB starters. It has an average separation of just four MPH from his fastball but with significant sinking action.
Shields’ change, like most pitchers', sits in the low-to-mid-80s, with a standard difference of about 7 MPH from his fastball. His change features more tailing action toward righties and away from lefties.
On Sunday, Shields threw a whopping 24 of his 25 two-strike changeups down in the zone, the most he’s thrown there in a start in the last three seasons. The Marlins were 0-for-11 in at-bats ending with a Shields changeup, all of which came with two strikes.
ShieldsHis eight strikeouts on his change were all swinging. At the time, Shields’ eight strikeouts on his change tied the most by any starter this season before it was topped by Hernandez just hours later.
Like Shields, Hernandez had a great feel for his changeup Sunday, using it almost exclusively as a put-away pitch. Hernandez threw 17 of his 22 changeups with two strikes, the most he’s thrown in any start in the last three seasons.
He recorded a career-best 10 outs on his change, all of which came with two strikes, including his nine strikeouts. He worked primarily to his arm side (inside to RHB, outside to LHB). He threw 76 of his 114 pitches (66.7 pct) to that location, including 19 of his 22 changeups. Ten of his 13 strikeouts came in this spot, a career-best.
Shields and Hernandez rank first and second, respectively, in strikeouts on changeups. It’s easy to see why with stuff and command like they had on Sunday.