May
06

Where did Burnett’s changeups go?

By

Remember back about three weeks ago, when the Yankees were winning games and A.J. Burnett was throwing his changeup rather frequently? It was glorious, wins rained down from the heavens like champagne and the changeups flocked to the plate like the salmon of Capistrano. Well, the Yankees have lost three games in a row coming into today and guess what? Burnett hasn’t been throwing his change as much since then.

The table to the right shows a few things, but most importantly the number (and percentage) of changeups that A.J. has thrown in each of his seven starts. After throwing 32 in his first three starts, he’s thrown a total of 14 changeups in four starts since. For all intents and purposes, he went back to using the pitch as little as he did last year (about 2.4%) after throwing it more than ten percent of the time early on. The effectiveness of the pitch has dropped; it’s had a negative run value in each of his last three times out, so maybe it’s just not working and a) the catcher isn’t calling it as much, b) Burnett isn’t comfortable throwing it at the moment, or c) a combination of a and b.

I looked at the number of left-handed batters in the other team’s starting lineup of each game just to see if that had something to do with it since the changeup is a pitch used to neutralize batters of the opposite hand. That didn’t bring any potential answers; aside from that April 7th game against the Twins, when they loaded the lineup with seven lefties/switch-hitters, Burnett has faced either three or four guys swinging from the other side of the plate in his other six starts. I don’t have an answer, I have no idea why the changeup has suddenly been put back on the shelf.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. A.J. had a 4.67 ERA and a 4.47 FIP in his first three starts but a 3.08 ERA with a 4.03 FIP in the four starts since. Super small sample size caveats apply, that goes without saying. We hear stories about guys trying to add a pitch all the time in March and April, and for a while it looked like Burnett was making a concerted effort to incorporate the changeup in his repertoire. Maybe he said the hell with it and went back to 98% fastballs and curveballs, maybe he’s just struggling with the pitch at the moment and isn’t comfortable using it in games, maybe it’s just a PitchFX classification problem. Whatever it is, it’s worth paying attention to as the season goes on.

Categories : Pitching
  • Peter

    uh it’s the swallows of Capistrano. Salmon don’t fly.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      It’s a Dumb and Dumber reference.

      • jsbrendog

        kudos. im with ya

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Man, Mike, you are one pathetic loser!

        No offense.

  • It’sATarp

    Maybe it has to do with the number of lefties he’s facing? I don’t remember which team he’s faced and how lefty heavy their line ups are tho, although i’m pretty sure when he faced min he was using the change up alot due to them stacking lefties

    • Chris

      From the post:

      I looked at the number of left-handed batters in the other team’s starting lineup of each game just to see if that had something to do with it since the changeup is a pitch used to neutralize batters of the opposite hand. That didn’t bring any potential answers; aside from that April 7th game against the Twins, when they loaded the lineup with seven lefties/switch-hitters, Burnett has faced either three or four guys swinging from the other side of the plate in his other six starts.

      • It’sATarp

        bleh that’s what i get when i read things when i just wake up…thanks for pointing out glaring misread…

  • http://www.twitter.com/vscafuto Vinny Scafuto

    As you told me in the RAB chat last week, could it just be because his curveball’s been effective for him? What are the run values of it in his last few starts? When he was throwing the change, it was because his hook was off. It’s his first love, after all.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      And you never forget your first love.

      (resumes Facebook stalking of ex-girlfriends)

      • Thomas

        Call me old fashioned, but I believe if you’re going to stalk someone, you should at least have the common courtesy to do it in person.

        • mike hc

          Haha

  • Monteroisdinero

    If AJ’s curve and fastball are working and being thrown for strikes in any count-he doesn’t need a changeup.

    In other words, he usually needs a changeup.

    :-(

    • Jim S

      Do you hate everyone on the Yankees?

      • Monteroisdinero

        No. I just watch the games with my own eyes and decide for myself. I’ve watched alot of games. I like Montero/Nunez/Gardner/Cano/Arod when healthy/Grandy/Martin/Tex/CC/Mo/DRob/Nova/Colon

        Jeter and Posada used to be great and we are paying for that now-literally and figuratively.

        Don’t care much for Swish this year but I’ll give the guy half a season.

        Btw, pretty much everyone hated AJ after last year.

        • Jim S

          I don’t get your irrational love of Nunez, or your extraordinary Swisher hate(especially given our lack of suitable replacements, even if he WAS a problem), but at least the rest of that is reasonable.

          But “your own eyes” will never trump stats or the Yankees’ eyes in my book. So whatever.

        • Jim S

          Also, AJ’s actually been good this year. And was ok in 09. And pretty good before that. Obviously last year sucked, but I’ll trust his history until we have a little more to prove he completely lost the ability to pitch.

  • virginia yankee

    my coaches used to tell us DON’T think -”Leave your head in the dugout”- they expected Catchers to call the pitches — then Mgrs/Pitch Coach started calling them and that seems to have filtered down to HS and LL these days — But the game situation is so fluid esp to the P who claims the right to throw what he wants, that if he literally DOES NOT THINK then: scouting report, last Pitch, batter/last swing, pitch sequence, runner, umpire, wind, humidity, what’s working; — it is a wonder the Guy can COMMIT to any pitch — therefore the reliance on Best pitch —so my guess is if the entire thought process does not get to Throw Change he is not going to – the sign is rejected

    It is interesting over time to watch the evolution of a Mussina and others who DECIDE – to vary virtually everything pitch to pitch — responding to the challenge to make it up as they go along; but first comes the realization that they no longer have a 1 and a 2 pitches that can dominate

  • theyankeewarrior

    Hopefully AJ’s changeups didn’t go to the same place that Phil Hughes’ did.

    • ND Mike

      Using typical broadcast announcer logic if a change up would should be 10mph slower than your fastball, would that require Phil to throw it underhanded?

      /ikeedikeed

  • MikeD

    From what I understand, it was Martin who was calling for the changeups, and AJ went along. Interesting that after his highwater mark for changeups on April 13th, he had his lowest mark (a single changeup) in his very next start. That means either:

    a) AJ talked to Martin in between starts and said something like, “listen you punk, if you don’t stop calling so many damn f’ing changeups, I’m going to give you two blackeyes, just like the one Posada gave me last year.” Martin, being a prissy kid from L.A. more concerned with his late-night-partying looks than the good of the team, took a quick glance at AJ’s Mr. Rogers’ I’m-a-former-Marine-bad-ass-killing-machine set of arm tattoos, and immediately stopped calling changeups.

    or

    b) Martin called for changeups early so word got around the league that AJ is now throwing changeups, thus creating some doubt in the oppostion.

    c) AJ was having command issues with his either his fastball or curve in his early starts, so Martin mixed in more changeups until AJ’s other pitches came around.

    My guess is it’s mostly “c” with some “b,” but we can believe “a” if we like the story. We’ll probably see Martin call more changeups again during games when AJ’s other pitches are working. Perhaps that’s why Burnett’s been able to work his way through some of his weaker starts, where last year he might have been blown out.

    • http://Facebook.com/dougchu Doug

      Martin is from Canada.

      (that could very well make him even prissier in your eyes, especially if you knew his parents were hippie intellectuals who named him after John Coltrane.)

      • MikeD

        Being a fan of John Coltrane myself, I can not hold this against him or his parents.

        I will now take my prissy ass elsewhere.