In his recent piece entitled, “First and Worst: Changeups of 2013”, Stuart Wallace concluded that Cesar Ramos had the best changeup among relievers in 2013. I had never really considered the pitch to be much more than ordinary, and I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling, but it obviously should make you want to find out as much as you can about the pitch. For that, we can turn to all the pitches he threw in 2013 according to Brooks Baseball. First off let’s look at where he threw the thing:
He only threw a handful of arm-side changeups preferring to throw the pitch much more often against righties. He mostly throws it arm-side and down which is a pretty good spot for the change to opposite-handed hitters. Let’s look at this same chart, but color-code it for his results:
Besides the dinger to Geovany Soto and a handful of singles (with many of those on pitches out of the zone), he did a good job of limiting hard contact. We see some empty swings in the zone, which is nice, but also plenty down and away from righties. Additionally, there’s quite a few fouled off pitches within the zone showing that batters may have had trouble with either the movement or the change in velocity rendering them unable to put the pitch in play.
I’ve included some summary statistics on here that should give an idea of his ability to wield the pitch. He throws it within the called-zone around 52% of the time, while inducing a swing 57.5% of the time. Per 100 pitches thrown he’s garnering an excellent -2.37 run values. Batters managed a BABIP of .286 and a slightly higher wOBAcon of .297, both very strong, and he was able to generate an empty swing over 30% of the time, which is just incredible. Let’s see how each catcher compared for him:
Lobaton might have caught more pitches, but Molina really was able to help Ramos stand out. While the elder catcher called for the change up less often, he was able to help the change up to look even better at more than three runs better than average. The breaking ball also played up quite a bit better, and the fastball, too, though to a smaller extent. A full season of Molina and Hanigan could help Ramos look even better. Lastly, I wanted to take a look at when he was using the pitch. With all those swing strikes was it a put away pitch that he was only using ahead in the count or was he showing a good mix?
Cesar showed a good mix on first pitches using the breaking ball and change almost interchangeably and the fastball the other 2/3 of the time. The most he used the pitch was on 1-0, which is smart if batters haven’t seen the pitch and might be gearing up for a heater. He also went to the off-speed pitch quite often in 1-1 and 2-1 counts meaning he’s not afraid to throw it in even counts. He used it the least in 1-2 counts which makes some sense as he clearly goes to the breaking ball quite often once he has two strikes on a batter. Makes sense. The final section shows Run Values per 100 pitches and we see that it was very effective in those 1-1 and 2-1 counts and a really good pitch in 2-2 counts
Cesar Ramos is one guy that I thought could be a point of upgrade in the 2014 bullpen, but if his change up persists as a great neutralizer against righties then perhaps he can reverse a career trend that left him open to opposite-handed batters. He showed a reverse-split in 2013, and anytime you see that it’s natural to point to a good change up, and the numbers seem to confirm that. As a guy entering his first year of arbitration he’s expected to sign for around $700,000 or almost 50% higher than league minimum. If the change is for real he’s worth that money and maybe then some as yet another guy that Joe Maddon can turn to without having to worry about a corresponding move from the opposition.