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Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Magic Marco Shows off his Changeup

Does that title seem a little clickbaity?

First off, I love Marco Estrada interviews. He usually gives thoughtful, well-explained answers. It’s refreshing to see an athlete’s passion for his craft come through in the way they talk about it.

I also really love Marco Estrada’s changeup. It’s hard for a soft tossing pitcher in the major league to strike out hitters with ease, and while Estrada isn’t a strikeout hitter per se, he can still make hitters take some awful cuts. Estrada’s changeup has ranked at the very top of the league in vertical movement – the “drop” of a pitch – in each of the last three seasons. He did struggle for a stretch this year, which he attributed to stress and sleeping, and had command issues at points, however. It’s hard to be effective when you’re falling behind and have to resort to your 90 MPH fastball…

But let’s just address this before we continue; I really think we’re past the “will Estrada regress?” argument that seems to pop up (ha, get it?) every so often. He was good at the beginning and the end of the year. I mean, he looked like an all star through April and May.

Anyways, before we get to the interview, let’s talk about Estrada a little. He was traded to the Jays at the end of 2014 season for super platoon guy and beard-haver Adam Lind, and people – including myself – were PISSED. Fast forward not even four years later and he’s become one of the most beloved players we’ve had in recent memory thanks to reliable pitching and a little playoff magic. I legitimately look forward to Estrada starts because when he’s on, games fly by. Also, there must be something completely demoralizing about hitting soft popup after soft popup and it’s pretty fun to watch Estrada do that to hitters.

I present to you the best of both worlds here, as Marco Estrada spoke to Harold Reynolds about his changeup for MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

Thanks to MLB Network for this video.

The last minute or so is really interesting. As a non-pitcher, I always thought that the changeup was more about the grip and keeping it buried in your hand longer. “Kill the lower half”? Let’s see.

Like Estrada said, the change is all about deception; if it doesn’t look like a fastball, it’ll get crushed. Let’s look at his delivery for both his four seamer and changeup and see if we can pick up on anything. I picked an early season start in Baltimore, because for the first two months of the season, Estrada was actually striking out 10.22 per nine innings. Estrada said hitters won’t be able to pick up him killing the lower half, but can we?

I’ve slowed this down to .25 speed and I still can’t see much of a difference. Just looking at the windup, it looks pretty much identical. However, the pitches couldn’t be more different. Both resulted in strikeouts, both swinging, but were 13 MPH apart. And that’s why Marco Estrada is a magician. Like he said in the video, the average hitter can’t tell that apart at game speed. That, in a nutshell, is why Estrada has been good for Toronto since the trade. Even if he doesn’t strike you out, that dreaded fastball-change mix will make you produce a weak popup. Hell, I’ve watched those gifs about 50 times. If you try to actively notice something like that while facing him, before you get an idea on which pitch you’re getting, the umpire is probably telling you to get out of the batter’s box and back into the dugout.

Marco Estrada forever.

  • Starvenger

    If you squint you can maybe see a little more push on the back foot for the fastball. But this is looking at a slowed down and side-by-side gif. I’m amazed at how hitters have to process and react to this in real time.