Johan Santana Rides Changeup to No-Hitter

Long after Johan Santana retires, memories of his changeup will delight fans and haunt opponents. It’s only fitting that Santana’s changeup frustrated Cardinals hitters from wire to wire in his no-hitter Friday night, dominating from the first inning to the last. Santana went to his signature pitch 38 times out of his 3 total offerings, going for 24 strikes, nine whiffs, and recording nine of his 27 outs.

It’s only fitting. Although his injuries may make a Hall of Fame bid difficult, Santana’s changeup is no doubt a hall-of-fame caliber pitch. Santana is the career leader in changeup pitch value since BIS began tracking the data in 2002 at 133.4 runs saved, and his changeup saves an average of 2.11 runs per 100 times thrown. The only pitcher who throws his changeup so often to even come close is Cole Hamels, at 2.02.

Numbers don’t to justice to this caliber of a pitch, though — let’s relive six of the best changeups on the night that made history for both Santana and the New York Mets:


Batter: Carlos Beltran
First inning, one out, 1-2 count

Santana set Beltran up with three fastballs and a slider, getting strike two on a fouled-off inside fastball before dropping this changeup right on the corner. The preceding pitch came in at 88.7 MPH; Beltran swung right through this 77.7 MPH beauty.


Batter: Matt Holliday
Sixth inning, one out, 3-2 count

Santana attacked Holliday with the changeup all at-bat, getting all three strikes with it and throwing it four times in total. Holliday fouled through one right down the middle of the plate the previous pitch; Santana threw this one at 77.4 MPH and went up in he zone — by far the highest in the entire at-bat — and perhaps the location was enough to surprise Holliday. Of all the pitches he saw in the at-bat, Holliday probably wants this one back the most.


Batter: Matt Holliday
Ninth inning, 0 out, 0-0 count

It would be remiss if we didn’t highlight Santana’s ninth inning, an incredible performance by a pitcher dipping into his deepest reserves as he passed the 120 and eventually 130 pitch mark. Santana really leaned on the changeup in the ninth, as this was just the first of eight changeups Santana threw in the inning out of 12 total pitches. An audible gasp emitted from Citi Field as Holliday’s bat broke, but the fly ball ended up an easy, harmless out in Andres Torres‘s glove.


Batter: Allen Craig
Ninth inning, 1 out, 2-1 count

Most of Santana’s damage with the changeup was done on the inner-half to righties. Not so against Craig. First, on a 1-0 pitch, Santana drew a swinging strike on the outside corner. After a slider missed roughly a foot above the strike zone, Santana came back with this pitch to bring the count to 2-2. All of which led to…


Batter: Allen Craig
Ninth inning, 1 out, 2-2 count

By moving back inside just that little bit — about six inches, according to PITCHf/x — Santana sped up Craig’s bat enough to induce a lazy flyout to left field with just a 77.5 MPH pitch. The beauty of the changeup — particularly the way Santana throws it — is the ugly swings and ugly contact it can induce despite speeds most people see in their high school leagues.


Batter: David Freese
Ninth inning, 2 out, 2-2 count

If Santana was going to be beaten, it was with his changeup. Four of the six pitches in the at-bat were changeups, and the two fastballs were nibbling pitches, both of which Freese took. Santana left one up on the pitch before, but Freese was only able to foul it back for strike two. Santana wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, getting the final strike as his 133rd pitch dove beneath the strike zone and the helpless wave of Freese’s bat.

That final pitch makes an excellent lasting image for the night and for Santana’s career as a whole. Santana’s changeup ruled the night and puts a stamp all his own on one of the New York Mets’ greatest moments.

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54 Responses to “Johan Santana Rides Changeup to No-Hitter”

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  1. Ira says:

    Would love to see an article assessing his HOF credentials.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. keith says:

    “That final pitch makes an excellent lasting image for the night and for Santana’s career as a whole.” – isn’t an aesthetic post like this more befitting of notgraphs?

    -67 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bubba says:

      You jackass

      +38 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jack says:

      When I see comments like this I shake my head. You obviously do not read NotGraphs if you think that this is what goes on there.

      +20 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • How dare the author enjoy the game of baseball and see aesthetic beauty in it!

      He should realize by now that every reader of Fangraphs is a robot who only wants data with which it can run calculations.

      +57 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • DavidCEisen says:

      If only there were more statistics in the post…

      “Santana went to his signature pitch 38 times out of his 3 total offerings, going for 24 strikes, nine whiffs, and recording nine of his 27 outs…

      Santana is the career leader in changeup pitch value since BIS began tracking the data in 2002 at 133.4 runs saved, and his changeup saves an average of 2.11 runs per 100 times thrown. The only pitcher who throws his changeup so often to even come close is Cole Hamels, at 2.02.

      The preceding pitch came in at 88.7 MPH; Beltran swung right through this 77.7 MPH beauty

      By moving back inside just that little bit — about six inches, according to PITCHf/x — Santana sped up Craig’s bat enough to induce a lazy flyout to left field with just a 77.5 MPH pitch”

      Among others.

      +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. keith says:

    wait, since when is notgraphs an insult? i’m confused

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Grant says:

      It was a very snarky comment.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Joe says:

      I love fangraphs, but notgraphs is consistently the least funny thing on the internet

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Keith L says:

        That’s just not the case. Even if often they are overly preoccupied with internet memes, authors like Vaswani will also write geniunely interesting essays. Try looking under the tag “TLDR”.

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  4. BurleighGrimes says:

    My favorite pitch in baseball is the elite changeup — Santana, Hamels, Lincecum, etc. — it’s just so beautiful to watch batters get totally fooled by that pitch over and over…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

    I am outraged, where is the replay to reverse the Beltran play?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • chuckb says:

      Is there really a point? By now everyone in the game realizes the ump missed the call and it’s hardly one that would have changed the game in any meaningful sense.

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  6. Metsox says:

    Who do I blame when he ends up on the dl….

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  7. Wilj says:

    I wouldn’t exactly call it dominating considering he walked five guys but a great game none the less. Many congrats to Mr. Johan.

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    • Juan Chapa says:

      A No -Hitter not dominating? I don’t believe it.
      So what, if he walks five. The team with the
      number one offense couldn’t get one hit.
      Contrast this with a minor little league
      team getting one hit. Its one more than the
      Cardinal offense got. Its a rediculous
      comparison, but so is the Cardinal offense
      not being able to get one hit. One more
      rediculous comparison, Tom Seaver never
      recorded any type of a no – hitter! And,
      most MLB pitchers, in one season, do not
      come close to Saever’s lifetime ERA!

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • cpebbles says:

      Walked five guys, and gave up a hit.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Jairo Garcia says:

    What no-hitter?

    Beltran’s ball was fair. Very obviously fair. Stands to reason the Mets need divine intervention to do something right, haha. Go Giants!!

    -20 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • ImKeithHernandez says:

      This comment is ridiculous. Thanks for Zack Wheeler, though.

      +28 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Joe says:

      The Giants won a world series with the dynamic duo that is Sabean and Bochy heading it, That’s more divine intervention than the Mets could ever dream of.

      +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cidron says:

      Its baseball. The “human element” happens, and not just among the batters and pitchers. Sometimes its the umpires as well.. There are more than just a few moments that an umpires call has either caused history, or taken away a moment in history (detroit, 1 hitter last yr, for example). We want replay, but we also want the human element preserved. Just take and enjoy the no hitter. It is what it is.

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      • Rick says:

        Ah yes, two wrongs make a right.

        Santana has a no-hitter he didn’t deserve, and Armando Galaragga doesn’t have a perfect game that he does deserve.

        Making two different kinds of mistakes doesn’t mean that it’s OK that mistakes have been made.

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    • Vegemitch says:

      I agree. It is a point of fact that he did not throw a no hitter, why persist in pretending? Even if the records show that Santana did throw a no hitter, we know he did not. Even if the record shows Galarraga did not throw a perfect game, we know that he did.

      Officials are actually part of the sports to attempt to remove the human element as much as possible. They are to be cold arbiters of the rules, as professional and machine-like as possible. It’s a shame that the first Mets no hitter actually wasn’t at all, and Santana would have been out of the game after the 7th inning if not for chasing the irrational achievement.

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  9. Lumens66 says:

    As a Mets fan of 32 years, last night’s accomplishment was sweeter than anything I’ve witnessed. I was too young to REALLY enjoy or appreciate the ’86 World Series, but last night will never be forgotten. Really, it was the second ridiculous performance by Johan I’ve seen. Game 161 of the 2008 season. On 3 days rest pitched a complete game shut out on >120 pitches. This eclipsed that all after coming off of major shoulder surgery and losing about 3 MPH off his fastball. Having had rotator cuff surgery myself, what he did is that much more heroic. I’ve watched so many Mets come close… Bobby Jones, Pedro Astacio, Kevin Appier, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine… The monkey is off our back! As for the Beltran controversy? As a life long Mets fan, all I can say is… It’s strangely fitting in the Wilpon era. And only a Mets fan or someone living in the NYC area will truly get that. Johan still needed to take advantage of it, and there have been other no hitters aided by bad calls – it’s just that they’re in HD with 24 hour coverage now. Thank you Johan. Thank you.

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  10. WinTwins says:

    Glad to see an old favorite finally getting a taste of some non Minnesota tainted history. That changeup….always loved watching that thing of beauty.

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  11. PrinceOfBeers says:

    5 walks and only 8Ks on 134 pitches is not dominance. It’s not the ugliest no-hitter, but it says more about the gimped Cardinals lineup than Santana’s skills.

    -23 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • DavidJ says:

      Five BBs is of course a lot, but there’s nothing “only” about 8 Ks in 32 batters faced. A 25% strikeout rate is excellent.

      +23 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Lumens66 says:

      That “gimped,” Cardinal lineup has the best batting average in the NL. Know your facts before you type ignorance.

      +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

      whoa whoa whoa… 8 Ks in that amount of hitters isnt dominance?

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  12. Jon L. says:

    Great article! Great game! I’m thankful to the MLB channel for showing the best parts live, even on the west coast.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. morrowrosanna says:

    just as Jason replied I’m blown away that a person can get paid $9505 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you read this site link makecash16Com

    -27 Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. morrowrosanna says:

    like Albert implied I am dazzled that some people can make $5031 in a few weeks on the internet. have you seen this link makecash16Com

    -28 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jason B says:

      Albert really needs to get with Jason, who is making *WAY* more off of these here internets…

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. derek says:

    Oh goodie..spam to enlivin the conversation.

    Change up was dominating, it was able to keep the Cards off his fastball, now that it isn’t elite anymore. Was luck involved? I say yes, not just the call against Beltran. His BABIP was .000!!! (SSS alert?) I say congrats Mr. Santana from a Braves fan, great story coming back from surgery!

    +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Snowblind says:

    No hitter with an asterisk.

    -24 Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Uh Oh Cordero says:

    Wouldn’t it have been more fitting if Beltran took strike 3 looking for the final out of the game?

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  18. j0hnj0hn says:

    Great game by Santana, but I do find it a bit odd that Fangraphs didn’t post the .GIF that showed that the ball Beltran hit was fair. The last time a questionable call was made that aided a no-hitter, this place was full of articles for instant-replay. A little consistency would be appreciated.

    Nonetheless, still a great performance bij Santana.

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    • chuckb says:

      We need instant replay.


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      • j0hnj0hn says:

        Oeh snappy. But that’s not the point. My point was that a site, especially one like this, needs to be consistent in how they evaluate these kinda of things. It just seemed odd that the last time around they were all for instant replay because the ump made a mistake and now when it happened again, not a single mention of it.

        My personal opinion on this matter about instant replay doesn’t matter, nor did I make it clear wheter I’m for it or not in my post so please read and/or understand a post before you go ahead and make a snide remark :)

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  19. caseyB says:

    For anyone talking about asterisks, should we put asterisks next to the Yankees’ title that was aided by Jefrey Maier? What about those titles heavily aided by confirmed steroids cheats? What about every WS title aided by a questionable umpiring call? This is a serious question.

    +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Bill says:

      You won’t get an answer for those things most likely. Especially from the fans of those teams mentioned

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Lumens66 says:

      They are all good questions. The reality is that baseball is an imperfect game played by imperfect people, because any adult with their faculties intact knows that life is imperfect. Shocking fact, I know. Armando Gallaraga was robbed of a perfect game by Jim Joyce. Should that be reversed? No. It is what it is. Johan Santana capitalized on a mistake by an umpire. Good for him. It’s an amazing achievement considering what he has come back from. Was is the best pitching performance of his career? Arguably, his best was in game 161 in 2008 against the Marlins, given the stage, implications behind the game and the fact that it was on 3 days rest… But it was still pretty frigging good – and also… A no hitter – last I saw when I looked at the box score. The first in a long overdue drought for us Mets fans. Tainted or now, I’ll take it all day long.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dean Travers says:

      Sure–put an asterisk on the Maier home run: but that’s not to say the Yankees still wouldn’t have won the game.

      The steriod stuff is mostly hearsay–in the case of Santana’s game we have factual evidence that Beltran got a hit; it may be a no-hitter on paper but in actuality it was not. No matter how many straw-man arguments Santana supporters build–you can’t deny that the Cardinals got a hit.

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      • caseyB says:


        1) Trailing by 1 run going into the ninth, the Yankees probably would NOT have won that game. The GIFT home run they were given altered the course of that game, and maybe the course of the entire series and postseason. That title deserves an asterisk.

        2) You clearly do not understand legal terms and issues. Most of the evidence gathered on players like Clemens, Justice, Neagle, Stanton, and Canseco concerning their usage during the years they played for the Yankees is NOT hearsay. It would be admissible in a court of law. In fact, you are seeing some it right now in the Clemens perjury trial. It is considered FACTUAL direct evidence in a court of law. And that is also the case with all the evidence we have so far that has been gathered as a result of BALCO and the Mitchell report and other ways. It is direct, factual evidence.

        No matter how much you are confused, you can’;t deny then that those teams who were able to win titles while many of their key players were on steroids had an unfair competitive advantage. If one wants to give Santana an asterisk, fine. Then also put one next to the Yankees’ 1996 title and also the subsequent ones where confirmed steroids abusers played a key role.

        And, IMO, the titles gained via cheating are much worse and much more invalid than any accolade gained via a missed umpiring call. One is cheating on the part of the players. The other is simply an error in human judgment in which the player had no part.

        +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Brian says:

        lmao “the steroid stuff is mostly hearsay”

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    • chuckb says:

      How about the Royals’ title aided by Don Denkinger’s brain fart at 1B?

      It counts. Asterisks are stupid. It also, however, further illustrates the need for instant replay. If the bad call and the “questions” about the no-hitter get us a little bit closer to instant replay, I say it’s a good thing.

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  20. Pat Golden says:

    no the real question is…. do you trade him?

    does the no hitter make him untradeable???

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    • Simon says:

      Fairly sure it’s the contract and shoulder surgery that make him pretty much untradeable.

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  21. Hurtlockertwo says:

    I love this, a pitcher being successful with more than a 100 mph fastball. This is baseball at it’s best!

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