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John Ely’s Changeup

John Ely, acquired from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre deal this offseason, has been a helpful addition to a Dodgers’ rotation dealing with an injury to Vicente Padilla. Although Ely’s ERA probably will not be under three at the end of the year — his BABIP is 0.274, he has yet to allow a HR in spite of his slightly below average GB%, and I don’t think he can maintain that 1.57 BB/9 rate (in the minors he never posted one below two) — his performance has been very encouraging, capped by last night’s no-run seven-inning start. (For a fantasy breakdown of Ely check out David Golebiewski’s recent piece.)

Ely’s fastball averages just 87 mph and the pitch is far from overwhelming, causing just 3% swinging strikes (whiffs per pitch). But he can get it in and around the zone enough to avoid walks and get ahead in the count. While the average pitcher goes with a slider or curve with two strikes to finish off an at-bat Ely goes to his change. Even against RHBs he throws the change 20% of the time in two-strike counts (against LHBs 45%).

And the results are very good, the pitch has a 28% swinging strike rate (whiffs per pitch). Part of the success of his changeup against lefties is its location; he keeps it perfectly located on the outer half of the plate, where the results are best. Here are the locations of his changeups to LHBs from the catcher’s perspective.

Pitchers whose best pitch is a changeup tend to have small-to-no-to-reverse platoon splits and his minor league numbers bear this out (4.08 FIP against LHBs and 3.97 against RHBs). In his 46 MLB innings so far (very small sample) he has posted a ridiculous reverse platoon split of 0.96 FIP against LHBs and 2.80 against RHBs.

As I said at the beginning, regression is coming for Ely, but, all the same, the Dodgers could do a lot worse for a starter after Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda.