MIAMI — From 2015-18, Jake Arrieta was a pitcher that leaned primarily on his sinker and mostly turned to his slider and curveball when it was time to add secondary options into the mix. On Friday, he continued his evolution into someone who can get you out with a changeup.
“This is as good as we have seen his changeup,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “it was pretty spectacular tonight.”
Kapler has seen a difference in the way that Arrieta attacks from the mound.
“I think [pitching coach Chris Young] has worked really hard on helping him create a vertical attack,” Kapler said. “C.Y. talks a lot about how when his ball is moving horizontally, and his changeup moves down when it’s good. When his ball is moving horizontally, he is more on barrels. When it’s moving vertically, it’s more off barrels. We saw that [Friday], he was off the barrel all night. Even when he wasn’t getting the swings-and-misses, he was off barrels.”
Arrieta’s whiff percentage is significantly higher on his changeup compared to any other one of his pitches this season. He is getting swing-and-misses on 16 percent of his changeups; no other pitch has a whiff rate above 10 percent, according to Brooks Baseball. He has also yet to give up a fly-ball on his changeup in 2019.
Arrieta recently made an adjustment to the pitch.
“The changeup is such a good pitch for me,” Arrieta said. “And an adjustment that I made in a bullpen session a few days ago was shortening my arm path. When I dig too far behind me, that creates a lateral rotation and I’m trying to keep it inside my body line and not allow it to go behind me. That allows me to get my arm to the right spot at the release, and when I can do that, my changeup is going to be really good.”
The Phillies pitcher is taking full advantage of the quality of his changeup, throwing it on 17.4 percent of his pitches this season. According to FanGraphs, his previous high was 10.5 percent, a mark he set last season, and he’s thrown changeups only 7 percent of the time in his career. This year, the changeup has become his second-most used pitch for the first time in his career.
“That’s why this game is so much fun because even though I have been doing this for eight or nine years, I’m still learning,” he said. “Every day I come into the ballpark, I am trying to get better at something. I owe it to my teammates to that, to myself, to the Phillies organization to do everything in my power to be elite because I know I can still be elite and [Friday] was a glimpse of that.”
Although only having three starts so far this season, Arrieta is sporting a 2.25 ERA, his lowest ERA since he won the Cy Young Award in 2015.