A Danny Salazar preview

Another changeup? - Hannah Foslien

PITCHf/x scouting the Cleveland rookie.

For the second one-game playoff in a row, the Rays will face a rookie with an excellent changeup. Baseball America rated Salazar's changeup as the best in the Cleveland system and it's easy to see why.

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via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

While it doesn't have a ton of run to it (Brooks Baseball calls it a splitter), the 23 year old rookie's 86 mph changeup falls off the table. What's more, his 97 mph-averaging four-seam fastball has big-time rise to it giving him a great movement gap between the two. Think Koji Uehara plus ten ticks on the radar gun (and hopefully without the pinpoint command).

He rounds out his arsenal with a hard 87 mph slider that he basically only throws against righties. His slider/changeup mix has been interesting. On the first pitch of an at bat to a right-handed batter he's thrown a slider 29% and a changeup only one 1% of the time. But when he gets to two strikes, he switches the usage rates. This season it's been a changeup 28% of the time and a slider only 12%. The changeup is his put-away pitch to batters from both sides.

Danny Salazar hasn't shown much of a split so far in a very small sample size (he's been tough on everyone), but for what it's worth he's both walked and struck out a few more lefties than he has righties this season.

Here are how the two starting pitchers's 2013 season stats match up:

Danny Salazar (52 IP) Alex Cobb (143.1 IP)
K% 30.8% 23.2%
BB% 7.1% 7.8%
GB% 34.4% 55.8%
ERA 3.12 2.76
FIP 3.16 3.36
xFIP 2.75 3.02
SIERA 2.79 3.26

Yes Salazar is a difficult matchup, but keep in mind the sample size. Thirty percent strikeout rates don't last forever.

Lastly, a note about GB%. You can sometimes get a good idea about how a pitcher operates by looking at his groundball rate. Alex Cobb has an extreme rate because all of his pitches produce grounders (the curve to a ridiculous extent). Most pitchers, though, are not that clear cut. Salazar is a flyball pitcher but he's not a simple one. His changeup is a groundball pitch (51%) while his slider and fastball are both flyball producers. I feel more comfortable with left/right splits than I am with GB/FB splits because the former is binary and easily recognizeable. The latter exists on a sliding scale and I'm not sure it's a system that we fully understand.

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