After the Rays acquired Jalen Beeks from the Boston Red Sox for eventual World Series martyr Nathan Eovaldi, it was clear (h/t Dom) that his changeup would become a weapon the Rays employed, but that change in approach has reached an extreme in 2019.
Jalen Beeks has doubled up on his changeup usage this year (18% to 34%) at the expense of his cutter (20% to 6%). This was an anticipated change in that Beeks fessed up that his cutter was going to go by the wayside during Spring Training, but the anticipated offsetting pitch was supposed to be the return of his slider.
Instead, it’s been all changeup.
While there’s also been an increase in changeup useage against right-handed batters (the most traditional way for a lefty pitcher to use his changeup), the biggest difference is that Beeks has started leaning on his changeup lefty-on-lefty as well—an approach he’s never used in the past at the major league level.
In fact, the change has become his most used pitch against the same hand:
Beeks throws a two-seam style changeup with decent sink and very good run, especially compared to his rising four-seam fastball. With movement like that, we would expect Beeks to be able to use his changeup to draw both whiffs and ground balls, and so far, that’s exactly what’s happened.
Against lefties, the newly-popular changeup has been the most dependable strike pitch (only 30% balls), while maintaining a decent 33% whiff rate. Of the five changeups lefties have put in play, four of those have been ground balls.
This shift to the change has come alongside a new delivery, where Beeks has heightened his deception in the off-season by completely hiding the ball behind his leg during his throwing motion, in turn increasing his average velocity as well.
Here’s what that delivery looked like in late 2018:
And here’s his delivery from when he struck out seven Royals last week, where the new delivery is on discplay:
Ryan O’Hearn is completely fooled on a full-count change in the zone, and this at bat is a microcosm of Beeks’s rise in changeup use. With the count full, and two men already on base, Beeks had the confidence to throw his changeup. The 2018 version wouldn’t have done that.
As an aside, I don’t believe the Pitching Ninja has yet to feature Beeks, as I looked for one of his classic overlays of fastball and offspeed for the article and didn’t find one. Here’s to hoping today’s anticipated daytime outing in game one of a double header puts twitter on notice as he faces the Royals again.