MLB put together its list of nastiest changeups, and San Diego Padres’ Chris Paddack made the cut. Where else can he improve?
Determining why Chris Paddack was so good in his rookie year with the San Diego Padres is not difficult. The 24-year-old made 26 starts – albeit on an innings count – while tossing 140.2 innings to go along with 153 strikeouts. Had he qualified, his 3.33 ERA would have been good enough for 17th best in baseball. Not bad for a rookie.
MLB recently identified pitchers with the best changeups in baseball, and Paddack was listed as one of them. They noted that the perceived difference from both his fastball and changeup at the release point looks relatively the same, thus producing some silly at-bats from the opposition.
Paddack threw his primary pitch 61.1 percent of the time last year, with his changeup and curveball rounding out the final 28.5 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively. And while opponents were able to hit .267 off his curveball, they produced just a .204 average off his fastball and .190 average off his changeup.
The average launch-angle off Paddack’s fastball was 21 percent, which means he induced a lot of flyball outs (42.3 percent per Fangraphs). The late drop in his fastball has yielded better results than the MLB league-average. Specifically, he had 2.0 inches – or 14 percent – more vertical drop than the rest of the league. Furthermore, he produced 0.9 inches – or 13 percent – more horizontal movement on his fastball as well. Essentially, what it boils down to is Paddack’s fastball isn’t a straight line from point A to B.
Paddack’s changeup produced the weakest contact of all his pitches, 85.3 percent, to be exact. And at nearly a 30 percent whiff rate, it’s easy to understand why he experienced so much success last season. His curveball is a work in progress, and Paddack needs to add more spin to this pitch.
For reference, his 2145 RPM on his curveball is well under someone like Stephen Strasburg, who exhibits a 2770 RPM spin rate. Strasburg induced just a .161 average off his curveball last year, and hopefully, Paddack spent the offseason continuing to develop this pitch.
I still think he needs to add another pitch to his arsenal to keep hitters even more off-balance. Something like a sinker fastball or slider would be ideal for Paddack to develop.