Medlen's changeup is key to success in Game 1

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ATLANTA - If you're looking for the most dominant pitch in the NLDS between the Braves and Dodgers, it will be on showcase in Game 1 on Thursday. But it might not be what you're thinking.

 

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw has one of the best out pitches in the game in a slider that produced a swinging strike 41 percent of the time it was swung at this season. His highest career rate is 43 percent in 2009 and 2010.

 

That is a very high mark for any pitch in baseball, but it's not the best in the series. It's not even the best in Game 1.

 

Braves right-hander Kris Medlen will take the mound in Atlanta's second consecutive playoff game with a changeup that induced a swinging strike 46 percent of the time it was swung at this season. That's his highest career mark.

 

According to FanGraphs pitch values, Medlen's changeup ranks sixth in MLB. Two reasons are because it's such a difficult pitch to hit, and he commands it very well. Another huge reason is the pitch's success against both sides of the plate.

 

Medlen's changeup actually has a higher swinging strike percentage against right-handed batters at 49 percent compared to 45 percent against left-handed batters. This goes against most pitchers with a strong changeup, as most will utilize it against an oppo batter to neutralize the split. So Medlen is able to throw the pitch with tons of success against both sides, which explains why he throws the pitch often to righties.

 

Medlen said throwing a changeup to both sides is "something I need to do." His fastball sits around 90 miles per hour and, although he commands it well, it's not a pitch he can blow by batters. His curveball is a solid offering, but it's a third pitch, not a true out pitch. So the small right-hander leans on the change of pace for much of his success.

 

The attached maps show Medlen's changeup usage and his whiff/swing rate on the pitch over the course of his career. They indicate where he likes to throw the pitch and how dangerous it really is for batters in all parts of the zone.

 

For my print story on Medlen starting Game 1 of the series, click here.

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