As Lucas Giolito has developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball, he’s changed his repertoire a bit. After leaning heavily on his fastball during his time in Washington and his first two seasons in Chicago, Giolito has started working an effective changeup into his gameplans. Now, it’s one of his most effective “out” pitches.
Giolito is so comfortable with his changeup now, he’s throwing it 34.9% of the time this season, while throwing the fastball on 50.5% of his pitches according to FanGraphs. Back in 2018, he only threw the changeup 15.9% of the time. Go all the way back to 2016, his first season in the majors, and Giolito only threw the change 11.1% of the time, while pumping fastballs on 71.1% of his pitches.
Ahead of his no-hitter, in which he threw changeups on 38 of 101 pitches according to FanGraphs, Giolito spoke with the Pitching Ninja about his new and improved offspeed pitch, and why he confuses so many hitters with that one pitch.
“I can throw it a certain way, where it’s just dead straight, like my heater,” Giolito told Pitching Ninja. “Or, I can kind of finish it a little bit and get a little bit of that fade. But the basic thought process is like I’m throwing a fastball. Arm speed: huge. Being behind the ball with both of my fingers and just letting it come off of my middle finger.
“My changeup, depending on how I release it, will have a ride to it. So it’ll be like my fastball, where it will have that vertical carry... Most pitching minds look at that and say, ‘Uhhh, you don’t want your changeup to do that.’ I actually do want my changeup to do that sometimes, because it makes it look more like my four-seam fastball.”
Giolito relies on confusing the batter with a drastic velocity change, as opposed to late break with less of a velocity change, like Stephen Strasburg employs. To give you an idea of how difficult it can be for hitters, Giolito’s average fastball velocity on Tuesday night was 94.6 mph, according to FanGraphs. His changeup was sitting at 81 mph on average. That 13.6 mph difference can be devastating for opposing hitters because it looks just like a fastball coming out of Giolito’s hand.
“Let’s say a guy’s in a 2-0 count,” said Giolito. “He’s looking heater and I throw a pitch that looks identical to the heater, but it’s 12 mph slower. It’s most likely going to be a swing and miss, or off the end of the bat.”