That's my story and I'm sticking to it!!
Riding a rocket to 2.5, btw.
Stuff, guts and pitchability is a deadly brew.
It's probably been fifteen years since Dr. D heard a TV broadcaster refer to a 'dead fish changeup.' They are found only in captivity when (1) thrown by a left hand starter, (2) aimed to the low-away corner, and (3) slimy with enough sinking scales that they flop into the black like a dying fish.
At times, pitches like these used to be referred to as "fosh (full of slop) balls," fosh changes and Eddie Guardado threw a palm ball with the same intent. Earl Weaver is credited with the term: "Shlabotnik's changeup is halfway between a fastball and a dead fish."
Pretty rare to sight a "dead fish" in MLB captivity since they shot Jamie Moyer and put his antlers in the circle of honor at Safeco.
The first specific time that Dr. D remembers seeing one -- from a Mariner, of course -- was when Roenis Elias pitched last May 20th. On that day, Elias' feel for this pitch was Moyer-likeThe Orioles feel for the pitch was, um, not. Elias threw 33 changeups in his 82 pitches to right hand batters, and despite this uranium-heavy reliance on the pitch:
- 33 foshball changeups
- 70% strikes
- Almost all of the whiffs he got on the day (7 of 10 came via the cambio)
- Only two base hits yielded
- -1.3 runs saved in just the 33 changeups
Note that ALL of these changeups were thrown to RH batters such as Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jimmy Paredes and Delmon Young
So, we figured, wow. Great game. Hope he bottled a little for next start.
Then in Monday's game, the 25th, Elias came out and was even more confident in his changeup. He threw 34 changeups and only 46 other pitches to RH batters, but despite this usage:
- He got 7 more swings-and-misses, and
- Even assuming that a RH batter made contact, their AVG was .100 (1-for-10)
- The Linear Weights were -1.82 on the 34 curve balls
And then, once Elias has them "in between" guarding against the changeup/fastball, the curve plays way up. ... just real quick, here is the video from that game:
|0:04||Change-curve (back door) draws garbage swing and K|
|0:17||Curve ball again "plays up" after change-and-heater; note the batter's top hand come off|
|0:23||Hook beats Young fair 'n square|
"Splitfinger" changeup splits plate, dives into shins for K on Longoria
|:36||You can see Elias expanding the strike zone like Neshek ...|
|:44||And check this out|
|:51||There's the dead-fish; this one is "too high and too firm," ie. a bad one by his standards that day|
Most of the time, he hit the low-away corner beautifully. Half a dozen times, he threw it too firmly and left it waist-high but kept it on the outside corner; these were skied to center or chopped to 1B. Half a dozen other times, he threw the change knee-high splitting the plate, and the bottom fell out of it like a forkball. Evan Longoria fanned on one of these, IIRC.
The point is, Elias' confidence in the pitch is through the roof. He'll throw it 3x in a row, will throw it 3-1 and 3-2, will throw it with the bases loaded.
And that, kiddies, is when a pitcher with a live arm becomes really dangerous. When he loves the "power changeup" on 3-and-2. There isn't any real defense to an electric arm that will pull the string in a hitter's count.
Reminds you of the rookie Doug Fister, who had 3 different fastballs he'd attack with (jam, black/knees, up the ladder), an interesting but inconsistent change-speed game, a fearless attitude. It seemed like Doogie mastered one more attack weapon once per year, until finally he was a top-15 pitcher using only 88 MPH on the gun. ... Elias has better pure stuff than Dougie, though.
Elias has meanwhile found joy in a different approach to lefties: he drops the arm angle down, and he throws both FB's and CVs to the outside corner. Once in a while he comes 93 up-and-in so they can't lean out over. He's got a legitimate LOOGY attack against the LH's into the bargain here.
He tortured Officer Nick Franklin in one at-bat: fosh change, fosh change, WHOOOOP 92 MPH up and in, fosh change. We do believe the lad is developing some stratergies here. But in any case, he is learning visibly. If Taijuan Walker is nine miles behind where we hoped he'd be, Roenis Elias is nine miles ahead of where Dr. D thought he had any right to be. This winter, we were talking about trading him for guys like Mookie Wilson,* but the kid we have seen the last two games? Nada. He's been a ball of fire.