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Let’s re-watch AJ Smith-Shawver’s changeups

Domination on repeat

Colorado Rockies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

When AJ Smith-Shawver busted out the changeup in his start against the Rockies, it wasn’t like he hadn’t thrown it before. Even in his first career start, coming against the Nationals, he threw six of them — but most didn’t draw swings, and the only real benefit he got from the pitch was getting Corey Dickerson to throw the bat out and pull an easy grounder to second on a well-placed one.

Fast-forward to his next start, though, and while the changeup wasn’t executed perfectly every time, it was nasty. Check these out, in order.

The first one he threw was the first pitch of leadoff guy Jurickson Profar’s second time up. Smith-Shawver pulled this one, holding on to it for a bit too long before letting go. But, Profar couldn’t handle it.

A few pitches later, Smith-Shawver came back with a better-executed changeup, and Profar couldn’t deal with this one, either.

One of just two on the night that didn’t draw a swing, this 0-1 offering to Brenton Doyle wasn’t a bad idea, but it was ultimately ball one in a PA that led to a walk and helped put Smith-Shawver into some temporary hot water, that he was eventually able to escape.

After the walk, Smith-Shawver went right back to being outright mean to Profar. Here’s the same 0-1 changeup he threw to Doyle that gets a whiff...

...and here it is again to put Profar away. I wonder if he’s going to have nightmares about this pitch later.

This was pretty much the gutsiest pitch in a key moment in the game, and it ended up paying all the dividends. This was one of just two changeups thrown to a righty in the game, and it came after Diaz had already taken Smith-Shawver deep once, and had battled through a bunch of his pitches in this PA.

Here’s the other changeup that the Rockies didn’t swing at, to Nolan Jones in a 1-0 count after Smith-Shawver came back out for the sixth. There was some kind of landing or mound issue with this pitch, but I don’t think it affected Jones’ decision not to swing.

But, even though that take led to Smith-Shawver falling behind 2-0, he battled back and delivered another changeup coup de grace:

On paper, Smith-Shawver’s changeup doesn’t look that great, as it lacks the tumble and fade you’d want from a premium offering. However, given that it’s his fourth pitch, it appears to have premium value in keeping hitters off his other pitches, and does so while enticing swings by lefties at stuff they probably can’t hit. Like everything else given its owner’s age and pitching experience, the changeup and its usage are a work in progress, but unlike a lot of guys who are still trying to figure out how to put the pieces together in a functional way in the majors, Smith-Shawver is already having success with his building blocks. Some, but not all, of his changeups in this game were set up by fastballs in a similar location on a prior pitch — but some were played off his impressive curve, and had the same effect.

Smith-Shawver was already fun to watch. The appearance of the changeup adds another intriguing dimension to his outings.

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