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Behind the Box Score: Salazar's diving changeup

Despite a few reoccurring issues, Danny Salazar's changeup remains to be one of the best pitches on the entire Cleveland Indians pitching staff. The IBI's John Alfes shows why...

While Danny Salazar has given up eight of his 17 runs in the first inning and shown an inability to work deep into games, he still possesses a pitch that makes even the best hitters look silly.

The flame-throwing right-hander punched out another seven batters (burgundy dots) to give him a team-leading 49 strikeouts through 33.2 innings of work on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium...

Impressively, six of the seven strikeouts came on changeups with the other putaway pitch being a two-seam fastball up in the zone.

Forty of Salazar's 98 pitches (40.8%) were changeups against the Royals, a mark well above his usage rate of 33.1% this season. In addition, Salazar was throwing the offering at an average velocity of 87.9-mph (season average: 86.3-mph) with an average exit velocity of 77-mph.

In other words, Salazar was throwing his changeup more frequently with a higher velocity and better results - 15 swinging strikes, 2 called strikes and five batted balls in play.

Here are a few more pictorial representations showing just how useful the changeup is in not only controlling the at-bat, but also making major league hitters look out of place at the plate...

Result: Strikeout on a 2-2 changeup (blocked) in the dirt vs. Mike Moustakas

Result: Strikeout on a 1-2 changeup (blocked) in the dirt vs. Salvador Perez

Result: Strikeout on a 1-2 changeup (blocked) in the dirt vs. Mike Moustakas

Result: Strikeout on a 1-2 changeup low in the zone vs. Salvador Perez

On all four occasions, Salazar gets ahead in the count with a well-located two-seam fastball before unleashing the lethal changeup, the best weapon in his arsenal. Although his final line may be concerning and inefficient - 4.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R/ER, 2 BB, 7 BB (98 pitches, 62 strikes, 63.3%) - there are still many positive takeaways in an outing defined by Eric Hosmer's go-ahead two-run homer.

As Salazar continues to get more comfortable with each of his pitches, his changeup will become even more dangerous because of its unparalleled ability to change the eye-level of opposing hitters while diving into the dirt to produce a disappearing effect.

It is still early in the campaign so look for Salazar to work on his fastball/curveball/slider command and set up his changeup at an even higher rate moving forward in 2017.

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.


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