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.