Since replacing injured pitcher Chris Young in the starting rotation, Wade LeBlanc has been lights out for the San Diego Padres.  In 23 innings he has a 1.16 ERA, a 2.15 FIP, and a 3.61 xFIP.  LeBlanc is unlikely to sustain such excellence for the entire season, but based on his performance thus far, there is no reason to think he cannot be a league average pitcher going forward.

LeBlanc’s best pitch is his change-up.  He throws it 25 percent of the time, and according to Fangraphs, it has been 5.73 runs above average per 100 pitches so far in 2010.  LeBlanc throws his change-up at 77 mph, 10 mph slower than his fastball.

Because his change-up is so solid, I wanted to see how it compared to some of the major league’s best change-ups according to pitch f/x.

I sorted by the 2009 leaders in change-up runs above average (total, not per-100), and selected the top three lefties for comparison.  The players with the best lefty change-ups in 2009 were: CC Sabathia, Cole Hamels, and Mark Buehrle.

The following table notes how often each pitcher threw his change-up, as well as some speed statistics:

Pitcher

% Change

Fast Vel.

Change Vel.

Diff.

Wade LeBlanc

25%

87 mph

77 mph

10 mph

CC Sabathia

20%

93 mph

80 mph

13 mph

Cole Hamels

24%

90 mph

81 mph

9 mph

Mark Buehrle

25%

85 mph

79 mph

6 mph

The speed difference between LeBlanc’s fastball and change-up is a bit less than Sabathia, but compares favorably with Hamels and Buehrle.

This table highlights each pitcher’s horizontal and vertical movement on his change-up;

Pitcher

Horizontal Movement

Vertical Movement

Wade LeBlanc

7.8

6.8

CC Sabathia

8.6

7.5

Cole Hamels

7.8

7.4

Mark Buehrle

7.0

3.6

Sabathia gets the most horizontal movement on his change-up, but it stays up a bit more than the others’. Buehrle’s change-up has by far the most sink.  The movement on LeBlanc’s change-up is pretty similar to Hamels’.

Finally, lets take a look at the pitch flight charts.  The charts were created using data from Brooks Baseball, and are pitch flights for each pitcher’s most recent start:

There are slight differences between each of the pitcher’s change-ups, but frankly, they are pretty similar. For LeBlanc, this is a good thing.  His change-up is pretty comparable from a “stuff” perspective to Sabathia, Hamels, and Buehrle, three of the top change-up pitchers in baseball.  LeBlanc is unlikely to ever be as good as those three because there is a lot more to pitching than just having a good change-up, but it is certainly a start.

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