3 Pitchers Who Should Alter Their Changeups To Improve Their Platoon Splits

Breaking down Bryce Miller, Kutter Crawford, and Bryan Woo

Being able to be effective against both right-handed and left-handed hitters is one of the most important tasks of being a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball, as pitchers who are unable to be effective against the opposite handedness are typically relegated to the bullpen either in the Minors or early in their Major League career. As a right-handed pitcher, the most effective way to neutralize the platoon advantage is to either develop a Changeup or a Splitter, as the pitch can generate sufficient arm-side movement to “fade away” from a left-handed hitter, often resulting in swing-and-miss or weak contact.

One example of a pitcher who altered their off-speed offering to improve their results against left-handed hitters and increase their overall level of production last season was Joe Ryan. After experiencing issues with retiring left-handed hitters during his rookie season in 2022, Ryan leaned into his natural supination bias and replaced his Changeup with a Splitter. This alteration led to Ryan experiencing more success against left-handed hitters in 2023, and more overall production particularly at the beginning of the season.


Joe Ryan vs. LHH (2022-2023)

This article will break down three pitchers – Bryce Miller, Kutter Crawford, and Bryan Woo, who I believe should alter their off-speed offerings this offseason in order to improve their results against left-handed hitters and increase their overall level of production in 2024.


Bryce Miller


Bryce Miller of the Seattle Mariners is one pitcher who should alter his changeup this offseason to improve his performance against left-handed hitters in 2024. Since making his major league debut on May 2nd, Miller has been very effective at retiring right-handed hitters, largely due to the production of his impressive four seamer, and the further development of his secondary pitches will be key to determining Miller’s ceiling as a starting pitcher moving forward.


Bryce Miller: Platoon Splits (2023)

As shown by the table above, Miller performed like an ace against right-handed hitters in 2023 (generating a 22.0% K-BB and .239 wOBA), while struggling quite a bit against left-handed hitters (with a 12.2% K-BB and .387 wOBA). Most of these struggles against left-handed hitters can be attributed to the fact that Miller does not have an effective secondary offering to utilize against the opposite-handedness. Sinkers and sweepers are generally ineffective when utilized to the opposite handedness, and Miller’s gyro slider was consistently hit for hard contact when it was utilized against left-handed hitters this past season.


Bryce Miller: Pitch Arsenal vs. LHH (Top 3 Pitches)

Increasing the usage of his changeup to left-handed hitters would appear to be the best course of action for Miller to take, however, the pitch has consistently been hit by left-handed hitters and it appears that Miller has little confidence in the pitch, as evidenced by its 10.8% usage rate to left-handed hitters. There are two possible explanations for why I believe Miller’s changeup was ineffective last season. One reason is that Miller was ineffective at locating the offering properly. Changeups work best when located down and away from opposing hitters since the pitch can generate plenty of swing-and-miss and weak contact in this area due to tunneling effects with the fastball. Instead of locating the pitch down-and-away, Miller frequently hung the pitch out over the middle of the plate, placing the pitch in a prime location for opposing hitters to make hard contact with the offering.


Source: Baseball Savant


Placing a focus on locating the changeup more down-and-away could increase the effectiveness of the offering, and improve Miller’s overall results against left-handed hitters next season. Another reason why Miller’s changeup has not been effective is because he may be throwing the wrong shape of an off-speed pitch. As has been trending around social media over recent days, Miller appears to have been developing a splitter to deploy in his pitch arsenal for next season. Developing a splitter makes sense for Miller, as his four seamer displays spin characteristics (85% active spin) which indicate that he exhibits the supination bias that is prevalent in pitchers who throw effective splitters. Splitters generate more downward vertical movement than changeups, which would generate more separation from Miller’s four seamer and likely more swing-and-miss. However, splitters typically generate less horizontal movement and are more difficult to command than changeups, running counter to the execution issues that Miller experienced with his off-speed offering in 2023.

At minimum, I would prioritize avoiding hanging his changeup over the heart of the plate next season if I were advising Bryce Miller, to limit the amount of hard contact the pitch allows moving forward. If Miller can find a balance between these two solutions and develop a splitter that he can locate down and away, then Bryce Miller can truly be considered a potential breakout candidate for 2024.


Kutter Crawford


Kutter Crawford of the Boston Red Sox is another pitcher that I believe should alter his changeup in order to improve their performance against left-handed hitters in 2024. Entering his third full season at the major league level, Crawford has succeeded against right-handed hitters due to his plus fastball and impressive secondary offerings but tends to allow a lot of fly balls against left-handed hitters due to the lack of an effective off-speed pitch.


Kutter Crawford: Platoon Splits (2023)

As shown by the table above, Crawford was excellent against right-handed hitters last season (generating a 21.3% K-BB and .289 wOBA), while his performance declined when facing hitters of the opposite handedness (generating a 16.2% K-BB and .291 wOBA). Crawford attempted to improve his platoon splits before last season by replacing his changeup with a splitter, however, the results of this adjustment can best be described as mixed, with the splitter generating fewer whiffs and a higher wOBA, while xwOBA indicated that the pitch was a slight improvement over the previous changeup.


Kutter Crawford: Off-Speed Offerings (2022-2023)

Crawford appeared to have lost confidence in his splitter as the 2023 season went on, as its usage rate experienced a consistent decline, and it appears that left-handed hitters began sitting on more upstairs fastballs as a result, as Crawford’s fly ball rate began to increase as his splitter usage decreased.


Kutter Crawford: vs. LHH (2023)

More fly balls typically result in more home runs allowed which is a result every pitcher tries to avoid, especially when allowing a 55% fly ball rate to left-handed hitters like Crawford did during the 2023 season. To limit the number of fly balls allowed, as well as to generate more swing-and-miss to left-handed hitters, Crawford needs to go back to the drawing board and improve the effectiveness of his off-speed offering. First, I am a bit puzzled at the decision for Crawford to change from utilizing a changeup to a splitter last offseason due to his spin characteristics. Splitters are typically best utilized by pitchers who display supination bias, and with a four seamer in the 95th percentile for spin rate and with 99% active spin, it appears to me that Crawford exhibits pronation bias. This indicates to me that there is no need for him to utilize a grip that presets pronation (as a Splitter does), and he should rather utilize more of a changeup grip to lean into his natural tendency to pronate.

A discrepancy in pitch classification between Baseball Savant and Alex Chamberlain’s Pitch Leaderboard lends credence to the idea that Crawford has been throwing the wrong off-speed pitch, and could provide a roadmap for how Crawford could improve the offering for 2024:


Kutter Crawford: Off-Speed Offerings (2022-2023)

As shown by the table above, Alex Chamberlain’s Pitch Leaderboard indicates that Crawford has thrown both a splitter and changeup this past season, compared to Baseball Savant which indicates that Crawford only utilized a splitter. While these are relatively small sample sizes, the Pitch Leaderboard shows that Crawford had much more success in 2023 generating swing-and-miss and weak contact with what it considered his changeup than he did with his splitter. In my opinion, this revelation indicates that Crawford should focus on utilizing a changeup in 2024 to create more horizontal movement on his off-speed offering to generate swing-and-misses to left-handed hitters. Possessing an effective off-speed offering once again will cause left-handed hitters to stop sitting on upstairs fastballs, most likely lowering Crawford’s fly ball rate in the process. If Crawford can develop an effective changeup to utilize to left-handed hitters, then I believe he can outproduce his current projections and move up in the Boston Red Sox starting rotation in 2024.


Bryan Woo


Bryan Woo of the Seattle Mariners is another pitcher I believe should alter his changeup to improve their performance against left-handed hitters in 2024. Since making his major league debut on June 3rd, Woo has been elite against right-handed hitters while struggling significantly against left-handed hitters. Similar to his teammate Bryce Miller, Woo displays a plus fastball with developing secondary pitches which will be key to determining his overall ceiling as a starting pitcher in the future.


Bryan Woo: Platoon Splits (2023)

As shown by the table above, Woo exhibits one of the most extreme platoon splits in all of Major League Baseball, producing like one of the game’s best pitchers against right-handed hitters (with a 26.2% K-BB and .221 wOBA) while struggling mightily against left-handed hitters (with a 6.7% K-BB and .394 wOBA). While Woo’s four seam-sinker combination has proven to be effective at retiring right-handed hitters at an incredible rate, the lack of an effective off-speed offering has made it challenging for Woo to generate significant swing-and-miss against left-handed hitters.


Bryan Woo: Pitch Arsenal vs. LHH (2023)

Despite already possessing a changeup as a part of his pitch arsenal, it appears that Woo does not have much confidence in the offering, utilizing the pitch only 6.3% of the time against left-handed hitters. To improve his results against left-handed hitters, it is imperative that he develops a better off-speed offering that can generate swing-and-miss and weak contact. Given the spin characteristics of his four seamer (86% active spin), it appears that Woo exhibits supination bias which makes him a good candidate to add a splitter to his pitch arsenal.

Adding a splitter to his pitch arsenal will allow Woo to generate more swing-and-miss to left-handed hitters, and would allow him to rely on pitches with unfavorable platoon matchups, such as his sinker, less when facing hitters of the opposite handedness. If Woo can effectively add a splitter to his pitch arsenal over the offseason and increase his production against left-handed hitters in 2024, then the sky’s the limit for what Woo’s ceiling can be as a member of the Seattle Mariners starting rotation into the future.

Photo by Bob Kupbens, Joe Robbins | Icon Sportswire
Adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@KUWasemiller on Twitter / @kurt_player02 on Instagram)

Adam Salorio

Adam Salorio is a Going Deep Writer at Pitcher List, and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. When he's not talking about or researching baseball, you can probably catch him at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

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