His stuff may be the same, but Jacob deGrom says he wants his pitch selection to make him look very different to hitters this season. After Thursday’s spring training start against the Tigers, deGrom told reporters he wants to use his changeup more in 2017.
For now, deGrom says he has to regain confidence in the pitch so it can become a more important part of his arsenal. According to FanGraphs, Pitchf/x tracked deGrom threw his changeup a career-low 10.3% of the time in 2016. He threw it even less frequently than his curveball, the first time he’s ever done that over the course of a season.
Not that they’re directly correlated, but 2016’s pitch mix did coincide with deGrom’s career worsts in ERA, FIP, home run rate, and strikeout rate. He also struggled with his velocity throughout the season and was eventually shut down towards the end of the year to undergo elbow surgery.
deGrom says he’s been able to command his changeup reasonably well so far this spring, and the early returns have been encouraging. Over two starts, he has seven strikeouts in six scoreless innings and has allowed just two hits and no walks. Yes, it’s an egregiously small sample size. And yes, spring training statistics mean virtually nothing. But there are still signs deGrom could get back to his truly-dominant self this year.