That Death-Dealing "80" Changeup
Is Erasmo Ramirez nearing the Pineda/Seager Best Bet HOF?


=== The Stats ===

Run to Fangraphs and check out the run value on Erasmo's changeup.  You'll find +2.55 on the year, which is Erikkkk-curve magnitude.  Okay, great.  You'll pardon us for chuckling that a saberdude would note, "SSS Alert" and ... then what?

Only by getting the two together, sabermetrics and tools scouting, can we get a decent triangulation on what might happen next.  Stats are backwards-looking by their very nature.  What is happening, what has happened, sabe da man.  As to what hasn't happened yet ... often sabe don' got a clue.  Will the league adjust to Erasmo's changeup?  Where's the stat for that?

More stats:  against the Orioles, Erasmo's 28 changes saved him 1.15 runs (in just that 1/4 of a game).  28 pitches, 12 balls, 6 whuffs, 7 strikes via foul or called strike, and three balls in play.  A huge run value despite the fact that he leaned on it verrrrrrrrry heavily.


=== The Arm Action ===

Head to this fine video, which has about a dozen of his pitches.  Watch the first pitch very carefully.  No, don't watch the pitch:  ignore the pitch.  Watch the arm very carefully.  You get it?

Now watch the arm, and back foot, at 0:20 where he throws a Michael Pineda fastball 94 MPH into a teacup on the low-away corner.  Or the fastball at 0:29, or the one at 0:39 --  if anything his arm action is more vicious on the changeup than it is the fastball.  Go back and check that changeup at 0:10, or another changeup at 0:52.  

A picture's worth 1000 words.  Watch the arm fire, watch the wrist snap, watch the back foot come up.  I'm totally comfortable in asserting that:  there is nobody in baseball who sells a changeup any better than Erasmo Ramirez.  Not Cole Hamels, not Felix, not Tim Hudson.  In fact, I'll take Erasmo's sales job over theirs.  He doesn't have as many zeroes on his paycheck, but facts are facts.  This kid can sell a changeup.

He's just having too much fun with that cambio.  You can see his joy in throwing it.  It has dawned on him that they can't hit it, and there's no looking back.  It gets better every game.


=== The Movement ===

If Erasmo's changeup had nothing other than that arm action, and the -10 to -12 MPH off his fastball, then his changeup would be "plus-plus."  And don't dog me about big grades, Jason:  he's got the +2.55 run value card to present at the door of the "70" score.  ;- )

But get a load of the sink on it!  First of all, here is the Brooks Baseball chart with the sink on Jason Vargas' changeup (yellow dots), and Vargas' change scores among the best in baseball:


Vargas usually has about 4-7 inches' RISE compared to vacuum; here it's 5-10.  Which is average.  How do you get a circle change to rotate forward and therefore drop compared to vacuum?  Iwakuma sometimes does.  Felix sometimes does.  About 50% of the time for each (I've been counting).  Vargas' change is arm action, control, and extra armside run.

Erasmo Ramirez' changeup, Tuesday, broke down as if it were an overhand curve ball.  Well, as if it were a Felix changeup.  Check the yellow dots:


And here's a neat .gif or two on it.  From a batter's perspective, where 4-5" rise is the MLB standard on a changeup, this baby is falling off the table by an extra 6-8".  Just as you swing, the ball drops -- by the width of three baseballs or three bats.  It's a tribute to the ML hitter that he can sometimes make contact with R.A. Dickey's knuckleball, Erasmo Ramirez' changeup, and Erik Bedard's curve.

Let other bleacher sections wait until Erasmo's making $15M per year before they acknowledge his changeup as an "80" (Plus-Plus-Plus) pitch.  Ours will acknowledge the reality now.


=== The Command ===

If that hadn't been enough, look at where he put his changeups on Tuesday, again the yellow dots:


28 changeups, 16 strikes -- and we find that they were strikes only because the batters were whiffing and/or fouling off changeups that fell below the knees.  Only 6 of those 28 changeups were actually in the strike zone.  Would you explain to us, slow in one-syllable words, how any hitter is supposed to hit an Erasmo Ramirez changeup that is not in the strike zone?

You might ask "Why doesn't the hitter just make him get the pitch up?  Why not just tell yourself you're not going to chase any slow pitch that's low?"  Because.  As they start their swings they are swinging at what they think are fastballs.

You, my friend, are looking at one of baseball's unhittable pitches.  Well, you know what we mean:  it will be put in play sometimes, but there is no adjustment to this weapon.  There is nothing that a batter can do, against this pitch executed this way, other than to hope to foul it off.  And try to get some other pitch, a mistake somewhere.  (See the 1 out of 28 changeups that missed, high?  That's the one hit hard and deep at 0:54 on this video.)


=== The Total Game ===

We wouldn't be quite so jazzed if it weren't for the location of the fastballs, as well.  Look at where the green dots are.  They're (almost) all high, where hot fastballs should be, where hitters swing under them and where they change the eye level.  You've got the kid firing fastball-looking changeups that drop just below the knees, and tormenting hitters with letter-high 94 MPH fastballs that are murder to get on top of.

Several of those heaters were (1) painted, while (2) thrown with all his might.  Pineda style.  He's given up the challenge fastball, at his height.  He's gone to locating it.  And now he's having fun locating it.  Pineda style.


As a completely separate issue, the slider looks great too.  Ho, Hum.


In March, we all knew that he had the glorious Maddux mechanics, the K/BB ratio, and therefore the long-term command.  We'd see if he's got an offspeed game and pitchability.

In May, we sez he's got the offspeed pitch.  We'd see if he's got the pitchability.  He needs to base his game off his changeup, avoid centered fastballs, attack hitters to miss bats.

In September, he has done precisely that.  All of it.  We're lacking one thing, [the assurance that he'll keep using these strategies], from slamming the SSI Best Bet here.  ... and does it look to you like he's going to forget how to use his pitches?

Put it this way.  Erasmo moves ahead of Hisashi Iwakuma for 2013 on my team.  If the Big Three all become Tim Lincecum, then Erasmo Ramirez still makes 30 starts for the cyberSSI-Mariners next year.  If he's going to attack like that, his height is not going to matter.


Be Afraid.  Be Very Afraid,

Dr D






Lonnie of MC's picture like the Cheshire cat. I've been pounding the table for Erasmo for 3+ years now, and he's making me look like a freakin' genius!
Go, little man! Go!


That changeup, plus the head on his shoulders, makes him really, really dangerous. He's so much fun to watch that I hope we're watching him succeed for years, and he gives us the flexibility to finish our roster makeover, fixing deficiencies by trading excess.
Felix + Vargas/Iwakuma + Erasmo = 2 slots for Beavan / Noesi (ha) / Hultzen / Paxton / Walker / Maurer / Carraway / Mitchell / etc who are all in the AAA holding area next year if they're not on the big club.
It's not like we can stick a Paxton in the pen for a bit until a spot clears - the pen is stuffed to the gills with 99 mph arms, with more high-90s guys on the way.
Erasmo as a Fister-esque plus pitcher allows us the freedom to do many things (one of which is hopefully not to trade Erasmo just as he hits the success afterburners).
Will we trade one? Dunno - depends what we can get in return. But you don't need FIVE slots in Tacoma dedicated to pro-quality arms when your entire major league rotation is locked in for 2+ years. Brandon Maurer would be the best pitching prospect in several orgs. A guy who turned 22 a couple months ago and put up 9K per 9 the second half of the year in AA, with a 2.5:1 K:BB ratio and got some extra nasty on his pitches to go with a 2.40 ERA?
He has to struggle just to get his hat into the ring for our top 5.
I'm glad we have all this talent, but I've already got Erasmo in my preferred 2013 rotation as well. If it was me, the 2013 rotation goes Felix / Iwakuma / Erasmo / Hultzen / Paxton. That leaves plenty of Mitchell/Beavan level stopgaps as well as some guys like Maurer with #3-4 upside hanging out waiting for a shot if somebody struggles or gets injured.
And leaves Walker, aka the Next Pineda, available for trade.
Having an Erasmo blossom leaves so many options open. I'm really happy for him - and us. As long as the front office doesn't blow the opportunities they've given themselves, the 2013 Mariners should come out of the gate ready for a fight, for the first time in a while.


Yer track record amigo is actually sort of not bad.  You (and G) were on Erasmo, you were way onto Carter Capps long before anybody else was, you've got that Italian third sacker in your collection and three years on, that could be prescient.  Couple others are eluding me... Pryor or Wilhelmsen?
I always thought you were kind of retarded or something, but you can speak you some Rainier.
;- ) jk of course m'man.
Okay, who's the ONE guy who's next.


Only question remaining is the level of pitchability he showed Tuesday, and the game before, the Maddux/Moyer level of pitchability.  If he's got that the upside is way up there, right?
Like the line about high-90's arms with more on the way.  You personally are thinking of which 1-2 guys (not your list of 12 reaching down to Everett)) pulling off the next Capps/Pryor and blowing AL hitters away 2H 2013 or in 2014?  :- )
Forrest Snow throws hard.  Never heard what happened to Stephen Kahn.

Daryl's picture

Unbelievable. Erasmo's change is the best I've seen all year and reminds me of old school Pedro with the Red Sox. He has the deception, the velo difference, and the incredible drop. This kid is going to be something special, assuming he stays healthy. He has fantastic command and a plus gasser to boot.
Bugs bunny changeup all the way!


He's kicking my butt lately. He also called his shot on Campos bright and early in Spring Training before anyone else had even seen him. I believe the next guy he was on back in A-Ball was Romero, but since I think we're mostly all on that bandwagon at the moment, um... who else you got, Lonnie? You're big on Victor Sanchez right?
My Five to Watch in the low minors would probably be Pike, Kivlehan, DeCarlo, Lopes, and Choi (who shouldn't count except for that injury thing, but still - I love that dude's swing). Landazuri if Choi doesn't count. Lonnie's been going international on me with Sanchez and Guerrero, also loving the domestic teens, Landry and Marder. I was on Carson Smith before him, but that's not making up the difference right now.
Of course since Zduriencik keeps adding all this interesting talent to the system, it's hard to go wrong picking a successful minor leaguer at the moment. I think Lonnie's optimism is serving him well in the Jack Era, while my Bavasi hangover makes me think all these guys can't possibly keep blossoming like this...right?
Bask in the glory, Lonnie - all your boys are showing well. :D


Carson Smith is a flat bomber. 11K / 4 BB in High Desert for the year with a 2.4 GB ratio, but the second half? 0.57 ERA in 32.1 IP, 49K / 11 BB. Devastating side-arm righty who throws mid-90s, which as a sidearmer is ridiculous.
Video Lonnie shot of Carson Smith.  
Burgoon was a closer in college, and for all his lack of height (5'10") he's another mid-90s righty with a hard breaker.  The Goon killed it in that purgatory known as High Desert too.  11.5 K / 4.5 BB / 7.5 H per 9, and the second half was better too.  1.10 ERA in in 32.2 IP, 38K / 14 BB.  He's another potential set-up guy who should be starting in AA next year.
Chance Ruffin could always turn it around, or Grady Wood (another sidearmer who's in Everett this year but should hit full-season with a vengeance next year) might make the Capps leap.  Of course, that sort of thing didn't work out for Austin Bibens-Dirkx, but we have several pen arms that are keeping up the crazily-scary performance curve.  
And Moran and LaFromboise aren't exactly chopped liver from the left-hand side either.  Not the next Pryor, but the next Luetge/Furbush?  Maybe we'll see.

Lonnie of MC's picture

Watch out for Chance. I think he may have had a lingering boo-boo early in the year that wasn't bad enough to bench him, but it was bad enough to make him suck. Check this out:
Pre All-Star Game: 7.77 ERA
Post All-Star Game: 2.59
Not the end-all of stats, but it does tell a story.
Another relief arm that demands attention is Danny Farquhar. Some folks think he's better than Kelley and maybe as good as Pryor (but doesn't throw as hard) The word I'm hearing is that Farquhar has the best cutter in the system.

Lonnie of MC's picture

...guy and say he is the next great thing. I always liked Romero, but even I couldn't have called what he did this past season. What he did in High Desert didn't quite surprise me, but carrying that forward to Jackson did.
On the pitching side of the ledger I'm in on:
Victor "Filthy" Sanchez
Tyler Pike
Charles Kaahalekahi (don't take your eyes off of this one)
Dylan "Sharkie" Unsworth
Stephen Landazuri
Rusty Shellhorn
Jordan Shipers
Trevor Miller
Jordan Pries
Roenis Elias
Cameron Hobson
Of that group, they guys who are guaranteed to fly under the radar and surprise a lot of people in the years to come is:
Charles Kaahalekahi
Dylan Unsworth
Trevor Miller
Jordan Pries
The guy who I think a lot of folks will suddenly "discover" to be a pretty dang good pitcher will be Roenis Elias.
The one pitcher who has the potential to make the biggest impact in 2013 is Trevor Miller. From what I have been told, the organization is pretty high on him. If you see him in Jackson next year then look for him to finish out in Tacoma with an outside chance at a Sept callup.
There are dozens of position players who I'm tracking, of which these are just a few:
OF Gabriel Guerrero
SS Gabrial Franca
SS Timmy Lopes
SS Brock Hebert
OF Jabari Henry
OF Dario Pizzano
3B Patrick Kivlehan
CF Jamal Austin
IF Daniel Paolini
CF Leon "Neon" Landry
C/2B Jack Marder
Those are the guys that I believe will have good solid seasons next year. The list is actually longer, but I don't want to hog up the thread.
The guy that I'm calling out right now to have a good, solid year in 2013 is Gabriel Guerrero. Watch him to start the year with Everett, but there is a pretty good chance, IMHO, that he breaks camp and goes to Clinton. Personally, I'd rather see him stay in extended ST and go to Everett after it warms up a bit.
Watch for guys like Kivlehan and Pizzano to go to High Desert and treat A+ pitching badly.

Lonnie of MC's picture what any player has going on north of his shoulders. I don't know if they have the guys take any sort of intelligence test like the NFL's Wonderlick test, but I'm willing to bet a stack of money that Erasmo would grade out at or near the top of the class. Everything that I read about the kid says that he is driven and very intelligent. I'm hoping to get some time to talk to him next year (he speaks excellent english).

Hit and Run's picture

. . . Brazis. Was that Spectator or Lonnie that put the spot light on him first?
Ridiculous numbers: 27.2 IP, 5 BB, 51 K's! batting average against .117?
Are you kidding me? Can't wait to see how he performs next year.
Most of the position players I am following are on this list at the Show
BTW: Great write up on Erasmo! I read this site all the time but rarely chime in. Keep up the good work!

Hit and Run's picture

Why is my comment being reviewed by Administrators? Do we have to wait two days or so between comments


Not to pile on the ERam train here, but have you noticed (of course you have) that in his last 4 MLB starts he's thrown 25.2 innings, giving up only 13 hits and walking just two...while K'ing 24.
Holy snot! That looks like Felix's recent hot streak!
It's hard to do that 4 goes in a row and not have outstanding out-creating stuff.
If (A big If) the M's are set on fast-tracking two of the Big Three, then ERam's recent explosion makes Vargas likely to be bait.


I like Vargas a bit actually, but I don't think we can really call him "bait" unfortunately. At least not in the sense that he'd a juicy valuable target. He has a lot more value to us than he does to most other teams thanks to Safeco, and he's not cheap anymore. Solid pitcher, but not jazzy in a way that could generate good offers probably.


I must be missing something - or GM's are less intelligent than I think.
How is it that most experts and we bloggers always say that most mariner pitchers have little to no value?
Why is it that other GM's do not see value in Vargas, Beavan, Furbush, Erasmo, Fister, and even the Delabars and League?
While these guys may not be stars yet... these guys have proven to be be very valuable scrubs.
These guys have to be worth more than Wells, Ruffin and Thames.
Further, why do we HAVE to trade one from Cerebus to get someone meaningful to us VERSUS trading Beavan or Erasmo or Vargas & a Brandon Maurer & a Trayvon for Gio Gonzales or such.
Teams all the time make 3 or 4 prospects & scubs for one STAR... why can't the Mariners?
We have PLENTY of prospects and scrubs.


Hall of Famer Jim Palmer made that exact comparison on the Orioles broadcast. He also pointed out they're both only 5'11'' and that Ramirez has been able to carry his velocity deep into games like Pedro.


The thing about scrubs-for-stars deals is that they almost never work out for the team getting the scrubs. GM's flat don't like to make them, it's a high-risk proposition: see the Doug Fister trade. And note that even though Fister was just a middling pitcher by reputation at the time, he cost Wells, Furbush, Ruffin and Martinez, which is actually a pretty big grab bag of second-tier prospects. You're never ever going to get Albert Pujols for your AAA outfield, is the point.
Plus making scrub-for-star trades seriously limits your target market. Contending teams never want mid-level prospects for their productive players, because that hurts their team in an immediate sense. With very rare exceptions, you can only get superstars via trade if they A) are fairly expensive and play for teams that are actively declining or B) are blocking another, better player on a non-contender. That essentially limits targets for the Mariners to make that kind of trade to... well, Arizona and Minnesota. Maybe Philadelphia. Perhaps somewhere else I'm forgetting.
No one wants our grab bag of fourth outfielders for the purposes of replacing their Alex Gordon, because value isn't additive like that. Thames, Wells, and Robinson can't all play the outfield at the same time; they combine to cover one position at most, and thus aren't very valuable to contending teams because they can't and don't project to produce at an outstanding level on their own.


We have the following candidates for Baseball America's top 100: Taijuan Walker (probably top-15), Mike Zunino (top-25), Danny Hultzen (top-25), Nick Franklin (top-75) and James Paxton (top-75).
That does not include:
- Stefen Romero (posted a 1.000 OPS as a 23 year old MIF in AA)- Brad Miller (.900 OPS AA SS who was also the ACC POY last year)- Erasmo Ramirez (getting Pedro-lite comps from the announcers of other teams),- Brandon Maurer (22 yo MOP of the Southern League this year, over Walker and Paxton)- Victor Sanchez (2nd in the NWL in Ks, 2 years younger (17) than any other league pitcher)- any of this draft's teenagers- any of our monster pen arms who have already been showing immediate impact.- any of the 2nd-tier-guys-with-potential, of which we have tons
When Washington gives up their #3, 4 and 9 prospects (per BA) plus another pitcher, to get Gio Gonzalez, that would be our equivalent of Hultzen, Franklin, Sanchez and Erasmo.
And the Nats had a pretty deep system too, so that's realistically what they gave up.  They traded a AA killer who could be erratic around the plate (Peacock), a glove-position guy with really good lumber (Norris), a low-minors young phenom (Cole) and an accurate and devastating short pitcher on the verge of big-league success (Milone) to get Gio.
Milone by himself was already worth 1.8 WAR in the bigs this year (B-R numbers).  Gio was worth 4.5 to the Nats, and is fronting their playoff run without Steve S. to kick around any more.
That's the fun of having a deep system.  You give up a lot to hopefully get the one piece you need, because you can only play 25 guys.
Beavan in a thin system (aka our Bavasi system) might have more value.  We traded JC Romero, Philippe Aumont and a scrub CFer for Cliff Lee, after all, because they were the best we had at the time.
But GMs don't tend to budge.  If they want the third best guy you have in a trade, they don't care if he'd be #1 in 8 other systems.  The price is the 3rd best guy in your system, regardless of how good the system is.
I'm not sure if that's stupid, smart, or just a political calculation, but it does seem to work that way.  Whomever we trade with this offseason is gonna get good players from us.  We just need to make sure we get That Missing Piece back in return.

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