If you want to learn how to hit a changeup like an elite hitter, a good place to start is understanding how hitters at the highest level do it on a consistent basis.
First off, a big-league changeup is one of the most devastating pitches to hit, especially when it’s located well.
Because it’s really hard to hit a 93+ mph fastball and an 85 mph changeup at the same time. If you're a hitter, I'm preaching to the choir.
This is why having the right approach along with good pitch recognition skills, is key to learning how to hit the changeup.
In this guide on learning how to hit the changeup effectively, we'll go over:
- Recognizing Seam Spin & Shade
- Posting Up & Loading Late
- Hunting the Changeup
1. Recognizing Seam Spin & Shade
When it comes to teaching hitters great pitch recognition skills, reading the seams of a pitch is a common topic.
Though I don't necessarily disagree with this approach, a more accurate way of communicating how to read pitches better is teaching to read the "shade" or "tint" of the pitch.
The reality is, the seams are spinning very fast. Reading the seams is as about as difficult as literally watching the ball come off the bat.
Pretty much impossible.
Though, how the seams appear from pitch to pitch may differ, what can help hitters is reading how dark or light the ball seems to be.
A changeup will typically have a lighter tint compared to other pitches simply because the rotations are slower rotating horizontally with a circle change grip.
In a recent post, I did a full breakdown on how to recognize various pitch types based on pitch plane, seam rotation, tint and movement to improve your pitch recognition.
2. Post-Up & Load Late
Secondly, it's really hard to hit a good changeup.
In other words, if the pitcher does a good job of keeping the ball down with the changeup while pitching effectively off of his fastball, the changeup is almost impossible to hit.
Often times, the changeup looks exactly like the fastball, especially if the pitcher keeps his arm speed the same.
This is why making sure you have the right approach and are quick to make adjustments is key. I CANNOT stress this enough.
The adjustment is simple. Post up and load later.
In order to be on time on the fastball while having the rhythm and timing to stay back on the changeup, you have to be aggressive on the pitch up in the zone while allowing the ball to travel deeper in the zone.
Here's how to make the adjustment.
Imagine there's a table on top of home plate. The table is as high as your waste.
Anything below the table, you're taking (spitting on) the pitch.
Anything above the table, you're taking a controlled, violent swing on.
Next, let the ball travel by moving the plate back in your mind, start your load a tick later and look for something middle away.
Here's What Should Happen.
You're pitch selection and timing will be geared towards a pitch up in the zone and on the middle/outer half of the plate.
With this approach, you're timing will be on time for fastballs and on the changeup that you can handle.
In many ways, this is what Ted Williams meant when he said, "my #1 goal as a hitter in each at-bat is to get a good pitch to hit.
What should definitely "not" happen is you being late on the fastball or rolling over weak ground balls on the change-up IF what you're looking for is up in the zone and on the outer half of the plate.
Make sense? If not, read this again and again until it clicks. It will help you, period.
3. Hunt The Changeup
As I've said in other pitch recognition related posts, sometimes the best way to hit the changeup or curveball is to smash the fastball when you get it.
Sometimes, the pitcher will be so effective and confident with the changeup they'll throw it in any count or situation.
For example, they may throw it to start off an at-bat or behind in the count.
This means, you may have to sit on the changeup and force the pitcher to throw you a different pitch.
How do you know when you should sit on the changeup?
Easy, you figure that out by studying the pitcher.
How many at-bats do you have a game? You may be thinking typically four or five...NOPE! It's 15 or so minimum! Four of your own and 10 or 15 more when your buddies are hitting.
In other words, by watching when your teammates are being thrown the changeup in their at-bats, you collect the data that will help you decide when you should be sitting on the changeup, too.
This how great hitters make adjustments at the plate.
Not by screwing off in the dugout. Rather, eyes glued on the pitcher. Studying him. Picking up tendencies, developing hitter instincts.
Mastering How To Hit a Changeup
In all, hitting the changeup is not easy. It never will be. Sometimes, you'll just have to tip your cap to the pitcher who is locating all their pitches well...
...but with a good approach, and the ability to recognize the changeup by seeing the shade, posting up, loading late and then hunting the changeup based on your teammate's at-bats...
...you're giving yourself your best shot at having a good at-bat.
See the ball better. Train your pitch recognition, every day.