How this Pirate revamped a key pitch

September 23rd, 2022

This story was excerpted from Justice delos Santos’ Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

’s changeup is looking very different these days.

On the season, Wilson’s average changeup has clocked in around 85 mph. Over his last three outings, however, it’s been closer to 82. It’s not just the velocity, either; over these last three outings, the spin rate on Wilson’s changeup has cratered, dropping nearly 300 revolutions per minute. Wilson’s changeup has been operating like a different pitch -- because it has been a different pitch.

Beginning this month, Wilson has swapped out his changeup for a splitter, a pitch that he previously experimented with during his time in Atlanta.

“I can manipulate the ball pretty well,” Wilson said. “There are certain restrictions as to what I can do with the baseball based off my arm slot and my release point, but with my command being as good as it is, I can at least throw it to a spot where it’s not going to do a ton of damage even if I’m not super comfortable with it.”

Wilson previously toyed around with a splitter in 2020 at Atlanta’s alternate site, but he never found a grip that worked. Sometimes the pitch would cut. Sometimes the pitch wouldn’t cut. The splitter never advanced beyond the experimental phase during Wilson’s time in Atlanta. But over the last couple of weeks, Wilson has taken a deeper dive into learning the splitter and settled on a grip he could consistently replicate.

The right-hander began tinkering with the pitch at the beginning of the month, a couple days prior to his outing against the Mets at PNC Park on Sept. 7. When the Blue Jays were in Pittsburgh, Wilson talked shop with former teammate Kevin Gausman, whose splitter is one of baseball’s nastiest. 

“He said, ‘A lot of the swings-and-misses you get with the split -- or just swings in general -- are based purely off arm speed. They're seeing fastball arm speed and it’s just not a fastball,’” Wilson recalled. “That was the biggest thing. You aim at one spot and just throw it as hard as possible.”