Up until the All-Star Break, Los Angeles Angels starter Jose Suarez was scuffling. When the break came, Suarez had a 5.60 ERA and had allowed 49 hits in 45.0 innings. But Suarez used that time away to learn a new pitch, a secondary changeup to add to his fastball, slider, and primary changeup.
Very rarely does one new pitch completely change a pitcher’s outlook. But Suarez has been a different pitcher since he added his second changeup, and has quickly become a reliable starter for the Angels.
In three starts since debuting the new pitch, Suarez has tossed 17.1 innings and has allowed zero earned runs (one unearned — to pair with a 0.853 WHIP and a 16 to 5 K-to-BB ratio. For lack of a better term, Suarez has been dominant.
And perhaps his best performance of the season came on Monday night against the Oakland Athletics. In 7.0 innings — the second longest start of his career — he gave up no runs on just two hits and two walks while striking out eight. Those eight strikeouts tied a career-high for Suarez.
Angels interim manager Phil Nevin described exactly what makes Suarez’s new changeup so strong, according to Sonja Chen of MLB.com:
“[The new changeup] just dies,” Nevin said. “From the side, I can’t tell if it’s a slider or a change, I’ve got to look at the board. But when he’s throwing it the way he is, it’s got a lot of dive to it. It comes out like a fastball — his arm action’s really, really good, same as his fastball — and it just disappears.”
Added Nevin: “You can throw one for strikes, and the other one’s kind of more of a chase pitch. Good hitters taking the swings that they are off of it — it’s pretty impressive.”
Suarez broke out during the 2021 season alongside Patrick Sandoval, who is already known for an elite changeup. Suarez adding this to his repertoire — with great results — is just another mirroring between these two promising young starters.
Of course, 17.1 innings is not a sample size to make grand conclusions off of, but there’s no doubt that this could be a massive development for Suarez and the Angels. Having another reliable starter — and one who is just 24 — is a big step for a team trying to contend.
Tucker Davidson focusing on throwing strikes
Another young Angels starter — Tucker Davidson — is having problems of his own after joining the team at the trade deadline. Walks have always been a large issue in Davidson’s game, and it continued in his Halos debut on Sunday when he walked five batters.
His focus for the remainder of the season, when he should get plenty of opportunities, is to get strikes earlier in the count. It’s a lesson many young pitchers have to learn before they can take the next step at the MLB level.