HealthSportsHoping to Hit All-Star Status: Sewald's Game-Changing Pitch

Hoping to Hit All-Star Status: Sewald’s Game-Changing Pitch

March 11th, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Close attention to pitcher Paul Sewald’s repertoire in the first four games of the Cactus League in 2024 reveals a new addition: a changeup.

Since the 2020 season, Sewald has not frequently utilized a changeup, as he spent most of that year at the Mets’ alternate training site. Upon joining the Seattle Mariners in 2021, he relied on his fastball/slider combination to work his way up to the closer position. However, now he is considering reintroducing the changeup to elevate his performance even further.

Reflecting on his recent success, Sewald commented, “I’ve been performing well over the last three years, I believe, as modestly as I can. I haven’t felt the need for a third pitch. But if adding a third pitch, especially a high-quality one, could propel me to become an All-Star, then that’s the ultimate goal. If it has the potential to elevate me to All-Star status, then exploring something new is definitely worthwhile.

“I see it as a low-risk, high-reward concept. If it proves successful, fantastic; if not, that’s completely acceptable.”

Although Sewald did not throw a changeup in his fourth Cactus League appearance during the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 6-5 defeat to the Oakland Athletics, he maintained his flawless spring ERA with an efficient performance – 14 pitches, nine of which were strikes.

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo praised Sewald’s consistency, stating, “He is incredibly reliable; you can anticipate his performance every time he takes the mound. He consistently hits his spots and remains fully engaged.”

Initial outcomes from Sewald’s changeup – presenting a speed difference of seven to nine mph compared to his fastball – are encouraging. Out of the three changeups put into play, Sewald recorded four outs, including a flyout, a ground-ball double play, and a groundout. Despite accumulating 65 saves, boasting a 2.95 ERA, exhibiting an ERA+ of 136, and maintaining a 12.2 K/9 rate over the last three seasons, Sewald has yet to earn a spot among the top-tier players at the All-Star Game; therefore, expanding his pitching arsenal for a team projected to contend in the National League could potentially elevate him to that level.

An analysis of advanced metrics crucial for evaluating a late-inning reliever reveals Sewald’s impressive rankings. His xERA (2.75), xBA (.189), average exit velocity (85.9 mph), K rate (32.1 percent), and hard-hit percentage (29.9) all placed in the 94th percentile or higher across all Major League Baseball teams last season – a notable achievement, particularly given the challenges he faced after being traded before the deadline.

Despite his overall success, batters performed better against his fastball in the past season compared to the two prior seasons, with a .220 batting average, .323 slugging percentage, and a 28.4 percent whiff rate – the weakest statistics the pitch has generated since he assumed the closer role full-time. Incorporating a changeup could not only offer a valuable third pitch option but also potentially enhance the effectiveness of his fastball.

Discussing the potential impact of his changeup, Sewald explained, “I need a pitch that drops to create an illusion that my fastball actually rises.”

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