ST. LOUIS -- Though few other current Major League closers use the pitch with regularity, Edward Mujica continues to see his split-finger changeup evolve from a decent secondary pitch to an out weapon.
Mujica has gradually increased his reliability on the pitch since joining the Cardinals at the 2012 Trade Deadline, and this season, he has actually thrown more changeups than fastballs. That is a first in his career.
"It's working right now," Mujica said. "I don't try to shake [catcher Yadier Molina]. I just try to follow him. I go out there and throw my changeup down in the zone."
According to fangraphs.com, Mujica threw the changeup 45.2 percent of the time last season. That percentage has climbed to 56.9 in 2013. Before coming to St. Louis, Mujica never had a season-usage percentage higher than 38.
He earned his fifth save of the season on Tuesday by throwing 15 split-finger changeups (12 of which were strikes) in a 19-pitch inning. The pitch induced five foul balls, five swing and misses and three strikeouts of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce.
The split-finger changeup -- which not only fools with velocity, but also with its late drop -- is rarely used by closers. Manager Mike Matheny said that it has evoked his memories of Dave Veres, who featured the pitch prominently when he was closing games for the Cardinals in the previous decade. Matheny was catching in St. Louis at the time.
"It's a great pitch," Matheny said of the changeup. "I think it's the most underrated pitch in baseball. Guys that master that pitch, it's a very, very effective pitch."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less