Not too long ago, Lucas Luetge took to Twitter to celebrate the fact that he'd finally thrown a changeup in a game. Luetge had been entirely fastballs and sliders, lots of sliders, especially sliders, and while on the one hand it was adorable to see a major league pitcher celebrating such a seemingly ordinary accomplishment, in truth it wasn't that ordinary. Luetge's been working on his changeup in off-field throwing sessions, and it can be nerve-wracking to take a new and incomplete pitch into meaningful action. Nobody wants to be embarrassed, and nobody wants to get hit around. Luetge's tweet was probably part tongue-in-cheek, and part genuine. Luetge had something to be happy about.
Tom Wilhelmsen isn't on Twitter, and if he were he probably wouldn't be the most interesting person you follow. Actually let me change that - he might be the most interesting person you follow, but he probably wouldn't have the most interesting Twitter account. If Wilhelmsen were on Twitter, though, you wonder if he would say anything about his changeup. He's thrown his changeup before, unlike Luetge, but now he's throwing it more than ever. Now Wilhelmsen's making a conscious effort to fold the changeup into his fastball/curveball repertoire. Because what a closer needs is three weapons when he's already got two of them.
It seems like Wilhelmsen's changeup is still a work in progress, but lately he's thrown some great ones, including one to Eric Chavez last night. Wilhelmsen entered in the ninth to try to save the game, and the left-handed Chavez led off. The count was 1-and-2 when Wilhelmsen just missed with a low curve, and then Chavez fouled off a high fastball. Chavez's eye level had been changed, whatever that means, and Wilhelmsen came back with a changeup just about in the dirt. Chavez swung over it and Wilhelmsen had another strikeout of a left-handed hitter.
It was a circle change. PITCHf/x clocked it at 90.8 miles per hour, and while that might be a little hot, I don't know, what matters is that Wilhelmsen can get his changeup up there faster than Jason Vargas can get his fastball up there. Based on the later Russell Martin at-bat and on several other at-bats, it's already unfair that Wilhelmsen pairs upper-90s heat with a knee-buckling curve, so if he can make his changeup even passably effective, we might be beginning just another chapter in Tom Wilhelmsen's career. An even better chapter than the one that came before it, which I never knew could be written.
Or maybe Tom Wilhelmsen will stay just as good. Or maybe he'll get worse! Or maybe he'll get hurt. No clue. Will never have a clue. What I have a clue about is that Tom Wilhelmsen is throwing changeups and some of them are very good. I have prepared .gifs because I know my place on the Internet. We have to appreciate this pitch now, while it's relatively new. In a few weeks we'll take Wilhelmsen's changeup for granted. A few weeks after that we'll get frustrated with him if he ever loses his feel for it. In a short amount of time, we'll think of Wilhelmsen as a three-pitch closer instead of as a two-pitch closer, because we are horrible and naturally tend toward joylessness. Experience the joy of Wilhelmsen's changeup now, before your brain steps in and ruins everything. Have you tried frying it with drugs? It might work if you try frying it with drugs.