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Reds Lefthander Nick Lodolo Discusses Changeup, Cutter And More

Over the first few weeks of Baseball America’s new podcast The 90th Percentile we’ve had an opportunity to discuss pitching development and the recent advances in training with some of the top pitching minds in the game. We’ve welcomed renowned throwing coach Tom House, Driveline pitching coordinator Chris Langin and Mariners Double-A pitching coach Sean McGrath. This week we changed things up a bit and welcomed our first player onto the show in Reds lefthander Nick Lodolo, the No. 36 prospect on our most recent update to the Top 100 Prospects. Nick discusses his offseason, his usage of technology and the development of his refined four-pitch mix. 

Below I’ve pulled highlights from our interview where Nick discusses his changeup, development of his cutter and the meaning of a “Lego Man” breaking ball. The interview has been edited for clarity.

Geoff: I know by having looked at your data, you have something that I typically look for in a changeup specifically. You have close to a negative or sort of like a zero, IVB, a lower IVB changeup. Is that by design? Is that something that you've learned specifically to try to kill lift the way that you do? Especially playing off of the way your fastball comes out, and then has a heavy amount of run, as opposed to ride, and then that really sweepy breaking ball. Are you trying to make sure that you have something that moves vertically, or dives a little bit? What conceptually, what are you trying to make the ball do?

Lodolo: Yeah, I don't think about killing lift at all, to be honest. It's just, I think that from my arm slot that's just naturally something I'm able to do. Like you said, it kind of plays off the heater. That's all I'm trying to get is it to play off that same plane. It's kind of a firm changeup honestly. The difference isn't that big, I think it's maybe like six, seven miles an hour off my fastball. But like I said, I get a good amount of tumble at the end and late dive. That's more what I'm worried about. More importantly, the spin direction. I feel if I get into that nine, like middle nine, like 9:30 spin direction, somewhere in there, It's usually pretty solid or what I'm looking for, in terms of that same type of plane. So sure. I think if I get it there, I think it just naturally kills the lift, I just don't necessarily think about (it).

Sequencing His Two Fastballs

Geoff: I'm interested to talk a little bit more about your arsenal. We'll dive into that in a minute. You're a heavy sinker guy, right? You're not, you're not throwing a four-seamer, you're throwing a sinker or a two-seam fastball, correct?

Lodolo: Yeah, and I throw both. If I throw arm side, it's usually a two-seam, and then when I go glove side, especially into righties, I'll usually throw a four in there. Interestingly, they act pretty similar. Obviously, you probably get a little bit more lift with a four, but from my arm slot, I think the horizontal and vertical it's pretty much the same. So that plays similarly.

Luis Robert (Quinn Harris Getty) 1266883514

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Developing a cutter grip and its connection to his college slider.

Geoff: Grip wise, because like you said you have what you call a curveball or your sweeper. At points it was a little bit more of a slider as you made some adjustments back at TCU when you were working on the Rapsodo. What's the big grip difference for you in terms of how you throw the cutter versus a slider versus the sweeper? You’re obviously trying to cut the ball, but from your arm slot how do you make that work?

Lodolo: It's actually funny you say that. So in college, I threw a breaking ball with no seams. I didn't have any fingers on the seams, I would just go straight pad of the ball. So then I switched it to more of what I ended up throwing was like a cutter, basically. Then I would just start to turn over a little more to make it more like a curveball in college. But still no seams, it was almost like I'm running it like a four-seam. Then I started going along during the Covid year and during my time out at the alternate site, I realized (with the) big league ball, you can't do that. The balls are way more slick. So I had to start throwing a more traditional curveball. So now I throw a traditional curveball grip. And that cutter I kind of morphed into how I learned that, like slider-ish, one that we were talking about earlier at TCU. So I kind of throw that grip more as the cutter, I would say. But obviously I'm thinking fastball the whole time versus slider/curveball. So I'd say that's the biggest difference in that. It's funny, you said that, I hadn't thought about that until right now. It's like, you know, I kind of just took that grip and just made it a cutter.

Explaining The “Lego Man” Curveball concept

Geoff: Explain to me with the Lego Man curveball concept?

Lodolo: Lego Man is really just like your wrist on like the curveball keeping like a stiff wrist through it. It's funny that applies more to (Brandon) Williamson than than me in a way, but it's kind of it's like our thing, our little inside joke with our agent David. We were at the park one day during COVID, and he was like, “Yeah, it's like Lego Man curve.” And we were throwing breaking balls with a stiff wrist and all of a sudden, we started doing it, like, throwing hammers. Thing is if you do that it's like instantly just gonna be like a better breaking ball, and he's not wrong. Like, the whole thing about the wrist and all that, it's 100% true.

Listen to the full episode of The 90th Percentile here.

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