Joey Lucchesi’s Unhittable Pitch: The Churve

The Mets came into the 2021 offseason needing to acquire starting pitching depth and they did so by adding arms like Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, Jordan Yamamoto and Joey Lucchesi.

With Joey Lucchesi, they acquired one of the most interesting pitches in the game today, one that has some characteristics reminiscent of a curveball and changeup that Lucchesi refers to as a churve.

The churve pitch provides an interesting twist to a repertoire that consists of two other pitches, a sinker and a cutter.

Joey Lucchesi says in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune that the churve is his favorite “go-to” pitch that he applies different wrist actions with to give different movement types against left-handed and right-handed hitters.

Joey Lucchesi Mets Lucchesis baseball Lucchesi's
Graphic from Baseball Savant

Looking at Lucchesi’s Baseball Savant page on this pitch is very interesting, with even the website struggling to categorize it.

From 2018-2019, they labeled it as a changeup, but in 2020, the website labeled all but one of the times he threw the pitch as a curveball.

Although in a small sample size, the effectiveness of the churve pitch appears to have increased over time, with an xwOBA of .214 in 2020 as compared to in 2019 when hitters had a .268 xwOBA against the pitch.

The biggest trend of note in his success with the pitch, though, is the significant dip in exit velocity off of it, with a dip from 87.5 MPH in 2019 to 66.7 in 2020.

While he only threw the pitch 43 times by their calculation, with one counting as a changeup, that significant decrease could make the pitch very valuable going forward. That can especially be effective in two-strike counts when some hitters are already choking up on the bat just trying to make contact.

As it is, the pitch itself already registers significant swing-and-miss ability, with a whiff% of 47.4% in 2020, the highest of his career.

On the left-hand side of the video, you can see the churve he was throwing in 2019 as compared to the right hand side that has his churve from the 2020 season.

The southpaw’s spin efficiency dramatically increased last season, with an increase from 15.6% to 42.3%, which is possibly what led to Baseball Savant largely classifying the pitch as a curveball instead of a changeup in 2020.

While many of the irregularities in the numbers generated by the pitch could possibly be drawn down to small sample size, a notable increase in spin efficiency is hopefully one that can translate over into future seasons.

Joey Lucchesi’s pitch is truly one of a kind and a visit to Driveline this past offseason, as detailed by Tim Healey of Newsday, could possibly help him enhance the pitch and his entire repertoire further.

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