What would White Sox' Dylan Cease look like with a changeup?

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What would Dylan Cease look like with a changeup? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

As White Sox starter Dylan Cease told the media on Tuesday – when you're at the top, your priorities shift during the offseason.

In winter and springs past, the 27-year-old pitcher had details to refine – like command and speed. Last offseason especially, MLB amid a lockout stemming from December to March. Finding live at-bats and prohibited communication with coaches placed a block in the road.

Now, after finishing as the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award, Cease's main priority this winter is to stay healthy and prepare his body to go longer – both in-game and in-season.

More innings and more games – the latter predicated upon hopefully a deep playoff run.

"I think the biggest thing is there's a lot less to work on," Cease said. "The previous (off)season I had a lot of things that needed to be ironed out. Whereas now, I think rest and making sure my body is ready and prepared for the long run is a little more important right now."

Obviously, there's always work to be done. Cease would likely concur with that notion.

Yes, last season Cease posted the third-best ERA in baseball (2.21), the fifth-most strikeouts (227) and the second-best WAR (wins above replacement) (6.4). But, there is always work to do.

Somehow, MLB didn't see him fit to make the AL All-Star team.

Cease further detailed a little bit of the work he'll be conducting this offseason, aside from preparing his body and staying healthy.

"I think the biggest thing that changed is that I'm starting my bullpen work a little later. But really, I'm kinda just following the same process. Trying to develop my changeup a little bit more now, but really I'm still just building up arm strength and getting my body ready," Cease said.

RELATED: Cease details offseason plan after triumphant year

A brief mention, but Cease said trying to "develop his changeup" will be on the to-do list for the offseason. Cease has five pitches in his arsenal, but he only predominantly spins three of them to use and create to his avail.

Last season, 96.9 percent of the pitches coming from his cannon were a 4-seam fastball, slider or curveball (knucklecurve in his case). Only about three percent of pitches did he toss out a changeup or a sinker.

What if Cease added a legitimate, formidable fourth pitch to his lineup in the form of a changeup?

Back in December, NBC Sports Chicago's Chuck Garfien asked "Pitching Ninja" Rob Friedman this very question, pondering the idea of a Cy Young caliber player adding another dangerous pitch to his already complex arrangement, featuring arguably the best slider and knucklecurve in baseball.

"If he could get to another level, that would help," Friedman said on the White Sox Talk Podcast. "He's already obviously one of the best pitchers in the majors. I think command and a changeup would be just the thing that would jump him even further."

So how far along is he in ironing out a changeup?

"He's got one of the weirder changeups in baseball," Friedman said. "It's this weird splitty thing. The pitch is ridiculously slow. Usually with changeups we're talking about an 8-mile-per-hour difference, some people less. But his is 20 miles an hour difference even over 20 miles per hour sometimes.

"It's kind of like a cartoon pitch. It's not like Gio's [Lucas Giolito]. It's just an absolute Bugs Bunny type thing he breaks out every once in a while."

Friedman's assessment is correct. Cease's average fastball velocity last season clocked in at 96.8 mph. His changeup?

77.9 mph. Deserving of the "Bugs Bunny" category.

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And while Cease breezed past the idea of placing a changeup into his set, it's an intriguing idea to make him a more lethal and frightening pitcher to face.

According to Baseball Savant, Cease used his changeup 76 times last season. For reference, he pitched a slider 1,338 times. With his changeup, he struck out seven batters and allowed opposing batters to hit .364 from the plate against it with a run value of 4.

Using his slider 42.9 percent of the time, he struck out 131 batters, who batted .128 from the plate against it. The run value for his slider was set at a nasty, head-shaking -36 by the season's end.

It's an unfair comparison to contrast the numbers between his slider – one of the most effective pitches in all of baseball – and his least used pitch. Nevertheless, as Cease truly steps through the threshold of his prime, it's time for him to dream bigger and scarier.

The key to that gateway? An effective changeup. A potential smoke screen headed in the opposite way of his highly anticipated slider.

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