Last year, David Price went 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA (3.42 FIP) for the Rays and finished second in the American League Cy Young voting. But if he had one flaw, it was that he still didn’t hadn’t mastered the change-up, a pitch he has been working on since before the 2009 season.
In 2010, Price was an almost exclusively fastball pitcher, with 74.2 percent of his pitches being heaters. That was second in the AL among starting pitchers (min. 160 ip), behind only Justin Masterson (78.1%). And 74.4 percent of Price’s fastballs were of the four-seem variety (faster, but straighter). In contrast, only 6.1 percent of his pitches a year ago were changeups.
But after just three starts this season, we are seeing a newfound confidence in his off-speed pitches, and most of that is attributed to the increased use in his changeup. Here is a breakdown of Price’s pitch selection through three starts as compared to the 2010 season…
Price’s use of the changeup is up to 17.5 percent this season. Meanwhile, his fastball selection is down to 63.1 percent this season, with most of that drop attributable to his four-seem fastball that he is only throwing 44.6 percent of the time. His use of the other pitches is almost unchanged from a year ago.
It is also interesting to look at the velocity of his pitches. While these can certainly change as the season wears on and the weather warms up, there are some interesting trends emerging.
His fastball velocities are nearly identical to 2010. However, his changeup is down 2 mph and differs from his four-seem fastball by nearly 13 mph. This counters traditional beliefs that the ideal changeup should be 8-10 mph off the pace of the fastball.
However, Josh Kalk, who is now employed by the Rays, showed that the bigger the difference, the better (“within reason”). So as long as Price isn’t tipping the changeup by slowing his arm speed, according to Kalk’s research, Price’s changeup may be more effective at its current pace.
This is all very encouraging. If Price can maintain, or even improve his command of the strikezone, and avoid the momentary bouts with control issues he experienced in 2010, Price could prove to be an even more dominating pitcher in 2011.