Yesterday we looked at last season’s workload as one reason why David Price may be struggling in 2011. Another, more longterm problem for Price, is the use of different pitches.
The assumption is that Price has evolved into a one-pitch pitcher, throwing his fastball an astounding 71.7 percent of the time this season. The issue most people point to is the disappearance of Price’s slider, a dominant secondary pitch that Price used much more often earlier in his career.
To get a better sense of just how much Price’s pitch arsenal has changed, let’s take a look at how often he has used each of his pitches his first three seasons in the big leagues. For the purpose of this study, we broke down each season by first-half and second-half* to see if there is any changes over the course of the long season…
Price’s use of the fastball has been remarkably consistent, meaning he is no more of a one-pitch pitcher than he has been in the past. In the first-half of each season he uses it about 70 percent of the time. And in the second-half, the use goes up to about 75 percent. In fact, his second-half usage of the fastball this season (74.1%) is actually less than the previous two seasons (76.2%, 77.8%).
Meanwhile, Price’s slider usage is
way down from the 2009 season, when it made up 20.1 percent of his pitches thrown. But surprisingly, he is throwing the slider more this season than he did last year. In the second-half last season, his slider was almost non-existent (1.7%), while this season it represents 6.8 percent of his pitches.
Price is making up for his disappearing slider, not with more fastballs, but with more curveballs (something he didn’t even throw in 2009) and more changeups, which have steadily increased each of his three seasons.
Of course, a big issue here is that Price’s curve and change are not plus-pitches like his slider was earlier in his career. So even though he is not throwing his fastball more often, opposing hitters can sit on the fastball more than they could in the past.
Ultimately, Price needs a second dominating pitch, whether that means rediscovering his plus-slider, or working on his changeup. Until then, hitters will continue to feast on his fastball.
* In this study we are using July 1 as the cutoff for first-half and second-half, which is typically much closer to the actual mid-point of the season, as opposed to the all-star break which comes a week or two later.