There has been some discussion in the comments in recent weeks about David Price and how his windup has changed. We knew that it was different, and really, that is not too surprising. Pitchers often see their motion change early in their career as they break some old bad habits and try to incorporate new weapons.
But we were curious just how much Price’s motion has evolved. After all, Price used to have a nasty slider, and now he doesn’t. Could it be that the changes to his windup have caused Price to lose his plus-slider? Let’s take a look.
Below are two GIFs of Price in action. The one on the left is from game 7 of the 2008 American League Championship Series. The one on the right is from a recent start in Oakland*.
We can immediately see some dramatic differences, but let’s look a little closer…
The first thing we notice is the speed of the windups. Back in 2008, Price’s windup was much faster. Even though both GIFs begin with the first movement of the right foot we can see that when Price delivers the ball on the left, he still has the ball behind his body on the right and doesn’t release the ball for another five frames.
What is strange about this is the motion of Price’s glove. On the left, Price brings the ball and his glove up over his head. He has eliminated that from his motion. This is often done to a) minimize movement; and b) to keep from having to rush at the end if the legs get ahead of the arm. But Price has slowed everything down so much, that bringing the glove over his head shouldn’t be a factor with the timing.
The other major difference between 2008 and 2011 is how long Price’s stride is. Back in 2008 (left), Price had a much longer stride to the plate. Watch Price’s lead knee and his fanny. Notice how much the lead knee bends and how low his butt gets on the drive towards the plate.
Back in 2008, Price’s windup concluded with an elbow that was actually above the head at the point of release (left). In 2011, Price is standing much more upright at the release point, and his elbow is at head-level and maybe even a tad below.
This is far from a definitive diagnosis, but our gut says that the motion on the left is more conducive for throwing a slider with a nice tight spin. The reason is that he appears to be getting much more leverage from his upper-body and pull from his lead arm**.
The downside to the 2008 motion is that there may be more strain on Price’s elbow. People much smarter than us will be able to answer that better than we can.
What we do know is that Price’s windup has changed since he first came to the majors. We also know that Price used to have a nasty slider and now he doesn’t. Did A cause B? We don’t know. But it is certainly possible.
* We chose the game in Oakland because it was the most recent game we could find that used a similar angle as was used in the 2008 playoffs.
** A lot of arm speed is generated by the torque that first begins with the lower body and is aided as the lead arm “clears the path” and pulls the shoulders through the motion.