David Price is set to take the ball for the Tampa Bay Rays in game three of the American League Divisional Series against the Texas Rangers. With the series knotted at 1-game apiece, much is being made today about struggles of Price both against the Rangers and in the month of September.
In his career, both regular season and post-season, Price is 0-5 with a 5.48 ERA against the Rangers in eight career starts. Two of those came last year in the ALDS with the Rays losing both games. On top of that, Price has not won any game since August.
But if we look closer, we see that Price’s recent struggles really began when he was hit by a line drive in the chest off the bat of Mike Aviles on September 18 at Fenway Park.
If we look at the seven starts and the two-plus innings in that game prior to getting drilled, and compare that to Price’s numbers since being hit, we see a very clear tale of two different pitchers.
In 53.1 innings prior to being hit, Price had an ERA of 1.52. In the 11.1 innings since, his ERA is 7.15, and he has allowed 18 baserunners.
Is he pitching scared? Only Price knows the answer to that. But we do see a pitcher that has changed his approach on the mound. Prior to the line drive, Price was getting a lot of groundballs with 1.18 groundballs for every flyball. That is similar to his career mark of 1.13.
But since that third inning in Fenway, Price is giving up more than twice as many flyballs as groundballs. And part of the damage has been three home runs in just 11.1 innings.
Mark Simon earlier today showed us a heatmap of Price’s fastball versus right-handed batters from before (left) the line drive and since (right). Red blobs mark where most of the pitches are located.
Not only is Price now pitching righties on the inside of the plate, but those pitches are also up on the strikezone, leading to the increase in flyballs.
And if we look at the pitch that led to the line drive off of Avile’s bat, we see that it would fall smack-dab in the middle of the “before” shot from the heat zone above (this strikezone plot is from the perspective of the catcher, so it is the reverse image of the heatmap above)…
So as we watch Price pitch tonight, we may get a good sense of how dominating he will be by looking at where his fastball is being placed against righties. If he is away and down, it could be a good night for the Rays. If those pitchers are up and in, we may be in for a long night.