David Price Continues Evolution With Change-Up | The Process Report

David Price Continues Evolution With Change-Up

For a pitcher like David Price -the established ace of a major league staff- spring training might seem like an exercise in futility. And for the most part that is true. The month of March is more about building endurance and avoiding the trainer’s table than results for someone in Price’s shoes.

On the other hand, he is still just 25-years-old and is entering his third big-league season. He may not be battling for a roster spot, but there should be enough things to keep the Vanderbilt product occupied.One of those things is pitch experimentation.

Ever since he was drafted, Price’s arsenal has been a hot topic. Once the owner of a devastating fastball/slider combination, the lefty’s profile has changed since turning pro. The one constant is the fastball. He throws it a lot and he throws it hard. It is effective against both lefties and righties and generates a lot of whiffs. In recent seasons, Price has added a two-seam fastball which has helped his groundball total.

The biggest change is the slider. Once Price’s bread-and-butter, the slide piece has almost been eliminated from the equation. In 2009, Price said he “lost” his slider and it seems as if he may never find it. When he did use it, the pitch was largely ineffective. By 2010, its usage had fallen behind other pitches. In place of the slider, Price introduced a spike-curveball and continues to work on a change-up. The curveball’s introduction was a success. Meanwhile, the change-up continues to slowly come along.

After his start on Monday, Price told JB Long that he threw 10-12 change-ups in his 59-pitch outing. Last season, Price earned positive pitch values on his off-speed pitch (2.04 wCH/C); however, used it just 5% of the time. While he may not throw it one-fifth of the time as he did in his last start, there is definitely room to increase his change-up usage.

Not surprisingly, Price’s change is thrown almost exclusively to right-handed batters. His fastball is pretty much the only thing he needs against lefties at this point in his career. R.J. Anderson is preparing a piece on left-handed pitchers and fastball location against the opposite hand. I asked for some info on Price and he said that the Rays’ ace usually throws his fastball on the outer half of the plate against righties. After some research of my own (fangraphs.com), I found that change-up is also thrown toward the outside corner as well.

If Price has similar arm action on both pitches, it makes sense that he would throw it to a similar location. After all, the premise of the change-up is to fool the batter into thinking it is a fastball causing him to miss completely, be fooled into taking it for a strike, or make weaker contact with a swing started prematurely.

To date, the pitch has not translated into many whiffs for Price. Instead, it has been more of a groundball-inducer than anything else. However, if Price can master his arm action and the ability to change speeds, the offering should cause some wildly errant swings. It would give Price three solid options against right-handers (four, if you could the two types of fastball) and be a potential double-play starter.

As good as Price was last season, there are a few areas where he could regress in 2011. Although no one expects a drastic step back, continuing the development of his change-up could help offset some of that potential regression. So far, so good.

One Comment

  1. […] Recently, we looked at Price and the potential to increase the use of his change-up this season. In addition to the work on the offspeed pitch, there was a brief mention about the declining usage of his slider -which appeared to go missing between the 2008 and 2009 seasons. According to Price, his former college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, showed him a new slider grip this offseason that feels more comfortable than the old one. […]

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