Questions about David Price‘s ability to step up in big games will continue to linger after Sunday night’s performance. The Red Sox $217M man got lit up.
Last night was a disaster for Red Sox starter David Price. He gave up five home runs and eight runs in just 3.1 IP. It is certainly one of the worst starts of his career and will only fuel arguments that he isn’t a big game pitcher. What went wrong? It’s hard to say, but there are some things that stand out. We’ll dig into them below.
In the mean time, this brings his ERA up to 4.28 on the season and drops the Red Sox back behind the Yankees in the standings. At least by percentage points. Price is now 9-6 and his 4.31 FIP suggests he is exactly what his ERA says he is. While this reopens questions about the Red Sox rotation come October, we’re going to focus on the immediate past and take a closer look at last night.
Price’s changeup is usually one of his best pitches.
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On the season no pitch of Price’s gets more whiffs than his changeup. It’s at 34% so far, and was at 38.9% last year. It falls behind the sinker and cutter for strikeout percentage and is only his third most used pitch at 19%. That means he’s not using it as a put away pitch, but rather, as a pitch to get himself into two-strike counts. It makes sense for someone who throws as hard as he does to go back to one of his fastballs to put a batter away. Especially if he effectively changed speeds the pitch before.
This season the changeup has been his second most effective pitch by wOBA allowed at .315. Only the cutter has been more effective at a .303 wOBA against. League average is around .320 so both are generating below league average results. The rest of his arsenal has been allowing league average or better production. Especially his curve which is a terrifyingly high .705. That’s more than twice league average.
He wasn’t getting his usual separation on the changeup.
Like Eduardo Rodriguez on Friday night, Price was having some issues with his changeup velocity. His average on the season has been 85.54 MPH, and he’s gotten it down around 82 MPH. As you can see in the chart below, the majority of his changeups were thrown between 86 and 88 MPH.
That 1-2 MPH difference can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of all of his pitches. If the changeup isn’t coming in as softly, batters don’t have to make as big an adjustment. And if they can sit on fastballs more often, they will have more success against them. As Alex Speier pointed out, they appeared to be doing just that.
The other possible factor is pitch tipping. Of course, if he was tipping his pitches, it wasn’t showing up in his release points. It’s possible that he was doing something else, perhaps while coming set, to tip off hitters. It looks more likely that it was just a matter of his changeup not providing enough separation to keep them off balance.
Whatever the cause, he wasn’t sharp last night. Do you have any faith in his ability to succeed in the playoffs?