A Look At David Price and Pitch Efficiency

I love watching spring training baseball, but it is hard to ignore the stats and numbers we've become accustomed to tracking. Since I tend to overlook spring training statistics on a larger scale, I must find other ways to keep my analytic brain at bay during spring.

For a hitter, I try and throw out nearly all statistics. On the other hand, I do enjoy seeing power displays like the one Sean Rodriguez has put on so far. As for pitchers, I tend to look for things like strikeouts, groundballs, and pitch efficiency. The key is to look, but not get overly excited one way or another.

During David Price's first start, we saw the left-hander exit after just 1.2 innings because his pitch count had reached (42 pitches, 26 strikes). This is not a big deal since Price was just getting work in, but going back to last season, I felt this was a problem for Price.

Much like fellow lefty and former teammate, Scott Kazmir, Price had a problem with his pitch count racking up. Higher pitch counts ultimately lead to early exits. Looking at the seven pitchers who made starts for the Rays, Price threw the second most pitches per innings right behind...you guessed it, Kazmir.

 

Pitches

Innings

P/IP

Shields

3328

219.2

15.18248

Sonnanstine

1592

94

16.93617

Davis

600

36.1

16.6205

Price

2281

128.1

17.8064

Niemann

2843

177.2

16.04402

Garza

3421

203

16.85222

Kazmir

2012

111

18.12613

It is no surprise to see Shields as the most efficient pitcher. On any given night, 100 pitches for Shields means he reached at least sixth inning, and more often than not, a bit later. For Price, 100 pitches gets you just over five and a half innings.

One thing we do know is 2009 was the tale of two pitchers for Price. During the first half, he was a strikeout machine who walked far too many batters. In his first 11 starts, he had a strikeout per nine (K/9) of 9.16, but a walks per nine innings (BB/9) of 5.6.  

However, during the latter stages of the season, Price dialed it back. He struck out fewer batters, but also walked much less. Over his final 12 starts, his K/9 dropped down to 5.75, but his BB/9 dropped down to 2.51. In addition to the improved control, he started serving up ground balls which is always good.

In another bit of good news, Price's pitcher per innings went down in each month of the season.

Price

Pitches

Innings

P/IP

May/June

703

36.2

19.41989

July

432

23.1

18.7013

Aug

526

31.1

16.91318

Sept/Oct

620

37

16.75676

*note May/June and Sept/Oct combined for sample size issues.

At the end of the season, Price was throwing nearly three pitches less per inning. That is nearly a full inning more from Price in each start (~100 pitches). This just adds to my excitement about Price's evolution over the past 12 months.

On Friday, he averaged over 20 pitcher per innings. Nonetheless, we need to let some spring numbers just be spring numbers. However, it's something to track for the rest of the spring as his pitch limit increases and definitely something to watch for the 2010 season.

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