Price Has Been Whiffy Lately

Carlos Pena handing David Price some good vibes.(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

For a pitcher showcasing a mid-90s fastball, David Price's strikeout per nine innings ratio seems like it shouldn't be below 8. However, during his first 12 starts this season, Price had a K/9 of 6.36. That hasn't been the case recently. In his last three starts, all against inter-league opponents, Price's K/9 has been a superb 12.79. His K/9 for the season now stands at 7.59, an increase of over one strikeout per nine in just 19 innings. Here is a look at his game logs for this season along with the innings pitched, strikeouts, and swinging strikes.

Rk Date IP SO StS
1 Apr 9 7.2 7 10
2 Apr 14 7.0 7 7
3 Apr 20 5.0 3 11
4 Apr 25 9.0 9 12
5 May 1 6.0 1 6
6 May 7 7.2 6 9
7 May 12 6.1 6 11
8 May 18 6.0 5 9
9 May 23 5.0 2 9
10 May 28 7.0 4 6
11 Jun 2 8.0 3 8
12 Jun 9 6.0 4 4
13 Jun 15 5.0 7 9
14 Jun 20 6.0 9 14
15 Jun 26 8.0 11 15
99.2 84
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/1/2010.

 

Price had some good strikeout numbers in most of his starts in April, although he didn't get more strikeouts than innings pitched in a game until June 15th. Overall, there does seem to be a moderate correlation between the number of swinging strikes and the number of strikeouts, so I split up Price's starts in my pitch-by-pitch database and found the contact and whiff rates for each of his pitch types. That way, we can see which pitches have been missing more or less bats.

 

First 12 Last 3
Con Con
Four Seam 81.9% 73.4%
Two Seam 79.1% 85.0%
Curve 86.2% 75.0%
Slider 78.7% 75.0%
Change up 95.5% 0.0%

 

First 12 Last 3
Whiff Whiff
Four Seam 8.4% 11.9%
Two Seam 9.4% 7.3%
Curve 6.0% 11.7%
Slider 9.7% 10.5%
Change up 2.3% 0.0%

 

I included both stats because I personally prefer contact rates, but there are others who use and likely prefer whiff rate. Contact rate is swinging strikes divided by swings and whiff rate is swinging strikes divided by all pitches in the sample. And looking at these numbers, I see every pitch with the exception of the two seam fastball and change up has increased the percentage of missed bats. And by having his two primary pitches miss more bats, the four seamer and the curveball, Price has been able to increase his strikeout rate as of late.

Now I wanted to know if he has been changing his pitch selection to favor those pitches that have been missing the bats as of late. So here is his pitch selection for the first 12 starts and the last 3 starts split up by batter handedness.

RHH
First 12 Last 3
Fast 69.8% 73.7%
Four Seam 43.3% 57.1%
Two Seam 26.6% 16.6%
Curve 20.2% 19.4%
Slider 5.5% 5.3%
Change up 4.5% 1.6%
LHH
First 12 Last 3
Fast 75.9% 79.3%
Four Seam 75.9% 79.3%
Two Seam 0.0% 0.0%
Curve 7.4% 13.8%
Slider 16.7% 6.9%
Change up 0.0% 0.0%

Watching him pitch recently, I've noticed that Price has been going to his four fastball more often, using the high velocity to his advantage to overpower the batter. Not to mention setting up his fastball with a slow spike curve and vice-versa to keep opposing hitters from timing up either pitch. Although further analysis would be needed to confirm that.

ZIPS in season projections has at a 7.29 K/9 for the rest of the season and an overall mark of 7.45. If Price is able to maintain this recent good stretch, he should be able to exceed that projection easily. 

Data from Baseball-Reference, Fan Graphs, and MLBAM.

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