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The Price is right once again

David Price has struggled much of his Red Sox career but since June, we’re seeing a vintage version of his stellar self.

Miami Marlins v Boston Red Sox Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Ever since David Price signed with the Boston Red Sox he’s faced some of the toughest challenges of his career. 2016 was his worst single season since his first full season in 2009.

In 2017, he was plagued with injuries missing the first two months due to an elbow strain, then he missed all of the month of August and part of September before returning for a stint in the bullpen to close out the season. Given the tumultuous first two seasons with the Red Sox, Price was looking for 2018 to be his rebound season.

2018 didn’t start off the way Price, or anyone else, thought, and it was beginning to seem like Groundhog Day in Boston. By the middle of May he had an ERA in the mid-4s and a WHIP of 1.27. He made 11 starts and had only pitched at least six innings in five of those starts. Not only was he not pitching deep into games, which has been a trademark Price’s entire career, he was also walking a ton of batters. Those first two months of the season his walk rate was a whopping 10 percent and he struggled stranding runners on base at a 68.4 percent rate, which lead to his inflated ERA.

Between the months of May and June however, we saw a different David Price, one we hadn’t seen since he made his Boston debut. Since June 1st, Price has made 15 starts and has pitched at least six innings in 12 of those starts. In that time he dropped his ERA down to 3.30 and his walk rate dropped all the way down to 4.1 percent, really good numbers especially considering Price’s previous two seasons.

The table below sums up how much Price struggled until June, and how successful h ehas been since:

David Price’s Split Stats

Stat Before June 1 After June 1
Stat Before June 1 After June 1
BB% 10.0% 4.1%
K% 22.8% 25.3%
LOB% 68.4% 84.5%
xFIP 4.45 3.56
ERA 4.04 3.30
wOBA .301 .304

The most surprising thing is while almost every stat has completely changed from mediocre to above-average, the wOBA against has remained almost the exact same. This speaks to the specific effects the changes he’s made. And when diving into the details of the changes and comparing them between the first two months of the season and the past three months, it’s quite clear how drastic of an effect they’ve had on his numbers.

Since the beginning of June, the first noticeable change with Price was in his pitch selection. The first two months of the season he threw a majority of two-seamers and cutters. In-fact those two pitches made up 70 percent of his total pitch selection. He mixed in some changeups but really neglected to throw any four-seamers or knuckle-curves. The last three months Price has almost completely flipped his pitch usage approach. He’s now throwing less two-seamers and cutters, but increased his four-seam, changeup and knuckle-curve usage as the table below shows.

David Price’s Pitch Usage

Pitch Type Before June 1 After June 1
Pitch Type Before June 1 After June 1
4SFB 9.7% 14.9%
2SFB 38.5% 31.7%
Cutter 31.6% 26.1%
Changeup 17.3% 23.6%
Knuckle-Curve 2.9% 3.7%

The results really speak for themselves. While his cutter and changeup wOBAs increased, the other three pitches’ wOBA decreased quite significantly.

David Price’s wOBA Splits

Pitch Type Before June 1 After June 1
Pitch Type Before June 1 After June 1
4SFB .314 .182
2SFB .299 .232
Cutter .287 .368
Changeup .250 .370
Knuckle-Curve 1.008 .576

Another aspect to Price’s turn-around is the release point on his pitches. He’s shifted the horizontal release point about three to four inches further away from his body as the chart below shows.

Texas Leaguers

While a change of a few inches in release point sounds like a small change, it can have huge effects. Since the changes in release point, Price’s movement on his two-seamer, four-seamer and knuckle-curve all have tightened-up, in that there aren’t any significant gaps in movement on those three pitch types. Not only is he getting more consistent movement on those three pitches, all five pitches now blend better in terms of movement. The lower separation between pitch types makes distinguish the different pitches very difficult. The chart below shows the change in movement on his pitches.

Texas Leaguers

While Price struggled mightily for the first two months of the season, some focused changes and shifts in his approach have had enormous effects on the outcomes Price has generated. Between the pitch usage and release point, which has lead to a better shift in movement and less gaps in-between the movement on the different pitch types, have taken Price from another disappointing season to right back where we was before he signed with Boston. If Price can continue this pace the Red Sox will have a deadly weapon in the rotation come the postseason.


Ron Wolschleger is a pitchaholic and a Contributing Writer for Beyond the Box Score as well as Bless You Boys. You can follow him on Twitter at @FIPmyWHIP.