David Price & The Postseason

by Teegan Leader

5.04 ERA, 3 wins, 9 losses, 81 strikeouts in 85.2 innings, and a WHIP of 1.24. Those are David Price’s career postseason statistics. This postseason he is 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in 12.2 innings pitched, 13 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.38. His last start however consisted of 6 innings while giving up 0 runs on 3 hits, 0 walks, and 9 strikeouts. With pure dominance in a game that sent the Boston Red Sox to the World Series, can that success be linked to pure adrenaline or is there a deeper meaning behind Price’s dominating start?

David Price threw his change up 25% of the time last postseason and while this postseason is still happening, he nearly doubled that percentage during Game 5 of the ALCS, throwing his change up 41.9% of the time. That’s a standout increase because that was also the highest percentage he had ever thrown his change-up, the previous high being a game against Baltimore on September 26, 2018 in which he threw his change up 40.9% of the time. When he pitched during Game 2 of the ALCS, he only threw it 11.3% of the time. This sudden bump in change-up usage proved lethal as he mowed through the Houston lineup, striking out 9 and only giving up 3 hits.

Why was Price’s Change-Up so Deadly and What does it Mean for the Dodgers?

Through pitch tunneling it can be seen that Price's fastball and change-up look remarkably similar in the path they follow except for at the very end, where his change-up breaks harder low and away. His fastball averages 10 inches of horizontal movement whereas his change-up averages 16 inches of horizontal movement, both of which are 2 inches more than the MLB average. The average exit velocity against his change-up is 85.8mph and has caused an average launch angle of 8 degrees, all of which are the lowest among his pitches. The result of these numbers is weak, ground ball outs, especially for right handed batters since his change-up dives down and away from the right-handed hitter. The change-up has resulted in a 48% ground ball rate, double of any other result, as he's only seen 24.8% line drives off his change-up and 21.6% resulting in fly balls. His fastball tops out at 96mph, having a perceived velocity of 93mph. His change-up tops out at 88mph with a perceived velocity of 85mph. This dramatic decrease between pitch speeds have caused chase rates to increase against his change-up.

 * = lowest among all his pitches  ** = highest among all his pitches

* = lowest among all his pitches

** = highest among all his pitches

 * = lowest among all his pitches  ** = highest among all his pitches

* = lowest among all his pitches

** = highest among all his pitches

The results above are based off of 2018 alone. Usually, teams will try to match-up right handed hitters against left handed pitchers and vise versa. However, it may not work out successfully for the Dodgers in this case, as Price has dominated right handed hitters this season per the results above. Left handed hitters however, seem to have a little more success against him.

Per the definitions of launch angles, anything between 10 to 25 degrees could be resulting in line drives. This is not the case with left handers against David Price however, as he has only given up 13.3% of line drives against his change-up, even though the average launch angle against him by lefties is 16 degrees. The hard hit, barrel percentages, and batting averages may be high against his change-up, but they don’t tell the whole story. His chase percentage as well as his chase and miss percentage are the highest for his change-up compared to all his pitches. Despite the mixed results, David Price should still continue throwing his change-up at a higher percentage, even against lefties because his chase rates are still the high.

Here’s how some of the Dodgers stack up against change-ups from both righties and lefties, since the 2015 season:

Dodgers Hitters vs. Statcast Stats against RHP CH.jpg
Dodgers Hitters vs. Statcast Stats against LHP CH.jpg

The Dodger present a unique case as their righties don’t hit left handed change-ups well, aside from David Freese but when he does, it’s at a -2.5-degree launch angle which is sending the baseball straight into the ground. Max Muncy has the best numbers but it’s been a small sample size. The majority except for Cody Bellinger have lower end launch angles on change-ups against lefties. Bellinger may have a high average launch angle, but it’s come at the cost of a lower average exit velocity against change-ups, resulting in most likely a fly ball out, judging by his .222 batting average.

David Price has always been known as a great regular season pitcher and may have finally turned the corner in his postseason woes, with this newfound success by utilizing his change-up more often. Tune in at 8:09pm tonight on FOX for Game 2 of the 2018 World Series to find out.