On Tuesday, Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Info wrote an article about David Price‘s recent run of success coinciding with a decline in usage of his changeup. True, Price’s changeup has sat mostly unused during his last 12 starts–each being a quality start lasting seven-plus innings–but this could be a testament to his fastball’s effectiveness, rather than an indictment of his changeup.
While Havens is willing to partially credit Price’s string of success to the drop in changeups, I’m not comfortable making that assumption. Pitch usage is dependent on many factors including–but not limited to–the opposition’s lineup, the game situation, and the catcher calling the game. With the fastball and cutter making opposing hitters look like they are swinging palm trees through peanut butter, Price and his battery mates have had little need to deviate from the fastball-cutter gameplan. However, Price has still shown that, under the right circumstances, the changeup can be lethal.
Against the Royals, Price threw eight shutout innings allowing just three singles. He struck out eight batters and walked none. Once again, the fastball and cutter reigned supreme for the left-hander, throwing them a combined 91 times out of 114 pitches. With his bread-and-butter leading the way, it was his changeup, not the breaking ball, that was his offspeed pitch of choice.
Facing a right-handed-heavy lineup, Price threw 19 changeups–all to righties. He earned a strike on 15 of them, including five swings and misses. He allowed one of his three hits on the pitch, but used it to generate five outs; three on groundouts and one punch out.
Taking advantage of an aggressive Kansas City lineup, Price was able to induce strikes and outs with changeups located outside of the strike zone. In the third inning, Price started off Royals’ outfielder Lorenzo Cain with a changeup that was fouled off for strike one. He used a backdoor cutter on the second pitch to jump ahead 0-2. Going for the kill, Price narrowly missed inside with a 97 mph heater that Cain took for ball one. Instead of trying to freeze Cain on the backdoor cutter again, he buried an 87 mph changeup low and away, resulting in a swinging strikeout.
In the fifth inning, Price threw notorious free-swinger Jeff Francoeur two, mid-90s fastballs before tossing a changeup out of the strike zone on 0-2. Frenchy tapped the ball back to Price for an easy groundball out. In the seventh, Price exploited Salvador Perez‘s aggressive approach, and coaxed a first-pitch groundball out on an 85 mph changeup that fell just below the zone.
When it comes to Price’s run and the decline in changeup usage, I am not convinced that correlation is causation. The fastball-cutter combination is so devastating that Price has starts where he doesn’t need another pitch. Meanwhile, he has still shown a willingness to break out the changeup when the time is right–just ask the Royals.