Johnny Damon put the Rays ahead twice and Evan Longoria put them ahead for good, but as R.J. pointed out in the Daily Process, the true star of the night was David Price’s fastball. Featuring the fastball early and often, Price was at the top of his game for most of the night. Meanwhile, in a supporting role, his change-up was quite the secondary weapon; especially late in the game.
We’ve covered Price’s change-up a few times before; however, his fastball has been so dominant recently that he has not had much need for many secondary pitches. Still, Price has upped the usage of his change-up quite a bit this season. After throwing it 6.1% of the time last year, he is using it 11.7% of the time in 2011 (texasleaguers.com).
In just over half a season worth of data, Price’s change-up has been an effective weapon. According to pitch values (fangraphs.com), it is the 14th best change-up among American League starters (wCH/C). Price’s change actually ranks ahead of John Danks – the pitcher with the change-up that causes the Rays to rearrange their lineup.
Against the Reds, Price threw 55 pitches before throwing his first change-up. From pitches 56-89, he threw five of them, but was still heavily favoring his fastball. As he approached the 90th pitch of the night, Price opened the book of pitching 2.0 and started throwing more off-speed stuff and even tossed in three first-pitch change-ups.
Of his final 29 pitches, nine of them were off-speed pitches. All nine resulted in an out or a strike – including five whiffs. In an eighth inning battle with Brandon Phillips, Price threw a pair of change-ups – both resulting in swinging strikes – to notch his 12th strikeout of the game.
Not surprisingly, all 14 of Price’s change-ups were thrown to right-handed batters. We have seen both James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson use change-ups to neutralize platoon splits and the same can be said for Price. Buried on the outside corner, he uses the off-speed pitch almost exclusively against right-handers. Here are some heat (usage) maps from fangraphs.com
After Tuesday’s game, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon spoke about the secondary stuff from his lefty ace saying “he (Price) had a really good fastball, and then he started to mix in his change-up in the latter part of the game and got some bad swings on the change-up.” Price called it his “second pitch” while Maddon added “the hitters were really getting out there to get to the fastball, kind of cheating a little bit to get there and then, boom, here comes the dead fish.”
Dead fish indeed.