Anatomy of David Price’s Nine-Hit Disaster

Numbers are the easy part, so let’s start with some numbers. David Price got thrashed by the Yankees, ending with twice as many hits allowed as outs recorded. He was charged with eight runs, all of them scoring in the top of the third, which Price began, but which Price was removed from without getting an out. That third inning saw Price allow nine consecutive hits, the first time that’s happened to a pitcher since 1989. The all-time record for consecutive hits in an inning by a team is 11, and that was in Colorado. Never before had Price allowed nine hits in an inning. Never before had he allowed eight hits in an inning. Never before had he allowed seven hits in an inning. Never before had he allowed six hits in an inning. In Price’s previous game, he one-hit the Rays.

Price on Wednesday got one swinging strike. His previous season low was six. In his regular-season career before Wednesday, he’d allowed at least nine hits just 20 times. He’d allowed at least eight runs just four times. Price set a new career Game Score low, of 2. In Price’s own words: “That was probably the worst game I’ve ever had in my life.” It was an awful game, but really, it was an awful inning. And, technically, it was an awful fraction of an inning. David Price is one of the best known pitchers in the universe.

Maybe it’s enough to just say what’s happened. A nine-hit disaster happened, to an excellent pitcher. Maybe now we ought to just move on. But it seems like we should reflect at least a little deeper. It isn’t often a terrific pitcher gets lit up like this. It isn’t often a team manages to string a bunch of hits together, and nine is extreme. We should go past just the numbers. What in the hell was that top of the third? Can the video show us anything?

Most sensible thing to do is to just go in order. Let’s look at nine hits.

Hit No. 1

Price_Hit (1)

It’s Jacoby Ellsbury and a first-pitch fastball. Alex Avila wanted the pitch on the inside edge. Price threw the pitch on the inside edge, maybe a couple inches higher than the shown target. Ellsbury, though, was all over it. Ellsbury had gotten four fastballs in his previous at-bat, but all of them were away.

Hit No. 2

Price_Hit (2)

Derek Jeter doing what Derek Jeter does. When Jeter batted in the first, Price worked him inside, successfully. Here Jeter got a hold of a 2-and-1 changeup on the outer black. Again, it’s what Avila wanted, but maybe a few inches high. It’s hardly awful location, given what was requested.

Hit No. 3

Price_Hit (3)

Now we get a mistake. Price wanted to try to freeze Martin Prado with an outer-edge cutter. This cutter, though, ran in, and Prado yanked it past the shortstop on a line. Price this year has a whole ton of called strikeouts, mostly with arm-side cutters and glove-side two-seamers. Hitters think the cutter will dart away, and it doesn’t. Hitters think the two-seamer might hit them, and it doesn’t. The idea here was solid. The execution was poor.

Hit No. 4

Price_Hit (4)

In a 1-and-1 count against Mark Teixeira, Price dotted a fastball right in the down-away corner. The execution followed the idea, and ordinarily that’s a great place to throw pitches, but Teixeira’s a good hitter who’s previously been a great hitter, and he did something great hitters do. It’s hard for me to fault Price for these extra bases.

Hit No. 5

Price_Hit (5)

A first-pitch fastball right on the outer edge to Carlos Beltran. They wanted to throw a first-pitch fastball right on the outer edge. Once more, maybe it was high by an inch or two, but no matter — Beltran was right on it.

Hit No. 6

Price_Hit (6)

The pitch before this, Price threw Brian McCann his first breaking ball of the game. McCann took it for a ball. Price came back with another breaking ball, and this one, McCann covered, even though it wound up in a pretty good spot. Elevated a little, one more time, but it’s not like Price was the victim here of a predictable pattern.

Hit No. 7

Price_Hit (7)

And now we’re into the crappy-hit part of the inning. Chase Headley took two very close changeups for balls. After Price came back with a strike, he threw another changeup to more or less the right spot, and Headley kind of rolled over on the pitch, but his grounder found a gap in the infield. For Price, it was a good outcome and a bad outcome.

Hit No. 8

Price_Hit (8)

The one pitch Price threw down the middle, Brett Gardner slapped softly to short. But, what are you gonna do?

Hit No. 9

Price_Hit (9)

David Price’s last batter wasn’t David Price’s worst batter. In a 1-and-1 count, Price threw Francisco Cervelli a good changeup down and away, and Cervelli was ahead of it, but just like Headley, Cervelli directed his groundball to just the right area to turn the lineup all the way over. Brad Ausmus didn’t really have a choice — he had to come out and replace Price with a reliever. Price might’ve gone on to put himself at risk, and there wasn’t much to gain from leaving him in. But considering Price left having allowed nine consecutive hits, his outing ended with a whimper, and by that I don’t mean his pitches were bad.

Price’s third inning, by pitch locations:

pricechart

The Yankees swung at everything in the zone. You see the nine hits, but of those nine hits, five were on pitches basically right on the edge, and two more were close. It was not an inning in which David Price didn’t make any mistakes, but you look at that and you don’t imagine an eight-run disaster frame. Price is often right around the zone, and he’s often throwing a lot of fastballs and cutters, and there was nothing wrong with his velocity on Wednesday. Bad things happened. Fewer of them should’ve, if baseball were fair.

Was there any hint of struggles to come? Price says he threw a great bullpen, so it’s not like he was off his game from the outset. So let’s entertain another favorite theory: perhaps Price was tipping his pitches. This guy says Price has been tipping his pitches for at least four years. Oh no! No wonder he’s sucked this whole time! More reliably, former pitcher Jensen Lewis suggests Price might’ve had inconsistent arm speeds. The MLB Network team had a back-and-forth about the possibility of pitch-tipping. Clearly, it seemed like the Yankees were right on some tough pitches, and while neither side said anything on the subject after the game, you also wouldn’t expect them to.

But, since when do we ever put stock in something like this? One of the MLB Network hosts proposed that the Yankees are on to something, on the basis of their having gotten to Price for ten hits earlier in the year. But, Price had faced the Yankees since then. The next outing saw two runs and eight strikeouts in seven frames. The next outing saw one and nine in seven. Then, just earlier this month, as a Tiger, Price came an out shy of a complete game in New York, striking out ten. The Yankees didn’t seem like they were on to something. In this particular outing, how did McCann identify a breaking ball Price hadn’t really thrown yet? Why did a couple hitters roll over on changeups? Why did Gardner slap at a fastball down the gut? Why did Derek Jeter attempt to bunt? I’m not an expert on pitch-tipping, and I’m sure that it happens, but it doesn’t seem like a first explanation. It seems like the first explanation should generally be that, that’s baseball. It’s super weird. Sometimes a pitcher allows nine hits in a row and sometimes a pitcher allows one hit in a game and sometimes those games happen back to back.

If I’m the Tigers, I’m not worried about David Price. He had all his stuff and he was generally around his locations. I’m more worried about another loss, and growing concerns about the division and the wild card. David Price, most probably, is fine. That inning, probably, was about good hitting and shit luck. But as much as the Tigers have built a strong roster, armed with weapons like David Price, weapons like David Price aren’t immune to baseball. The Tigers are finding out how senselessly mean this game can be.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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