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Another Look at Price’s Curve

In the beginning of May, I analyzed David Price‘s increased reliance on his curveball, saying:

The new curve’s main function right now is to make hitters uncomfortable and off balance (as well as change their eye levels) for when Price gears back and throws a ninety-five fastball; however, if Price can command the bite on the pitch enough to begin fooling righties to chase it, it can become another serious weapon in his arsenal.

On the season, Price’s curveball, which he’s thrown 17.7% of the time (after 3.7% last season), has been worth 1.8 runs above average according to our Pitch Type Values, helping Price put up a 3.84 FIP on the year as well as a 3.83 tERA. Since I went back and looked at each of Price’s starts last time, I’d like to take a look since then, chronicling how many were strikes out of how many thrown, as well as his average Vertical Break and Linear Weights (with negative being better for Price):

5/12: 19/28, -7.8, 1.036
5/18: 14/20, -7.81, -1.2405
5/23: 4/9, -7.50, -1.163
5/28: 5/15, -8.04, 0.7454
6/2: 13/20, -5.79, .0101
6/9: 6/10, -7.15, -1.2838
6/15: 16/27, -6.72, -.24

While Price has been less consistent in how often he throws the curveball compared to the first part of the season, he’s throwing it for strikes as well as getting more negative/low Linear Weights. He’s also lowered the standard deviation of his V-Break, leading me to believe that he’s beginning to find his feel for the pitch a bit better (for the difference between “break” and “movement,” see our own Dave Allen here). To take a closer look at vertical break, here are Barry Zito‘s V-Breaks over the past few starts:

6/18: -11.99
6/12: -9.24
6/7: -11.04
6/1: -9.91
5/27: -10.28
5/22: -13.05

One would think that Barry Zito, who has one of the most famous curves in the game, would throw his curveball with more consistent break (not that these numbers aren’t similar, but the difference between starts seems large enough – given how often Zito throws his curve – to be somewhat suspicious). But pitchers have to change the movement and break on their pitches all the time, as hitters can adjust easily when the pitch moves/breaks consistently. As PITCHf/x analyst Jeremy Greenhouse once commented, “…average pitch movements often have positive run values, presumably because the batter is adjusted to them. In other words, below average movement is often better than average movement.” I think the same may go for break, along with the fact that even a consistently breaking curve will never be precisely the same each time thrown. So although Price is still getting various V-Breaks from start to start, don’t be concerned. However, in his six starts from the start of the season to May 7th, he ranged from -4.36 to -8.07. A range that large may not be as much of an asset, but mixing up the movements within a decently wide range of about ~2 inches, which is what he has done since, may be very helpful for Price.

This analysis isn’t complete, and sometimes the numbers can lead us to faulty conclusions, as Mike Fast showed us in an excellent piece last week. However, the continued use and relative consistency in success of Price’s curveball have contributed to his solid season thus far.

Thanks to Brooks Baseball for supplementing our data.