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David Price
Over the Past few seasons, Price has been prone to the occasional disaster start, typically against a team that swings early in the count and makes contact with a high BABiP. For this reason, it was easy to wave away his eight-run disaster against the Rays on April 21, especially when he came out the next start and struck out 14 Braves against just two walks. The results of the past two starts have been very discouraging, however, as runners continue to cross the plate in bunches but the K-to-walk ratio that had buffered his value during the rough times has suddenly abandoned him.

Game Stats

Date

IP

R

H

HR

BB

K

PC

May 1

7.0

6

8

1

1

3

100

May 7

4.7

6

7

0

3

4

104

Both of the starts were against the rival Yankees, opening up the possibility that the Yanks have figured out an approach that works particularly well against Price, but recent revelations have revealed that the Sox see a problem with Price's mechanics. It apparently started with something that was noticed by Dustin Pedroia based on his past meetings with Price, before the southpaw was a member of the Red Sox. Pedroia thought that there was a difference in the way that Price's hands were connected to the actions of his lift leg, as his movement early in the kinetic chain used to move in sequence—as if his glove hand and front knee were “connected by a string.” The sentiment was echoed by Price himself as well as manager John Farrell, and they are now working to address the problem in order to bring his delivery closer to what worked for Price in the past.

2015

2016

The connection between his lifting the arms and lifting the front leg is specific to the windup, but Price's issues have extended to the stretch, as well. I think that there is a bigger element at play than the synchronized movement of glove-side and lift leg, and Price himself mentioned it when talking about the changes that he wants to make: “My leg lift, (in the past) it at least comes up to my belt if not a little higher. And for right now, it's almost a slide-step out of the windup.”

I think this last point is key. I have noticed that Price's leg lift has become increasingly muted over the past few years, and this season his description is particularly apt; even from the windup, it looks like Price is using a slide step. I'm a loud opponent of the slide step, and the reason is that it compromises a pitcher's timing and saps him of stride length (and thus release distance), and right now Price is feeling the impact that these two elements can have. Even pitchers with excellent stuff become a shell of their potential when pitch command is compromised, and this is particularly true for a pitcher whose baseline command is elite, such as Price. He lives on the edges of the zone, constantly nibbling by using exceptional command to stay away from the middle of the strike zone, but his relative lack of command this season combined with the shallower release point means that batters are getting a longer look at the baseball and finding that it ends up in more favorable locations, a blend that has left Price battered and bruised.

I am glad to see that the Red Sox caught this issue, because Price's mechanics have devolved into a “stay back” approach in which he keeps his weight back, which combines with the low lift to further dampen his stride length. He has an A-grade delivery when everything is clicking, and the lefty has such a deceiving start to his motion from the stretch (he basically cradles into the set position in a deceiving way that makes it tough to tell when he actually starting the delivery) that there is absolutely no need for him to throw a wrinkle into timing by throwing in a slide step. Frankly, I hate to see any lefty use the slide step, because they have the advantage of deceiving runners through leg lift so long as they don't break the rubber with that front knee, so to compromise their mechanics with a slide step is to ignore these functional benefits of being a lefty as well as fall prey to the functional sacrifices of a short stride and maladjusted timing pattern.

Price has exceptional pitching acumen and I expect that he will be able to make the necessary adjustments without too many speed bumps, and in a best-case scenario the Red Sox learn from this experience and focus in on Price's momentum—making sure that he has a good burst to the plate—for the remainder of his extensive contract.

Kevin Gausman
For a few years now, Gausman has frustrated scouts and prospect mavens alike with his electric stuff yet modest results. The Orioles have been doing their best to make thing extra difficult on the right-hander, indecisively jumping back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and given the long list of top-10 picks who have ended up in the Baltimore bullpen (Brian Matusz, Dylan Bundy), one would think that the team would do anything it can to reap maximum value out of Gausman's arm by giving him a starter's workload. This is a pitcher who has altered his delivery throughout his professional and amateur careers in order to meet the demands of coaches, with a different motion in high school than he had at LSU, followed by another few tweaks to his delivery after being drafted.

The Orioles might finally be sticking to a plan by leaving Gausman in the rotation, and though he got a late start to the year while recovering from injury, the early returns suggest that he might finally be ready to take over the mantle as Baltimore's ace. It's a thin rotation that is currently without any player resembling a shutdown starter, so the door is wide open for Gausman to come in and take over.

Game Stats

Date

IP

R

H

HR

BB

K

PC

April 30

6.0

3

4

1

1

3

94

May 5

8.0

0

3

0

0

4

98

Only two of the runs scored off Gausman on the 30th were earned, and though his strikeout rate leaves a bit to be desired, it's more than counterbalanced by excellent run prevention and an efficient use of his pitch count. In his last start, Gausman needed just 98 pitched to blank the Yankees over eight full innings, and his stats on the season now include a 1.42 ERA, 14 Ks and just 13 baserunners in 19 innings of work.

Gausman is averaging an incredible 96.52 mph on his fastball in his first few turns of 2016, a value that would rank third on the list of hardest-throwing starting pitchers if he had enough innings to qualify for such lists. It's within a rounding error of his 96.47-mph velocity of last season, but it's encouraging that his raw pitch speed is still elite and that he hasn't lost pitch speed as he has ventured further from his theoretical physical peak. He's throwing his curveball much more often this year, upping the frequency from 9.7 percent to 16.6 percent this year. He throws the pitch over a quarter of the time against fellow right-handers, and Gausman has shown no pattern in terms of using the curve in specific counts (many pitchers use it exclusively as a two-strike pitch or in the first offering of an at-bat). He saves it as a first-pitch weapon to get ahead of left-handed batters, but the biggest difference in this small sample has been the effectiveness of the fastball.

I used to scratch my head and wonder how a fastball with such raw velo and solid pitch command could get hit so hard (.194 ISO against the fastball last season), as even in his first career start I was surprised to see opposing batters pulling the pitch even when in the high 90s. The heat has been unhittable in the early stages of this season, though, as batters are hitting just .128 with one extra-base hit (a double) in the 40 plate appearances that have ended on the fastball. It's too early to say that he has turned the corner, but the results are encouraging and could pave the way for a breakout if his fastball command has ascended to another level.

Felix Hernandez
Prior to the season, I went out on a limb and predicted that Felix Hernandez would be back to his usual self in 2016, battling for Cy Young hardware and dominating the American League. I noted how his purported velocity decline of the past few years was mostly a mirage, and that from 2012-2015 his average pitch speed stayed within a tight range, with 2015's average of 92.4 mph representing just 0.2 mph less than his '12 velo of 92.6 mph, on average. This season, however, that mirage has become a nightmare come true:

  • 2012: 92.6 mph
  • 2013: 92.5 mph
  • 2014: 93.2 mph
  • 2015: 92.4 mph
  • 2016: 90.3 mph

His stats are completely awry, and though his 2.21 ERA for the season makes my preseason prediction look pretty solid, beneath the surface he has doubled his walk rate and thrown multiple caution flags with his performance.

Game Stats

Date

IP

R

H

HR

BB

K

PC

April 29

7.7

0

5

0

3

4

115

May 4

4.0

8

9

1

0

1

81

The most recent performance was particularly glaring, not just for the sheer volume of runs allowed but also due to the opponent, as Felix dominating Oakland has become a common occurrence that stretches back a decade. Only half of the eight runs allowed against the A's were earned, so his ERA is still artificially low when considering the peripheral indicators (his FIP is 4.11). In his last four games, covering 23 2/3 innings of work, Hernandez has struck out just 13 batters yet walked 11, and only once in six turns this season has Felix punched out more than two more hitters than he has walked.

He appears to be mechanically sound, incorporating a reverse twist into max leg lift that has become part of his signature, maintaining balance throughout the delivery and finishing with solid posture. His trigger timing might be slightly compromised, such that he has reduced the delay between foot strike and the start of trunk rotation, effectively limiting his torque as the hips don't have the opportunity to create hip-shoulder separation with that extra partial second of rotation. The mechanics are too similar to his past and he has too long of a track record for this to simply boil down to a timing issue, however, suggesting that there is a physical component to Felix's sketch start, and such things can take a long time to be properly addressed. Either that, or his body is simply rejecting the ugly blond goatee and refuses to cooperate. Just to be safe, he should go ahead and shave that thing.

Thank you for reading

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Schere
5/10
Tillman has also seen much better fastball results this year. I wonder whether there's a story there?
JasonPennini
5/10
#TheGoatMustGo
gilpdawg
5/10
Hey Dougie, (sorry, I've just always wanted to sound like you podcast partner) something is broken in the Price section. Looks like it's supposed to be some type of video or gif but all I am getting is broken code.
tombores99
5/10
Thanks for the heads up and apologies for the technical difficulties. It should be resolved now, but let me know if still having trouble viewing the GIFs.
danielshulman
5/10
Price just isn't able to throw as hard any more. He's high 80's low 90's instead of mid to upper 90's. There are a lot of miles on that arm and a lot of years left on that contract. It looks like a familiar story. He's still a very good pitcher, but no longer overpowering, just like King Felix.
sbnirish77
5/10
There was a BP article tracking the long list of failure for the development of young pitchers by the Orioles over the last decade.

Could anyone provide a link to that article? Might bear re-reading.