What’s Behind David Price’s Postseason Struggles?

David Price can’t pitch in the postseason, maybe you’ve heard. It’s a decent 56.2 inning sample at this point, but it’s just a little bit more than a month’s worth of work. He’s had six worse months in his career.

Still, to be fair to the hand-wringing, if he had a month with a 4.10 FIP, we’d be talking about it here as well. So let’s try to look at why David Price has struggled in the postseason. Because his regular and post-season strikeouts minus walks are almost identical, it’s obviously about the home runs. His home run rate in the postseason is 77% higher than it is in the regular season!

And there’s a little something to this. A combination of a couple little things — one in his control, one not — may have lead to more home runs in the postseason than he’s seen in the regular season.

Look at his pitching mix, regular season and postseason.

David Price Pitching Mix, Regular vs Postseason
Pitch Regular Season Postseason
Four-Seamer 35% 28%
Two-Seamer 28% 30%
Change 14% 21%
Cutter 8% 16%
Knuckle Curve 6% 4%

So Price throws fewer four-seamers in the postseason. So what. There are a few good fastball hitters in the postseason, after all. And are seven fewer four-seamers really going to matter in a 900-pitch sample really going to matter?

Maybe. Check out his home run rate per pitch, regular season and postseason (just for kicks).

David Price Home Run Rate by Pitch, Career
Pitch HR% Reg Season HR% Postseason
Four-Seamer 0.45% 0.70%
Two-Seamer 0.62% 1.38%
Change 0.67% 0.90%
Cutter 0.60% 2.06%
Curve 0.62% 0.00%
SOURCE: BrooksBaseball.net

So Price throws fewer four-seamers in the post-season, and the four-seamer is the pitch that has given up the fewest homers for his career. Using his big-sample regular season numbers, how many fewer homers could he have expected to give up if he had thrown four-seamers like he does regularly? .1. .1 homers. That’s not even a whole number.

Now, let’s look at his opponents. He’s surely facing better opponents in the postseason, maybe that’s part of it.

David Price Opponents, Regular Season and Postseason
David Price Opponents, Regular Season vs Post Season
Stat Regular Season Post Season
wRC+ 101 104
OPS 0.742 0.767
HR/FB 10.7% 11.4%

Yes, the opponents are slightly better in the postseason. They hit more home runs, too.

For his career, Price’s regular season opponents have averaged a 10.7% home run per fly ball rate, and he’s allowed a 9% HR/FB rate. If he kept that same ratio against his postseason opponents, they “should” have seen a 9.8% HR/FB rate. Instead, they saw a 14.3% HR/FB rate. He “should” have given up 6.1 homers, but instead, he gave up nine.

Between the two approaches, it looks like Price should have given up six home runs instead of nine. If you called them all two-run shots, you should take a full run off of Price’s ERA. He’d still have a 4.29 ERA, but maybe we wouldn’t be hearing about how he struggles in the postseason.

30-year-old David Price has pitched a little more than a month combined in the postseason. It hasn’t been a great month, and that’s partially because of his pitching mix, and partially because he’s facing better hitters. It’s still not something he can’t turn around with a few good starts.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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He’s playing a team of destiny, the KC Royals. http://twtwsports.blogspot.com/2015/10/twtws-2015-alds-preview.html

Topple the Monarchy
Topple the Monarchy
Detroit Michael
Detroit Michael

It’s probably a sarcastic comment judging by the user name (TWTW = The Will To Win).


Why the downvotes, did anyone actually click the link?