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David Price's Diminished Hook

David Price takes the mound tonight for the Rays in Yankee Stadium, bringing with him a 9-10 record with a 3.89 ERA.  One of the problems he's faced this year has been the lack of bite on his curveball.  He's yielded 17 hits off his curve including 5 doubles, one triple, and 2 HRs.

David Price Curveball
2010 Season520.262.359.32980.5%4.2%
2011 Season271.298.526.32681.6%20.0%

While a small sample size caveat applies with the above numbers, PitchFX data indicates he may not be getting quite the same break on his hook as he did last season:

David Price Curveball Movement
2010 Season4.4-6.5
2011 Season3.7-4.7

The most glaring change has been the reduction in downward movement on Price's curve. In 2010, the lefty was getting 6.5 inches of downward break resulting from the spin on the pitch (BrkZ); this season, he's getting nearly 2 inches less of movement on it. In addition, Price has also seen a drop in left to right movement on his curve.

Right-handed hitters have done most of the damage against his curveball this season, going 14 for 37 with a .591 slugging percentage. With 6 RHB in the New York Yankees' lineup tonight, it will be interesting to see just how much Price utilizes that curveball.


Jack Cust: Two True Outcomes Hitter

After drifting from Arizona to Colorado to Baltimore to San Diego, Jack Cust established himself as a Three True Outcomes hero in Oakland. The left-handed hitter, ranked as a top-50 prospect by Baseball America at the turn of the millennium, finally made an impact in his late twenties with loads of walks, whiffs and jacks.

Cust still does two of those things regularly, but his pop has declined precipitously. Take a look at his Isolated Power figures since 2007, compared to the league average (in parentheses):

2007: .248 ISO (.155)

2008: .245 ISO (.152)

2009: .177 ISO (.155)

2010: .166 ISO (.145)

2011: .116 ISO (.140)

While offense is down throughout the league over the past couple of seasons, Cust has gone from an elite power hitter to well below-average this year. Considering his contact issues and lack of versatility, it's no surprise that Oakland let him go last winter and Seattle released him earlier this month. The Phillies recently signed Cust to a minor league deal, but it's unlikely that he does much more than get on base at Lehigh Valley.

At the top of his game, Cust crushed just about everything that he made contact with:

Cust's in-play slugging percentage by location, 2008

In 2009 and 2010, he at least remained dangerous on pitches thrown middle and away:

Cust's in-play slugging percentage by location, 2009

Cust's in-play slugging percentage by location, 2010

But in 2011, his hot spots are just about gone:

Cust's in-play slugging percentage by location, 2011

Cust still takes his walks, but all of those punch outs just aren't palatable from a DH-type lacking top-notch power.


Verlander's Secondary Stuff

Everyone knows about Justin Verlander's searing fastball, but he's much more than a hard-throwing, one-trick pitcher. The Tigers' ace is keeping pace with the likes of CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver. Dan Haren and Felix Hernandez in the AL Cy Young race by making full use of his four-pitch mix.

Yesterday's start against the Indians was a prime example of Verlander's deep repertoire. Tallying his 100th career win, Verlander recorded three strikeouts each with his fastball and curveball, and two apiece with his changeup and slider. The 28-year-old right-hander has gone to his secondary stuff more this season, throwing his fastball less than 54 percent of the time (59 percent in 2010 and 67 percent in 2009). And his curveball, change and slider have been deadly:


Verlander uses his curveball around the same amount of the time to lefties and righties, while going to his changeup more versus left-handers and throwing his slider almost exclusively to same-handed hitters.

He rarely places his 86-91 MPH changeup within the strike zone (33 percent of the time, compared to the 42-43 percent leage average), baiting batters to lunge at the pitch off the plate. And lunge they have:

Opponents' chase rate against Verlander's changeup, 2011

League average chase rate against changeups, 2011

Hitters have chased 44 percent of Verlander's out-of-zone changeups, well above the 36 percent league average.

While his changeup is a chase pitch, Verlander puts his upper-70s-to-low-80s curveball and upper-80s slider in the zone 46-47 percent, which is slightly above the league average. Unless he misses with his location and puts his breaking stuff right down the middle of the plate, hitter's aren't making hard contact:

Opponents' in-play slugging percentage vs. Verlander's curveball and slider, 2011

League average in-play slugging percentage vs. curveballs and sliders, 2011

Over the past three calendar years, Verlander trails only Roy Halladay in Wins Above Replacement among starting pitchers. His heat gets most of the press, but Verlander is one of the best in the business because he has four plus pitches at his disposal.