It’s a well know fact that the Dodgers are flushed with pitching talent this year. So much so that HOF bound Clayton Kershaw could be the #3 behind Buehler and Bauer (THE KILLER B’S!) by the end of the year. But we also know that his position as a starter is only jeopardized by injury and not the coaching staff.
It was also announced that Julio Urias has officially earned his right to the 4th rotation spot behind these 3. The only reason he was never a mainstay was because he performed so well out of the pen, but why only get an inning when you can get 7 from the not-so-long-ago, teenage, phenom.
And that leaves one last technical spot which as of right now, is filled by David Price. But we think the Dodgers would get more value from Price by turning him into Dustin May’s opener.
Here’s the quick pitch
- Price isn’t ready to pitch 150+innings after missing 2020
- It allows May to progress without as much pressure
- They’re polar opposite pitching approaches make lineup construction difficult.
- Nothing needs to be set in stone except their pitching schedule
Price Isn’t Ready
Price opted out of 2020 and we fully support the decision he made for the well being of himself and his family. We also would like to remind everyone that David Price used his salary to pay Dodger Minor Leaguers (an organization he had never played for yet) when the MLB abandoned the MiLB.
That being said, it still means Price may not be able to take on a full starting load this year. The lefty will turn 36 this year and still has 2,029.2 Major League innings of mileage on his arm. It’s also worth noting that the one time workhorse who peaked at 248+ innings pitched in a season, is now only averaging 119+IP over his last 3 seasons. (Not counting 2020 of course). In his most recent season of 2019 he only managed 107.1 IP in 22 starts. (Less than 5IP per start). His ERA is also steadily declining with age.
He’s also dealt with injuries in his last 3 years that limited him. No one’s body lasts forever. Making Price start 15 games and going as long as he can won’t be much help come October. However, If Price were to open all year, he’d be pitching mostly in 3 innings stretches while being able to warm up as usual. He could technically make 30 starts and pitch less than 100 innings this year.
But why would we want to make Price pitch less? He’s been getting worse as the season progresses in his old age. In 2019 he was 7-2 with a 3.24 ERA in the first half of the season. In the second half, he was 0-3 with a 7.88 ERA. Even more interesting, he pitched 83.1 innings in the first half, but only 24 IP in the second. He fell off a cliff after the first half.
So why would the Dodgers want to force low quality innings out of Price, when they could get high quality innings albeit less of them in total? The Dodgers don’t need inning eaters. They have pitchers to spare. They need as many 0’s on the scoreboard as humanly possible.
And if Price is only pitching 3 innings, at the 3.24 ERA he had in his first half of 2019, he’ll average only 1.06 runs allowed per outing.
May Can Blossom
Meanwhile, Dustin May got the hook from the rotation after a mostly impressive 2020. He went 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. He started 10 games and appeared in 2 others. (including a game he opened for someone else). Overall the Dodgers went 9-3 in games he pitched. He only gave up more than 2 runs in an outing once and 2 of the 3 runs were unearned.
It’s clear the Dodgers have another ace in the making with May, but they’re being careful not to rush him. Which also means, he’s not built up as a starter right now either. Last year he only threw 56 innings in the regular season. There’s no way May can pitch a full 150+ innings without long or short term consequences either.
Beyond that, he didn’t make it past the 6th inning or over 88 pitches once last year. And until May is able to induce more strikeouts or ground balls, he’s likely to struggle with elongating his outings. But it’d be shocking if he didn’t improve these stats based off of what we’ve seen so far.
So far, May’s top IP in a season is 134. Or roughly 5 innings for 30 starts. If he allows runs at the same rate as he did last year we’re talking about an average of 1.6 runs per May outing.
Their Pitching Approaches
So combining May’s 1.6 expected runs per outing and Price’s 1.06, that means on average they’ll combine for roughly 2.7 runs in 8 IP. (ROUGH ESTIMATE). May would pitch roughly 130 IP and Price would pitch roughly 90 IP.
But we think that pairing them together may improve the end results for both of them. Let’s compare their pitching repertoires, mix, their release points, and any other unique quirks that will throw off batters as they try to plan and adjust for both pitchers.
- Dustin May’s Pitch Mix (12.3 MPH pitch range)
- (51.4%) Sinker- 97.9 MPH
- (24.6%) Cutter – 93.6 MPH
- (13.4%) Curveball – 86.8 MPH
- (5.5%) 4-Seam Fastball – 99.1 MPH
- (5.1%) Changeup – 90.7 MPH
- David Price’s Pitch Mix (11.5 MPH pitch range)
- (27.5%) 4-Seam Fastball – 91.9 MPH (As of 2019)
- (26.5%) Changeup – 84.1 MPH
- (26.2%) Sinker – 91.9 MPH
- (17.3%) Cutter – 88.5 MPH
- (2.5%) Curveball – 80.4 MPH
We included the speed range of both pitchers very specifically. By themselves, the pitcher’s range are mildly disappointing. (Kershaw’s range is 17.5 MPH for comparison)
However, when you combine the two, batters will have to prepare for a range of 18.7 MPH. From David Prices 80 MPH curveball, all the way to Dustin May’s 99MPH 4-seamer.
Same idea applies to their pitch mix. They each actually throw the same 5 types of pitches, but by themselves batters can look for basically 3 or 2 of them 75%+ of the time.
But of each pitchers’ top 3 pitches used, only 1 overlaps, the Sinker. For May it’s his #1, and for Price it’s his #3. That means that batters will have to plan around seeing 5 different types of pitches each game they play.
Beyond that, Price’s top 2 pitches, are May’s bottom 2 pitches. They are identical in pitch repertoire, but almost polar opposites with their pitch mix making them one of the most balanced pairs of pitchers possible.
Then watch their deliveries, May has his massive leg kick that propels him down the hill. Price is much more compact and prefers to extend out his arm.
Finally look at these release points. They’re both releasing at about the same height, but give a horizontal range of almost 8 feet.
How To Use Them To The Fullest
Now, we know we’re saying to use Price as the Opener exclusively so far, but that doesn’t mean the Dodgers would have to do that. They can mix and match and see who they prefer opening the game against certain teams. If the opener is dealing, give them another run through the lineup before bringing in the next guy. The point is to use these guys, however they work best, as a pair of swing pitchers to get through 8 innings of low scoring baseball.
- Price and May would both benefit from a lightened workload in 2021
- Still effective later in the season
- Both deserve a rotation spot
- Their repertoires are the same, but the pitch mix are almost the inverse
- Together they could pitch 8-9 innings of sub-3 ERA baseball for the Dodgers every 5 days