Well it didn't take too long for David Price, the Rays top prospect, to make his debut. After being promoted from Triple-A Durham prior to this weekend's series Price warmed up yet was not placed into either of yesterday's games in part due to James Shields masterful performance. Today however Edwin Jackson lasted two innings before being yanked leaving Price debuting against the same team he faced in spring training when he faced Wilson Betemit, Shelly Duncan, and Jason Lane and struck each of them out.
Price would get through parts of six innings on 87 pitches. I suppose we should thank Joe Maddon for giving us a glimpse of what to expect from Price and his velocity in a starter's role. 57 of those pitches were fastballs while the other 30 are going to be classified by PitchFx as "cutters" although in reality Price throws a slider and a change-up. Before we jump into the data and graphs I wanted to share my impressions.
The fastball is the beginning and end of most at-bats. In fact Price's first opponent, Xavier Nay, took a swing at his first pitch, a 95 miles per hour heater, and promptly grounded to third baseman Evan Longoria. One pitch and one out, Price's career started effortlessly. Robinson Cano would step into the box and Price would face his first left-handed batter of the day. Price hurled three straight fastballs, including a delightful 96.4 MPH pitch that prompted a swing and miss, as Cano lined out to left fielder Eric Hinske.
Next up was Pudge Rodriguez. Price immediately met the future hall of famer with a 97.2 MPH fastball fouled off. Almost teasingly, Price slung his slider, which registered at 89.5 and broke in to righties, Rodriguez swung and missed, leaving him in an 0-2 count and giving Price the chance to record his first strikeout and inning. Naturally Price went back to his heater and Rodriguez chased it at 95.9.
Two things I noted:
A) How much of his velocity was due to being pumped up?
B) How much of the velocity would remain moving forward?
I'll save you my further attempts at being Len Kasper and skip to some unorganized details.
Price did give up two runs on three hits including a Derek Jeter homerun. I am not sure if that homerun came on a slider or change. He could start in five days and would be at least a league average third starter. The Alex Rodriguez hit will show as a double, but the ball was a blooper that landed near the side right field wall and bounced over. Price will throw his fastball at any time against anyone. The reports and murmurs of control issues will soon be gone; he seemed to be in control of his pitches quite well. I really cannot wait until he takes a full-time starting job.
Okay, now let's get into the fancy stuff, first a fastball velocity chart:
Overall pretty impressive, although you can certainly see the downward trend beginning at about the 30 fastball mark. Of course we're talking about going from sitting around 96 on average to around 94 and some change. It appears either Price made a conscious (or perhaps unconscious) effort to slow his pitch down. That or it could simply be a misclassification, take your pick. Sustaining good velocity is not going to be a concern for Price.
Price's "cutter" sat at 87.09 on average and topped out at 91.1. We're talking about mostly, if not all, sliders going at 87+. I did a quick search on FanGraphs and immediately noticed Tim Lincecum sitting in similar ranges for his slider and fastball combo. I took Lincecum's seasonal averages to create this:
The two distinct differences, outside of Lincecum's fastball having more "up-break" are their arms of choice (which also explains why Lincecum's fastball horizontal break is "negative" or inside to righties and why his slider is "positive" or away from righties) and the fact that Price will not be competing for the National League Cy Young anytime soon.
Josh Kalk's player cards.