April 24, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL; David Price reacts after he threw a complete game shut out against the Los Angeles Angels. Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
"David Price is a thrower, not a pitcher."
"David Price can’t go deep into games."
"David Price can’t handle the pressure of the big game."
Well, with all due respect to the playoffs, I’m not sure a game can get any bigger for Price than this. Price has two dates stitched into his glove, each for one of his best friends: 8-17-07 is the date that Nathan Stephens died after collapsing on a basketball court, and 4-24-08 is the date Tyler Morrissey died in a car crash. And on this most personal of occasions, Price treated the rest of us to a demonstration of exactly the type of pitcher he is.
Price lasted all nine innings, allowing five hits and one walk while striking out six batters. He threw 65 fastballs, 11 cutters, 29 changeups, and 14 curves, getting a strike 67% of the time. He only had a 5% swinging strike rate, but I don’t think that accurately describes his dominance. The Angels were befuddled. They were out in front of his offspeed offerings, they were behind in the count all game, they took pitches for strikes that they couldn’t have hit if they tried, and they rarely made good, solid contact.
As an example of how masterful Price was today, let's walk through the Mark Trumbo at bat in the second inning.
Remember that Trumbo is a righty and that this is from the catcher's view.
- A curve, right down the middle. Trumbo has enough power that this is a scary (gutsy) pitch, but he's looking fastball to start the game.
- A fastball inside at 94. In realtime it looked like it was pretty close. It was exactly where Molina set up and was moving back towards the center of the plate, but we can see here that the umpire was probably right to call it a ball.
- A cutter on the bottom inside corner that Trumbo managed to foul off.
- A 95 mph fastball easily inside, backing Trumbo off the plate.
- A backdoor cutter that Trumbo got a piece of to stay alive.
- A changeup, just a little farther off the plate, that Trumbo reached for on a bad swing, giving up a weak groundout.
This at bat doesn't look dominant if you just read it as six pitches, no swinging strikes, and a ball in play, but the batter never had a chance.
- Price was really successful working his changeup away. Lots and lots of weak contact.
- I can't find it in the pitch-f/x data on Brooks Baseball, but Price's curve looked way better than usual. It had great, hard, biting drop, and a bit more sweep than I'm used to seeing. Once again, the data says it wasn't, but it looked sharper. I'll investigate a bit more tomorrow when I can see the full data on each pitch. Regardless, the Angels wanted no part of Price's curve when it was in the strikezone early on in the count.
- The Rays hit four solo home runs off of Ervin Santana, with one each by Desmond Jennings, Luke Scott, B.J. Upton, and Carlos Pena. Although not all of them went very far, they were still towering. I'm curious to see the speed off the bat when hittracker data is available tomorrow.
- Pena's home run was the one thousandth hit of his career. Somewhere, Casey Kotchman is tipping his cap, I'm sure.
- Speaking of Kotchman, in the bottom of the sixth inning, with no outs and Longoria on second, Luke Scott hit a swinging bunt to third base and managed to beat the throw to first base, chasing Santana from the game. Right now, Scott really cannot run. It was the most pathetic infield hit I may have ever seen, and I feel that I've become a connoisseur of pathetic infield hits.
- Regressed platoon splits say that Chris Iannetta has an expected wOBA of .356 against left handed pitchers, the second best on the Angels after only Albert Pujols. But Mike Scioscia had him hitting eighth. Seriously, the guy gets no respect. He hit a flared flyball the other way that a shifted Matt Joyce made a fantastic sliding catch on.
- Twice, Price let Peter Bourjos get into a 3-1 count, but managed to throw good pitches and avoid the walk to the number nine hitter both times. Good job.
- Jennings did a really good job laying off tough pitches this game. Twice, he worked the count full, and then hit it hard. The first time was his leadoff homer. The second time he lined the ball into the gap, only with Bourjos in center, there are no gaps.
- Hisanori Takahashi has such a weird delivery. There are two pauses, one at the top of the windup, and another where he double pumps his lead foot before moving forward. It seems like so many of the Japanese pitchers who come here have strange hesitations in their deliveries. Is it super common over there? Like, if Roy Halladay went to Japan, would the commentators say, "this guy uses his straight-forward delivery to really throw off the hitter's timing?"
- Pujols is slumping in his American League introduction, but he's still scary. In his 69th at bat of the season, Price moved him in and out, mixing his pitches every bit as impressively as he did to Trumbo in the second inning. But Price gave him one elevated fastball on the inside third that Pujols crushed just foul. Price got him to fly out on an outside changeup one pitch later, but it was a reminder that if you miss just a little, Pujols is waiting.