Does it ever get boring being David Price? This is the question he leaves us pondering in light of another impressive outing.
You know what to expect from Price whenever he pitches. Lots of velocity, lots of fastballs, lots of outs, not many runs. Even Price’s methodology is somewhat predictable. His two main outpitches are his four-seam fastball and cutter. He won’t necessarily get a ton of swinging strikeouts with these pitches, however, he does rack up the strikeouts looking. Not only does success have to do with the quality of the pitches but the set-up as well. Price masters in what Mike Krukow might call the paralysis fastball; he freezes hitters in two-strike counts by overpowering and outmaneuvering them.
There are a few ways to set these pitches up. Let’s start with the four-seamer inside to righties. Price’s ability to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate is pivotal. During his most recent outing, he showed a textbook example of setting the pitch up against Jamey Carroll in the first inning. Price started Carroll off with a fastball wide for a ball, then threw a fastball down and away for a strike, then another up and away that was fouled off. Now with a 1-2 count and a slap hitter at the plate, Price tosses a fastball on the inside black for strike three. Carroll doesn’t offer at the pitch, instead he’s left in a defensive position, as if the pitch were going to run in and hit him otherwise:
As for the backdoor cutter, Price typically sets it up by throwing inside fastballs to right-handed batters before tickling the outside edge of the strike zone with the cutter. Like so:
The other way is one Brian Anderson tends to talk about. You can throw a four-seam fastball wide of the plate before tossing the cutter. The idea here is that the batter doesn’t know where you were aiming. For all he knows, you can’t hit the outside corner with your fastball. Come back at him with a cutter and by the time he recognizes that it isn’t the same pitch his only options are to take a defensive swipe or make a wish that the ball misses the plate.
Price uses these strategies so well and so often that you wonder if he himself is bored with their success rate. So then, what about us—should we be bored, too? As Anthony Lane put when writing about John Dahl:
When a bad director repeats himself, we call it boring—the sure sign of a dried-up imagination. When someone like Dahl does it, we call it consistency—the evolution of a style.
This is the evolution of Price’s style. What a mighty fine style it is.