David Price punched out a career-high 14 batters against the Blue Jays on Sunday, and the left-hander's mid-to-upper-90s heat was the main reason. Seventy-seven of Price's 111 pitches were fastballs, with ten of his Ks coming by way of the fastball. Here's what Rays catcher John Jaso and Price said after the 12-0 win over Toronto:
Jaso and Price felt strong gusts pushing them as they walked in from the bullpen beforehand, but didn't know how helpful the wind would be until the game began, and Price's two-seamer started drifting.
"It looks like a strike right out of his hand and then it's just fading off the plate," Jaso explained. "It was moving about three feet. Once they start to swing on his fastball, they can't hold it back."
"I've never had that much movement before so it was pretty cool," Price said. "The wind kept blowing and it was making my eyes watery all game. I knew it was blowing pretty good and I just kept throwing it."
Price's fastball yesterday tailed away from right-handed hitters (in to lefties) about ten inches more than a pitch thrown without spin. That's nothing new for him, though: Price's fastball has averaged more than 10 inches of tailing action this season, giving him the second-most horizontal movement with the pitch of any left-handed starter (Derek Holland's fastball tails 11 inches).
Combine that movement with the best velocity of any lefty starter (Price averages 94.7 mph with his fastball, topping out at slightly under 99 mph), and you have the recipe for one of the most dominant pitches in baseball. Hitters have missed 21.4 percent fastballs swung at against Price, the fourth-highest rate among starters (Brandon Beachy, Brandon Morrow and Gio Gonzalez rank 1-3).
Price pitches both lefties and righties away with his fastball:
Price has shredded lefty batters this year, throwing his fastball to them about 80 percent of the time and holding them to a .149 average, a .216 on-base percentage and a .261 slugging percentage (.259/.339/.386 average for lefty fastballs vs. lefty hitters). Basically, every lefty batter morphs into Drew Butera. Right-handers, who have gotten a fastball two-thirds of the time, have been able to rap some extra-base hits against Price (.243/304/.407), but that's still much better than the .276/.354/.436 average for lefty fastballs against righties.
Most pitchers mix in more breaking and off-speed stuff when they get two strikes on a hitter, but not Price. He's throwing his fastball 71 percent of the time with the hitter's back against the wall, the highest percentage among starters. That helps explain why 125 of his 184 strikeouts (68 percent) have been on fastballs.
David Price also has a pair of breaking balls and a changeup in his arsenal, but it all starts with his darting, blink-and-you'll-miss-it fastball. That's the kind of fastball that would make Mama proud.