When David Price was made the number one selection out of Vanderbilt, the comparisons for him were all over the place. The most obvious comparison – in size and tone – was CC Sabathia. Like the Yankees’ gentle and svelte ace, Price threw a high octane fastball and complemented the heat with a slider. Through yesterday, Price and Sabathia had a near equal fastball velocity. The only other southpaws comparable to the 93-94 MPH heat are Jon Lester, Francisco Liriano, and Brett Anderson.
Price is arguably the least accomplished of the quintet. What, with Sabathia and Lester being perennial Cy Young contenders and Liriano and Anderson having two of the better rookie seasons in recent pitching memory. Price made 23 starts and posted a 4.49 FIP in the tough American League East while struggling with his secondary stuff and – at times, especially early on – his control.
If he can pitch like he did on Sunday afternoon, he’ll fit right in. Against a rather weak lineup, Price struck out nine, walked one, allowed no runs, and completed his first career shutout. The Jays had Jose Molina, Mike McCoy, John McDonald, and Alex Gonzalez all playing, and with Adam Lind being a lefty, Price had a relatively easy go of things.
Price has altered his pitching this season. He’s no longer using the slider as his secondary pitch. Instead, he’s using that spike curve he picked up last season. He’s gained enough confidence in it to start batters of either hand off with it. He’s still hanging it a little too much for comfort, but Price’s fastball is so ethereal that hitters can’t sit on his curve. Put it this way. Roughly 13% of his four-seamers were whiffed on entering yesterday, while around 6% of his sliders and an additional 6% of his curves resulted in Wiimote-style empty swings.
Some would call that ‘learning to pitch’ while others would call it mixing his pitches better. Either way, the 2010 Price experience can be summed up in one at-bat. In his start against the New York Yankees, Price faced Curtis Granderson and worked him with a slider, curve, and fastball all within a three pitch sequence. The velocity readings were something like 75, 88, and 95. Totally unfair to Granderson.
His homer per fly ball rate is a little too low to sustain, but Price seems on his way to having a fine season.