David Price and the First Pitch Fastball

By David Hill

Since his return from the disabled list, David Price had been on a tear heading into last night’s game against the Blue Jays. Pumping strikes from the outset of the game, he had typically been getting ahead of opposing hitters and making quick work of them. Price had been doing so by establishing the fastball early and often, throwing it in the zone to quickly get the first strike before setting up his other pitches.

This strategy worked quite well against the AAAA Astros and the slightly less hapless White Sox, but the Blue Jays were ready for him. They swung early and often in the count, taking advantage of Price’s tendency to pound the zone. This truly manifested itself in the Jays three run third inning last night, when they sent nine men to the plate and left the bases loaded. It appeared as though teams had caught on.

However, Price made adjustments last night between the third and fourth innings. Instead of starting off virtually each hitter with the fastball, he began mixing in offspeed pitches and breaking balls. The adjustment worked well, as he gave up only an infield single over his final four innings of work.

Eventually, teams will pick up on the tendencies of other players and seek to exploit them. It was only a matter of time before the league caught on to Price pounding the zone with his fastball and begin swinging early. He countered with his breaking pitches, as he continued to pound the zone, but with a different look. Once the Blue Jays were no longer sitting on the heater, Price began to mix the fastball back into the sequence, with a much greater effect.

Price’s next start comes against the Red Sox, another team that is typically good at adjusting to the opposing pitcher. Even more than the Blue Jays, this may be the biggest test as to how much Price has progressed since his rough start to the season. If he continues to pound the zone and mix his pitches for the first strike, then Price may be able to continue his latest run of success.

The biggest key for David Price going forward may be how he adjusts his strategy of throwing strikes. Price may look to not only mix the first pitch of each at bat, but may start throwing a couple of first pitches off the plate in an attempt to take advantage of the aggressiveness of the opposition. It is now time for Price to adjust to the adjustments.