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The other night I was channel surfing (is this something people still do or is it just me?) and I stopped on ESPN momentarily with the sole purpose of getting score updates from ESPN’s Bottom Line. After a few seconds of staring at the Bottom Line, the score “Rays 7, Rangers 3” scrolled past, followed by a pitching line that went on to irk me for the rest of the night. It stated: “Price 8.2 innings pitched, 7 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts and 3 earned runs”.
I couldn’t figure this stat line out. How does a pitcher give up ten base runners including three walks while striking out six guys and still manage to pitch 8.2 innings? It didn’t make sense. He must have faced well over 30 batters, so that would mean he must have averaged only around three pitches per batter in order to pitch that deep into the game — it just doesn’t make sense! So I went online and checked out his pitch count because surely he must have been over 120 pitches to go this deep into the game while having so many base runners. Much to my dismay, I learned he only threw 107 pitches while facing 35 batters (for those keeping track that’s almost exactly 3 pitches per batter).
What makes Price’s ability to go deep into games even more impressive is that he’s a strikeout pitcher (he leads all of baseball with 159 strikeouts this year). Okay, so everyone knows strikeouts drive up pitch counts. It takes more pitches to strike a batter out then say getting him to swing at the first pitch and pop it up (i.e. Jonathan Schoop). Nevertheless, despite being a strikeout pitcher, Price has thrown at least eight innings ten times this year including two complete games. Wow. Just to add a little perspective all Oriole starters combined have pitched at least eight innings only seven times all year.
Recently, I have been in awe of Kevin Gausman. Gausman constantly amazes me with his ability to have such good stuff and the ability to rear back for something extra whether it’s his ninth pitch or his 90th pitch. Here is a guy who has strike out stuff like David Price. However unlike David Price, Gausman has not been getting deep into games (only throwing seven innings once, and usually hanging around 5 IP). And it’s not because Gausman has been on a restrictive pitch count, four of his last five starts he’s thrown over a 100 pitches; Gausman’s pitch count numbers are comparable to those of Price. To recap: two strikeout pitchers, one has trouble getting past the 5 innings pitched, the other pitches 8 innings consistently. Why? The obvious reason is pitches per at bat. As mentioned before, in Price’s last start he averaged 3 pitches per batter whereas Gausman in his last start threw over 5 pitches per batter. The result: Price went 8.2 innings on 107 pitches whereas Gausman went 5.1 innings on a 104 pitches.
Earlier today I was listening to the “Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney” podcast (Of course I only listened to Olney’s podcast after I had listened to all the fine shows on the BSR Network). He had David Price on the podcast and almost as if Price was reading my mind, he made reference to this exact issue of how he pitches deep into games. In the interview Price says:
If I give up that 0-2 hit, as much as that stinks, that’s alright. I’m okay with it as long as it’s not in a very big situation cause I could easily go 3-2 on a hitter a couple foul balls then ball four… that’s 9-10 pitches in an at bat and he still ends up on first base. My mind set is on or out in three pitches or less. And I feel like if I can do that and keep the ball in the yard, I can have success. I just want to go as deep as possible in the games… seven (innings) is the new six I wanna get outs in that 8th and I wanna pitch in that 9th inning.
David Price is focused on getting deep into games. Even if it means given up more hits, he’ll sacrifice more hits for throwing less pitches. Price can do this because he knows he’s good enough to get batters out even with runners on. That’s some serious confidence.
Kevin Gausman is currently a pretty good pitcher with phenomenal stuff. His stuff is good enough to get him deep into games, but for this to happen he needs to take on the Price mentality, “On or out in three pitches or less”.
Image Credit: Au Kirk