Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price is probably better known for hitting Boston’s slugger David Ortiz in the back with a fastball than he is for his pitching prowess. And that’s a shame, because the left-handed starter leads the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio (10-to-1) and has struck out 90 batters in 84.1 innings pitched.
Price is also the best in the majors at getting the third called strike on an 0-2 count this season.
That’s no small feat because of the strike zone shrinking as the number of strikes climbs:
The area of the strike zone decreases on the order of 77 square inches with two strikes as compared to a strike-free count.
While it is purely conjecture, one potential explanation here for the difference in sizes could be the reluctance of umpires to be put on the spot by ringing up a hitter on a called third strike pitch that they might perceive as borderline. Early in the count, they may be more likely to rule such pitches as strikes given the lower immediate impact of their decision on the game.
When Price has an 0-2 count he is working the outside of the plate against right-handers and lefties.
But Price appears to be getting the benefit of the doubt on the borderline calls — six of the called third strike pitches have been out of the strike zone entirely.
As you would expect Price’s go-to pitch on a 0-2 count is the sinker, and it has been effective — 16 strikeouts in 27 at bats — but his fastball has also gotten the job done.
|Pitches and results on 0-2 count during 2014 season|
Price’s 4-4 record in 12 starts is not going to get him in the Cy Young award conversation, but if you need a strikeout on an 0-2 count, he is your man.