David Price changes approach on mound

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

David Price is 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA since returning from the DL on July 2.David Price returned from the disabled list on July 2 and has been lights out since for the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out 40 while walking just one of the 202 batters he’s faced in seven starts.

How's he doing it?

David Price Changeup Pct
This Season

He’s leaned on his changeup since his return, especially in what are typically “fastball” counts, throwing it much more often on the first pitch and when he’s behind in the count.

Price has also been using it more against right-handed hitters, helping him hold them to a .532 OPS. That's 200 points lower than the major-league average for righties against left-handed pitchers.

Starting Early

How important is strike one? This season, major leaguers are hitting .271 with an .818 OPS and striking out in 16 percent of plate appearances after a 1-0 count. Those numbers plummet to a .222 batting average with a .596 OPS and strike out over a quarter of the time after an 0-1 count.

Price backs that strategy up by continuing to pound the strike zone. He leads the majors with a 73 percent strike rate after getting that first-pitch strike.

This approach has created one bored Tampa Bay bullpen. Price has last nine innings in four of his seven starts since coming off the DL. That's as many nine-inning starts in about a month's time as any other pitcher has had all season.

David Price This Season

He’s completed at least seven innings in each of those starts, and is averaging about 92 pitches per outing. That's 11.3 pitches per inning. He’s averaged 3.19 pitches per plate appearance, almost seven percent lower than Ivan Nova, who is second on that list (that’s the same difference between Nova and the pitcher in 25th).

He's had eight starts this season with no walks, already the most in his career.

It's hard to imagine but this version of Price has been more impressive than the 2012 Cy Young version, and that's scary for the rest of the American League as the Rays angle for a return to the postseason.