David Price came into Friday's matchup with a perfect 5-0 record and a 2.36 ERA. He got off to a rough start as the Hogs sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning, plating two runs on two hits, two walks, and a hit batter. It took Price 40 pitches to finally escape the inning, and by the end of the second, he had thrown 71 pitches and allowed five runs to score. Of course, two of those runs scored in the second inning on a throwing error by the catcher, who threw the ball up the third base line when attempting to pick off a runner with the bases loaded.
Price is now 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA
However, after the second inning, the David Price that we've all heard about finally showed up. For his remaining four innings, Price was crisp with his pitches, and only one batter managed to hit the ball hard once Price began hitting his spots.
Why he struggled early: Fastball command. Price clearly came out of the bullpen without command of his fastball, and he was all over the place with it during the first two innings. After walking a couple of batters, Price turned to his slider, which was the only pitch he could get over the plate, but that allowed the Razorback offense to anticipate what was coming. Price's lack of fastball command in innings one and two made his slider ineffective, and the Razorbacks capitalized by spraying line drives all over the ballpark.
How he turned it around: A different Price emerged from the dugout in the third inning. Price found his fastball command, and he started cruising through the order. His slider became a weapon again, and we saw precisely how dominant he can be when all cylinders are firing. Price retired five batters in a row on three groundouts and two strikeouts before plunking a batter with two outs in the fourth inning, and he then yielded a weak liner to right that fell in for a hustle double. However, Price got out of trouble by striking out Jeff Nutt looking, and he retired six of his final seven batters to complete his outing.
Final analysis: There are an awful lot of things to like about David Price. He touched 95 mph with his fastball, and he maintained his velocity well throughout his outing, still throwing in the 90s after his pitch count well exceeded 100 pitches. When his fastball command returned in the third, he looked almost unhittable, working both sides of the plate with his fastball and nasty slider. He proved capable of overwhelming a very good Razorbacks squad, and there's no telling how good his outing might have been had he started the game with command of his fastball. Though he threw 71 pitches in the first two innings, it took just 54 more to get through the last four, and on the day, 80 of his 125 pitches went for strikes.
Price has the ideal pitcher's frame, and his arm is incredibly quick. He clearly has the talent to go #1 overall in the draft, and our only question is whether or not fastball command has been a consistent problem for him this season. His strikeout numbers this season – 79 Ks in 51.2 IP – are outstanding, and despite walking a season-high four batters on Friday night, he has still dealt out just 13 free passes on the year.
Schmidt also entered the game with a 5-0 record, and his ERA stood at 1.47. We actually saw Schmidt earlier this season against Illinois State, and although he pitched six scoreless innings in that game, we came away unimpressed. Schmidt's curveball in the Illinois State game was virtually nonexistent, and it seemed clear that a better offensive team would have been able to exploit him. After missing badly with his curve in the first inning of that game, Schmidt largely abandoned the pitch, and he got through the rest of his outing relying solely on his fastball and changeup. However, in the weeks since that game in February, Schmidt dominated his competition, so we entered Friday night's game eager to see how he's progressed.
Schmidt boasts a stellar 1.80 ERA this season
Did Schmidt show a better curveball? Indeed he did. He still worked primarily off of his fastball and changeup, but Schmidt did show the ability to drop an occasional quality curveball in for a strike. It's still not a great pitch, and we certainly wouldn't call it an "out pitch" at the professional level, but it was clearly much better than we saw in his outing vs. Illinois State.
What impressed us the most: Actually, there were two things that impressed us. First and foremost was Schmidt's fastball command. He worked both sides of the plate masterfully, and the catcher rarely had to move his glove. The home plate umpire was very inconsistent on the corners – he called some pitches that were eight inches off the plate strikes while calling others right down the middle balls, generating boos from a very partisan home crowd – but the one thing that remained consistent was Schmidt's ability to place the ball where his catcher set up.
Schmidt's changeup was also spectacular. It kept the Vanderbilt hitters off balance for most of the evening, and it induced several weak swings and big whiffs. All told, his change is clearly his best offspeed offering, and it could be a plus pitch for him at the professional level.
Final analysis: Like Price, Schmidt is a big lefty with an ideal frame. He touched 94 mph in the first inning, but he generally worked in the upper 80s-low 90s, as he did vs. Illinois State. On the day, Schmidt threw 119 pitches, 73 for strikes, and he too was the victim of some poor defensive play. One thing we did notice, however, was that Schmidt really wasn't able to maintain his velocity throughout his appearance. By the fifth inning, his fastball was topping out at 88 mph, and dropping as low as 86 mph.
As his numbers suggest (48 Ks in 50.0 IP thus far), Schmidt really isn't a strikeout pitcher. He relies instead on working the corners and changing speeds to induce weak contact, and that is a formula that has been very successful for many big league lefties. His lack of a true out pitch concerns us, and that's essentially what separates him from pitchers like Price. Nevertheless, despite generally lackluster numbers on Friday night, we came away from Schmidt's outing against Vanderbilt far more impressed than we were last month.