David Price is an outstanding pitcher by almost any measure. Through the first few years of his career, he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, and even has a Cy Young award to his name. Twice he has struck out more than 200 batters in a season, and he has also twice posted a season-long ERA of under 3.00. When talking about the best starting pitchers in the American League, no conversation would be complete without mention of the hard-throwing lefty.
All of that background makes the start to his 2014 season all that much more confusing. After ten starts, Price has posted an incredible combination of 77 strikeouts to only 6 walks. Usually, strikeout and walk numbers like that lead to great success – but that has not been the case just yet for Price. After those ten starts, his ERA is 4.28 and he has just a 4-4 W/L record to his name. There have been some excellent starts included in those ten, but there have been some less-than-excellent ones as well.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Rays have not had the start to the season that they hoped for, either. Picked by many to be a contender in the AL East this season, they have fallen to the bottom of the standings facing struggles with injuries and scoring runs. If the Rays are to fulfill preseason expectations and contend for a playoff spot, they will certainly need Price to return to his previous levels of performance.
Is he going to turn it around?
When faced with a case of a pitcher who is under-performing his career averages, it is always best to assume that he will resume his previous level at some point. That is certainly the right approach when it comes to David Price. One only has to look at the incredible strikeout and walk numbers that Price has posted so far in 2014 to see that things aren’t as bad as they might seem. If his actual pitches were not as good as they once were, it should show in his K’s and BB’s. In fact, the high ERA might come down to nothing more than plain old bad luck.
There is some measure of luck involved in all of baseball, and certainly within pitching. If a pitcher gets a batter to hit a blooper – but it falls in for a hit – the pitcher is charged with a hit given up even though he managed to induce weak contact. Considering the fact that the season is still so young, it is very possible that Price is simply in the middle of a run of bad luck and that it will soon turn around for him and the Rays. If he keeps the strikeout and walk rate at such an amazing level, it is hard to imagine that he will keep allowing runs with such frequency. It will be one of the most-interesting stories of the 2014 season to see if David Price is able to average out the bad luck and start turning in the kind of starts that we have come to expect from him during his excellent career.