David Price’s Sloooooow Start Continues in Coors
David Price’s four-pitch strikeout of the Colorado Rockies’ Josh Rutledge in Denver Saturday night was different than what we’ve come to expect of last year’s Cy Young winner. The Tampa Bay Rays fireballer caught Rutledge looking on two curveballs, before getting him to miss a changeup for strike three. Equally different was the inning in which it occurred, a five-run seventh capped by Nolan Arenado’s grand slam that chased Price wearing nine earned runs and a 9-3 loss.
It didn’t take that game to bring notice to the discouraging start to Price’s 2013 campaign, the worst so far of his major league career. Saturday’s loss leaves him at 1-3. His 6.25 ERA and 1.48 WHIP after seven starts and more than 44 innings place him near the bottom of the American League. Opposing hitters are batting .302 against him, and no pitcher in the majors has allowed more than his 31 runs.
The velocity on Price’s fastball is down thus far this year, his four-seamer averaging 92.8 MPH compared with 95.5 MPH last year, according to PitchF/X. He’s relying less on the fastball too. In 2012, batters saw more than 61% fastballs from Price, compared with 52% this year. By contrast, he threw curveballs and changeups 22% of the time last year and 27% this year.
[quote]“We’re not used to that with David”[/quote] Rays Manager Joe Maddon said of his performance at Colorado. “If anything his velocity is down just a click, and with that, maybe the other pitches aren’t playing the same off that.” To be sure, even though he got Rutledge with his off speed stuff it was a curve that Arenado deposited in the centerfield seats.
While Rays fans certainly find it hard not to be disappointed – even alarmed – by Price’s slow start, there are some indications that it might just be a matter of a bit of extra rust to be shaken off. Among his seven appearances, Price made four quality starts and has gone into the 7th inning three times. His K/9 and BB/9 are in line with his career averages. His BABIP of .350 just begs for regression in front of a defensively minded Rays team.
The drop in Price’s velocity may also be less of a concern than it would appear. Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, and CC Sabathia all have shown dips in their fastball this year. PitchF/X equipment gets recalibrated before the season, so it could be instrumentation-related. Or the colder Spring air could just be dragging down fastballs around the league.
Just a week before the start of this season, Price noted that he didn’t have it all together until the fourth game of the season last year. With his late start this Spring, the result of an offseason marked by Cy Young ceremonies and two trips to California for a Cartoon Networks award and appearances related to the MLB2K13 video game, the Rays’ ace may just be a bit behind schedule.
Although a bad night at Coors Field can’t be good for a pitcher trying to round into form, Price is hardly the first to experience one. The Rays and their fans certainly hope he can put it behind him and get his groove back soon.