David Price is 12-12. He must be as bad as John Lackey who has the same record, right? Hey, didn't he go 19-6 last year? What a bust this season. Totally. Not. Add David Price to the weekly parade in the never ending debate on the meaning (or meaninglessness) stat of wins and losses as a starting pitcher. We might as well add Tim Lincecum to the same discussion as that Giants' hurler has the same record. While Price's record is a far cry from last year's .760 win percentage, his 2011 season is remarkably similar to last year and perhaps a little better. Let's take a look.
- 2010 - 2011
- 8.11 - 8.84 K/9
- 3.41 - 2.30 BB/9
- 2.72 - 3.40 ERA
- 3.42 - 3.17 FIP
- 0.65 - 0.84 HR/9
- 4.3 - 4.7 fWAR
- 208+ - 202+ IP
Except for a few more homers this season (four to be exact), you would expect the 2011 version of David Price to be just as good or better than the 2010 version. It's only the wins and losses that are the big difference. So why then is David Price only 12-12? Perhaps his team's offense has something to do with that. Last year, when David Price pitched, his team scored zero to two runs a total of nine times. This year, that has happened ten times. Last year, the Bay Rays scored three to five runs in eight of David Price's starts. This year, that has happened thirteen times. His record when the Bay Rays score zero to five runs this season is 7-12. Last year it was 6-6 in such games. Last year, Price had thirteen wins in which his team scored more than five runs. This year, five. That will have an effect on your win-loss record.
Add to those numbers the fact that this year's Bay Rays have a completely different bullpen than a year ago. Last year, Soriano and Benoit were lights out at the end of games. Once Price had a lead, he kept a lead. This year's bullpen is not the same animal. In fact, it's not even close. Last year, 27 percent of inherited runners scored when a relief pitcher came in to pitch. This year, that figure is 32 percent. Last year, the save percentage by the bullpen was 72 percent. This year it's 68 percent. That makes a difference too.
PitchF/X data shows that Price has pretty much the same velocity as last year (some pitches a hair less, some a hair more) but the data also shows more horizontal movement on all his pitches (except for the cutter) this year over last. His swinging strikes are slightly down but again, that hasn't affected his strikeout percentage. Everything you look at in his minute stats suggest that David Price is just as good this year as he was last year.
One thing that is noticeable about David Price is that he tends to break down in the later innings which seems natural as a pitcher tires. Last year, his ERA in the seventh inning was 6.48. This year, that figure is 3.68. But Price has pitched more into the eighth inning this year than last (nine times last year, thirteen this year). And his ERA is 5.49 in the eighth inning this year. That might be yet another indication that his bullpen leads his manager to stick with his starters longer and perhaps an inning beyond their effectiveness (James Shields the apparent exception).
David Price is still an elite pitcher. Don't let his record fool you. He's just as good or better than last year and if the Rays can somehow squeak into the playoffs, he will be darn scary to face. All he needs to succeed with the same regularity as last year is a better offense behind him and a better bullpen to back him up. Of course, that's not easy on the Bay Rays budget on a consistent basis.