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The Maturation of David Price

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This past month hasn't been easy for anyone. Not the fans, and certainly not the players, coaches, or front office. So instead of focusing on the negative let's turn our attention to something positive.

David Price. The tall lefty is quietly having one of the better seasons for a starting pitcher in the American League, and is doing it without much fanfare. Yes, he leads the league in wins(11) and is second in ERA(2.24), and even though we don't think much of those statistics on this site one would believe that would be enough to generate more buzz on a national level. Perhaps the first half performances of Cliff Lee, Francisco Liriano, and even Andy Pettitte have somewhat pushed Price's season to the back burner. But if Price continues to pitch this well that will not be true for long.

How has the man who put up an ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line of 4.42/4.59/4.49 last season improved so much?

It's pretty simple when you look at it.

2009 2010
K/9 7.15 7.59
BB/9 3.79 3.43
HR/9 1.19 0.72
GB% 41.5 47.0
LD% 19.1 17.3
FB% 39.4 35.7
HR/FB 11.1 7.9

As you can see, he's improved in every one of those categories. More strikeouts + less walks + more ground balls = good for keeping the ball in the park.

I'm not going to play scout and attempt to breakdown tape of Price from this year and last. It's doubtful that his mechanics are vastly different. What does seem to be different is his maturity as a pitcher. Last season, Price tried to overpower everyone, relying heavily on his fastball and slider while rarely breaking out his curveball. As Pat Androlia has noted, things have changed radically this year. Look at Price’s usage rates on those three pitches from last season to this season, along with their FanGraphs Pitch Type Values:

2009:FB = 73.5%, SL = 16.4% , CB = 3.7%, CH = 6.4%

2010:FB = 70.8%, SL = 7.4%, CB = 17.2%, CH = 4.5%

Pitch Type:

2009:FB = 9.2, SL = -8.5, CB = 00, CH = 1.2

2010:FB = 11.3, SL = 1.1, CB = 1.4, CH = -2.0

Using the fastball and slider less often, while throwing many more curveballs, has significantly increased the quality and value of those pitches.  

While Price seems to be improving by the day, he is still currently the Rays number three starter. Not that it's a negative title, as James Shields and Matt Garza are still very good. But by the end of the season, that order could be shifting. Here is where Price ranks among the Rays starters in some key categories:

K/9: 2nd

HR/9: 1st

WHIP: 2nd

FIP: 1st

xFIP: 2nd

WAR: 1st

It’s been quite enjoyable to watch Price transform from a wild rookie starter last season into a smarter, and seemingly more poised, pitcher in his second year. It’s kind of like watching a young animal learn how to walk for the first time. It takes him a while to get his bearings, but when he does, look out. Price has found his legs. Now it’s just a matter of how far they will carry him.

*This post was originally much longer but my PC freaked out last night and I lost everything I had done. Hope this doesn't suck!