Something I’ve been noticing is not only how well David Price has been pitching even though the results haven’t shown that yet, but that he’s doing so with even better strikeout numbers than he’s ever had before. Admittedly this is only in less than 30 innings pitched, but Price is striking out batters at a rate far and above his career numbers.
From his first season in 2008 to last season Price has gotten better at striking out hitters. He was around 20 percent strikeouts in his early career, but the last few seasons he had upped that number to around 25 percent. For a starting pitcher who walks only 6 percent of hitters that is great stuff and in terms of K/BB he had been as high as 7.13 and averaged 3.72 in his career. If you’re looking for ace stuff that’s what you’ll see.
After his start last night Price has seen his strikeouts continue to reach new levels with a K/9 of 13.96 and that’s 33 percent of hitters faced going down by way of the strikeout. Those are elite numbers and combined with a 2.43 walk per nine innings he is ranked 14 in the American League in K/BB among starters. In the same group of pitchers his K/9 is second only to Chris Archer.
The obvious question is why is his results still so unmatched to his stuff. His ERA is a staggering 5.76 after last night’s solid game, but it’s fair to say his xFIP of 2.38 confirms he’s just been unlucky so far. Mostly it’s an issue of BABIP and LOB%. His BABIP is an amazing .391 after the game last night and his LOB% stands at 59.8 percent.
BABIP as discussed before is a batting average on only balls hit in play, so no strikeouts, walks or home runs. LOB% is a percentage score of how many base runners are left on base and do not score.
The average pitcher has a BABIP of .280-.300 and a LOB% around 70-72 percent. In his career Price has a BABIP of .287 and an LOB% of 74.7 percent. Once his season numbers regress to those levels his ERA will start to look a lot more like the xFIP we are seeing. The only question is when the other numbers regress will his suddenly elite K/9 regress to career levels as well?
Here is where I gotta say I’m not sure what the change is that might be causing this change.He’s throwing just as many pitches in the zone and seeing near career levels for contact against on pitches out of the zone. Pitches in the zone though are seeing much less contact at 68 percent compared to 85 percent in his career. That’s a huge shift and likely unsustainable unless he’s doing something extremely different.
To be honest I’m trying to find something, but I just can’t see it. He’s throwing more pitches labeled as two seamers than his career levels, but very similar to his 2014 season. He’s also throwing very few curveballs and a few extra sliders. It’s not very large changes though and seems to be something that could change very quickly.
It’s tough to argue with the 43 strikeouts through 28.2 innings, but I’m going to expect his strikeouts regress along with his ERA. By the time we see the month of June Price should be leading the staff with an elite ERA and things should be settled down. That said his stats should be near career levels even with this rocky start and career high strikeout numbers.