Rays vs. Rangers: On David Price's Struggles Against Texas

ST. PETERSBURG - Pitcher David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays watches his team against the Texas Rangers during Game 5 of the 2010 ALDS at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Including the postseason, David Price is 0-5 with a 5.48 ERA in eight starts against the Rangers. Todd Van Poppel had a 5.58 ERA for his career. Therefore, David Price is a similar pitcher to Van Poppel, and the Rangers have a pretty good chance of winning the third game of the ALDS.

This has been your complete and unabridged Game Three preview.

Well, it's might not be that simple. Here are Price's career regular season starts against Texas:

Date ▴ Opp Rslt IP H ER BB SO HR
2009-07-04 TEX L 4-12 1.1 3 6 5 3 1
2009-08-23 TEX L 0-4 7.0 3 3 3 4 0
2009-09-27 TEX W 7-6 5.0 6 5 2 4 1
2010-08-16 TEX W 6-4 6.0 5 2 5 8 0
2011-06-01 TEX L 0-3 8.0 5 3 1 8 0
2011-09-07 TEX W 5-4 6.0 8 2 2 5 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/3/2011.


Price's first start against the Rangers was the ninth start of his big-league career, and he was throttled pretty good. Since then, he's wavered between acceptable and good, throwing mostly quality starts. Other than his game on June 1st of this year, though, he's rarely been David Price at his best. The mix of high-walk outings and semi-early exits recalls Barry Zito more than the runner-up for the 2010 Cy Young. 

And in the playoffs, Price has a couple of rough games against the Rangers, at least by his standards ...

G ERA IP H ER HR BB SO
Reg. season vs. Texas 6 5.67 33⅓ 30 21 3 18 32
Playoffs vs. Texas 2 4.97 12⅔ 17 7 2 0 14


The strikeout-to-walk ratio is otherworldly, like he's some sort of postseason Cliff Lee. But the hits and runs he allowed led to his team losing those games, like he's some sort of postseason Cliff Lee. So what's going on with Price against the Rangers? Probably a combination of three things.

 

  1. Small sample size
  2. Small samples
  3. We probably don't have enough games with which to make a definitive analysis. 
A little from all three, then. Texas shouldn't look at Price and see a pitcher that they've owned in the past and will own again. Actually, it's worth it to bring up those K/BB numbers again. Last year in the playoffs, Price didn't walk a batter. This season, he's cut down his walks by almost a batter per nine innings:

 

BB/9, 2010: 3.4
BB/9, 2011: 2.5

And the drop in walks came at the same time his K/9 bumped up from 8.1 to 8.7. What the Rangers saw in the last division series, then, might have been a glimpse of the new David Price -- a pitcher with improved command and strikeout stuff, who for some reason allows more runs, hits, and home runs than he did in the previous season.

Price hasn't beat the Rangers yet, but that's because he's been unlucky as well as bad. If you go by the advanced stats -- FIP and xFIP -- David Price has substantially improved since 2010. The results just haven't been there. That's similar to his history with the Rangers -- he's pitched increasingly better against them, but it's hard to tell by his W/L and ERA against them. Monday's game isn't the most important one in Rays history, but it's near the top of a short list. Price and the Rays are hoping that his struggles against the Rangers, fluky as they might be, don't continue.

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