Price not right? A few statistical issues

Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price was almost always terrific last season, but in the early part of 2013, he’s been rather inconsistent.

David Price ERA
Through 4 Starts

For the second time in four starts, the 2012 Cy Young Award winner had a rough outing. Price had allowed four runs or fewer in 13 straight starts against the Baltimore Orioles, but that streak was broken when Price couldn’t hold leads of 3-0 and 4-3, and surrendered five runs in six innings in a no-decision.

Through four starts this season, Price has a 6.26 ERA. What are some of the issues that have led to his ERA being a little hefty? Here’s a snapshot look.

The long ball

Price allowed 16 home runs in 2012—a rate of about one for every 208 pitches thrown.

Already in 2013, he’s given up five, at a rate of one per 78 pitches thrown. The timing of those hasn’t been good. Four have come with men on base.

Outer-half struggles

Four of those home runs have also come against right-handers, including the one to Nolan Reimold on Thursday.

The four pitches shared a common bond- they were all on the outer-half of the strike zone.

This is typically an area that Price has managed well. Last season he allowed only seven homers to right-handers in that area, and got them to miss on 21 percent of their swings.

That rate has dropped to 15 percent- a difference of two to three misses per game. And that’s been costly. Right-handed hitters have 21 hits and have made only 27 outs against those pitches this season.

Hittable heater

Price’s fastball, a pitch that has been his primary weapon throughout his career, has been more hittable this season—the miss rate dropping by about four percent points from 16 percent to 12 percent.

The Orioles found success with it by taking it to the opposite field, getting four hits in that manner on Thursday.

Opponents this season have 15 hits, five walks, and a 1.045 OPS against Price’s fastball this season. That’s highly unusual for him. From 2009 to 2012, the OPS against it is just .656.

One potential thing to keep in mind: Various data sources differ on how much Price’s fastball velocity is down, but they do have it down slightly – by about a mile-per-hour from last April. It averaged 93 miles-per-hour Thursday. He had only one start that low in 2012.

Grounders finding holes

The Rays infield defense has historically gotten outs about three-quarters of the time when Price yields a ground ball. But this season, Price has given up a base hit on 13 of the 38 ground balls hit against him.

Price has actually not had a start this season in which the Rays got outs on three-quarters of the grounders. He gave up three hits on nine grounders on Thursday.