It’s hard to get overly excited about spring stats, I have said that on this site at least 20 times, but the pitching numbers from our probably starting pitching staff is something that is hard to not get excited about.
Let’s discount the numbers of future rotation members Jake McGee and Jeremy Hellickson, because its not quite there time, just yet, but look at the 5 guys who will comprise the starting staff when the season opens next Tuesday.
James Shields – 21.1 IP, 2.11 ERA, 5 BB, 10 K, 5 ER, 3 HR
Shields will be our opening day starter and has pitched like one this spring. He has pitched in 200+ innings his first 3 full big league seasons. He more than likely isn’t going to be a 200k strikeout guy, but a pitcher who can consistently take the mound for seven innings is very valuable in the AL East. I expect a little bit of a drop in his ERA from last season as he regains command of his control that he lost at times in 09. He still possesses one of the meanest changeups in baseball, and is not afraid to use it as a strikeout pitch.
Matt Garza – 22.2 IP, 2.78 ERA, 4 BB, 21K, 7 ER, 6 HR
Other than giving up some HR’s in the Spring, Garza has been quite dominant. In my opinion he has the best stuff on the staff and if he can put his emotions and his stuff on the same page, has a chance to be an All Star in 2010. He pitched his first 200 IP campaign in 09, and almost reached the 200K mark, striking out 189 batters. He is going to give up nearly a HR per start because he likes to throw hard, and he throws strikes, but many of the leagues top tier pitchers give up 20+ HR. If he can get his control in check, be prepared for a breakout year from Garza.
Jeff Niemann – 25.1 IP, 2.49 ERA, 3 BB, 24 K, 7 ER, 3 HR
Niemann led the Rays in W’s in 2009 and if he pitches anything like he has this spring, he could easily be the teams leader in W’s again. He didn’t appear to be a strikeout pitcher in 09 with only a 6.2 SO/9 ratio, but his stuff has always seemed more like a 7-9 SO/9 guy in my mind. I’d expect more of a 4.10-4.20 ERA with the occasional dominant start from Jeff.
David Price – 12.2 IP, 5.68 ERA, 2 BB, 11K, 8 ER, 2 HR
Price is slated to be the number 4 pitcher in our rotation, and if he doesn’t improve upon his control, he might not be a rotation member for very long. Price has failed in two years to truly develop a third pitch, and with Jeremy Hellickson breathing down his neck, and the Rays truly in a win now mode with the impending FA’s of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, I think it would be foolish to continue to trot Price out to the mound as a starter if he just isn’t a starter. His spring stats have done nothing to disprove any of the aforementioned facts. He has improved his walks in the Spring, but is allowing a lot of bats to hit balls. We all know that Price can be a valuable closer or set up man, and if he struggles at all, expect him to end up in that role once again, despite of his enormous rookie bonus.
Wade Davis – 15.1 IP, 8.80 ERA, 10 BB, 12 K, 15 ER, 2 HR
Price was great upon being called up in 2009, but has really struggled this Spring. There was even some talk that Andy Sonnanstine might win his rotation spot. His command has been awful as evidenced by his 10 BB in 15 IP. He still shows the ability to strike guys out, so I hope that his lack of command is a result of trying to work on some stuff in the Spring. Lot of young pitchers struggle in the Spring as they try to implement new pitches or techniques into their repertoire. He averaged exactly a strikeout per inning last season and only 3 BB/9 in his 26 innings last season, so maybe the spring walks are a bit of a fluke. If Davis can pitch like he did after his callup in late 09, the Rays are going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2010.