Typically, in a 162 game schedule, it would seemingly be rather premature to refer to the eleventh game of the season as important. As baseball is far more of a marathon than any other sport, a single bad game, or even several bad games, are unlikely to cause the season to be derailed. However, given how David Price has started this season, it may be fair to classify his start on Saturday as important.
With the departure of James Shields this offseason, it became vital that the Rays pitching staff continued to develop as they attempted to replace his production. That continued development, and the importance of the staff pitching better was not lost on Price, as he seemed to be aware of the increased expectations placed on the entire starting rotation, and on himself. Perhaps some of the struggles are due to the weight of the demands that Price has placed upon himself, demanding that he get better, even though he just finished off a season where he won the Cy Young award.
Thus far, Price is 0-1 with an 8.18 ERA, having given up 17 hits and five walks in only ten innings. Yet, there is not a big difference in his pitching from last year to this season. According to PitchFX, all five of his pitches are within 1 MPH of where they were last season. In fact, the biggest difference thus far appears to be his usage of his sinker and his cutter. When facing left handed hitters, he has been throwing his sinker with a greater frequency compared to April of last year, while going away from the cutter. Some of that may be due to the increased volume of baserunners, as he may be attempting to get a double play to limit the damage.
At the beginning of the season, a couple of bad starts get magnified, as the overall number look terrible. Right now, that is likely the case with Price – he struggled in his first two outings, and the numbers reflect that. However, if this two game stretch came in the middle of the season, while it would barely be a blip on the radar, just a couple of rough outings that Price would likely rebound from. Yet, given some of the struggles of the rotation in the early going, Price becomes that much important.
So, even though it is only his third start of the season, it may be vital for Price to have a dominant start against the Red Sox later today. And it may not even be important for Price himself, as it is likely that he will be at his usual production by the end of the season. However, by having Price pitch as he usually does may be a lift for the rest of the rotation, where they may not feel as much pressure as they might be to start the year. Once the Rays rotation settles in, then their struggles at the start of the year will probably fade away.
It is far too early to be concerned with David Price. After all, it is only two games into the season.