David Price Coming Through in the Clutch

By Robbie Knopf

A stat that could be interpreted as derogatory: thus far this season, David Price has stranded 83.5% of the baserunners that have gotten on against them. Stranding runners has a lot to do with luck. When hits and especially home runs happen is pretty random. The prime example: two home runs could both be crushed 500 feet, but one time it could be worth just 1 run and the next time it could be worth 4. Has Price just gotten lucky this season?

The one variable that strand rate does not take into account is pitching out of the windup versus out of the stretch. Does Price bear down with runners on? As it turns out, Price is virtually the same with runners on base and with the bases empty, allowing a .620 OPS when no men on and .610 OPS when there are. He has managed a better strikeout to walk ratio with runners not on base, 42 to 13 compared to 28 to 14. But what’s interesting is that he actually has allowed a higher extra-base hit rate with runners on base, 3.8% of the plate appearances against him to 2.7% yet still allowed fewer runs. That could be a sign of even more luck. But what’s very interesting is how Price has performed based on outs and based on leverage.

Looking at strikeout to walk ratio, Price has just a 23-11 mark with no outs but he improves that to 22-9 with 1 out and 25-7 with 2 outs. For leverage, he has a 34-7 strikeout to walk ratio with low leverage but that falls to 22-16 with medium leverage before going back up to 14-4 in high leverage. Maybe runners on base isn’t the best way to elucidate it, but Price has been very good in clutch situation in 2012. We never saw that more clearly than when he escaped the bases loaded, 1-out jam in the 5th inning of Thursday’s game striking out Alex Rodriguez after a 13-pitch at-bat and forcing Robinson Cano to ground out.

Can David Price continue to come up big in the clutch? That remains to be seen. But thus far this season Price has refused to wilt in pressure situations and that has been a big part of his 2.40 ERA on the year and the Rays’ 8-4 record in his starts.