David Price had a strange season in 2011. His ERA jumped nearly a run from 2.72 in 2010 to 3.49in 2011. However, his FIP actually went down from 3.42 in 2010 to 3.32, suggesting he actually pitched better in 2011.
One explanation for the anomaly was that Price was great early in games, but he seemed to tire once he reached the sixth or seventh inning. Of course, based on how much he worked in 2010, we were not surprised to see Price may have been pitching with a tired arm in 2011.
Adding to Price’s weird stat-line, is this column by Buster Olney, within which he looks at opponents’ OPS against Price based on their position in the batting order. Price was great against clean-up hitters, but struggled against batters hitting fifth.
We took those numbers and graphed them against American League averages for batters in those positions during the 2011 season. And it is indeed strange…
This is too much of a deviation from what would be expected to just be random, especially in the American League East. But that being said, we can only guess as to why Price was so effective against cleanup hitters (.212 below AL avg.), but struggled against guys in the 5-hole (.116 better than AL avg.), and then again be dominant against 6-hole hitters (.259 below AL avg).
Maybe Price put so much into facing the oppositions’ best hitter (whether it be pre-game tape or in-game effort) that he may have experienced a let-down with the next batter. This problem may have been enhanced if he amped up for the cleanup hitter and was doing it with a tired arm. He may have felt a physical need to ease up to the next batter.
But again, this is all speculation.