David Price, the Cy Young Award, and the Process | The Process Report

David Price, the Cy Young Award, and the Process

On Wednesday, David Price was named the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, capping an impressive evolution several seasons in the making.

Price was the second-best pitcher in the American League in 2010, according to the BBWAA. In 2011, his ERA jumped nearly a full run and he finished with a sub .500 record. Surface-level results aside, many— including myself—felt he was a better pitcher than in the previous year. More importantly, Price and the Rays’ coaching staff felt the same way.

In a sense, Price should be the anti-process. Blessed with size and incredibly natural ability, he should be able to produce good results even if his method is flawed. But Price is now a prime example of the process, choosing a nuanced approach to pitching as opposed a reliance on sheer stuff. In 2012, he furthered the development of his secondary pitches: a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup; all the while becoming more cerebral in his approach, including improved pitch sequencing.

After underperforming his peripheral statistics in 2011, Price’s willingness to stay on course was rewarded this past season. In addition to winning 20 games and leading the league in ERA, he struck out a higher percentage of batters while maintaining stellar walk and home run rates. A career-high groundball rate— sparked by a commitment to his two-seam fastball—led to a career-low rate of extra-base hits allowed.

If Price continues down his current path, he will surpass the lofty expectations bestowed upon him when the Rays selected him first-overall in the 2007 draft. Ultimately, his level of performance will create some interesting internal conversations about compensation and trade value. After a relatively cheap first time through arbitration ($4.35 million), he is expected to receive a substantial raise this time around. (Some estimates have him doubling his 2011 salary and then some.)

With two arbitration years remaining, it is likely that the 27-year-old prices himself out of the Rays’ budget at some point, which could lead to a premature end to his career in Tampa Bay. And as unfortunate of an outcome as that may seem, this sort of problem should be one the organization hopes for when developing talent.

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