It's been a rough start to the season for the AL's reigning Cy Young winner. David Price came into Wednesday night's start against the Red Sox carrying a 4.78 ERA, opponents were posting an OPS near .800 against him and the Rays were 2-6 in his starts. Things got worse against Boston, as Price gave up four runs in just 2.1 innings before leaving with a strained triceps.
Price says he felt the triceps get tight a few pitches into the third inning. An MRI after the game turned out fine, but the Rays are still putting Price on the disabled list to give him a chance to rest. He won't throw for a few days, and left-hander Alex Torres will take his spot on the roster. Price is only expected to miss a few starts.
While Price may not have been getting good results to start the year, he's likely been the victim of some bad luck. After Wednesday's start, opponents now have a .345 BABIP against him -- a 60-point increase over the BABIP against him in his Cy Young season. He's also seen an unusual spike in home runs: he's given up eight already this season after giving up 16 all of last year, and his 15.1% HR/FB rate this year is nearly 6% higher than his career rate.
Some time off may do Price some good, but even if he's not dominant upon his return, he wouldn't be the first Cy Young winner to have a post-award slump, either. Zack Greinke saw his ERA jump from 2.16 in his 2009 Cy Young season to 4.17 in 2010. Tim Lincecum, the other winner in 2009, also saw his ERA climb by nearly a full run (2.48 to 3.43). Felix Hernandez saw a jump from 2.27 in his 2010 Cy Young season to 3.47 in 2011.
If you're one to believe in xFIP, which normalizes home run rates, Price's ERA should be closer to 3.50 than the 5.24 he's carrying now. That would put him square in the middle of that group mentioned above. That'd be good-not-great, but it also shows just how hard it is to follow up a Cy Young performance.