Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Shelton: Rays' David Price deserves Cy Young

There are numbers.

There are moments.

There is eyesight.

Tonight, the proponents of all three categories should all shout out the name of David Price.

Add it all up, the decimal points and the pressure and the nights without run support, and this time, the Cy Young Award should belong to Price. This time, he accomplished more than any other pitcher in the game. This time, he should take home the hardware that proves it.

Yes, Justin Verlander was outstanding. Yes, Jered Weaver was excellent. Nothing wrong with either of those guys.

This season, however, Price was better.

Start after start, you saw it. Price pitched like a man who was outnumbered. There were always better bats in front of him than behind, and there always seemed to be a very good opponent with a very good pitcher of its own across the way, and the Rays almost always needed him to be great. And still, Price turned very little support into a very large season.

After this year, how could anyone vote for anyone else?

Statistics? Not this time. When Price finished second to Felix Hernandez two years ago, it was a reminder that today's voter counts a great many statistics more than victories. Price won six more games than Hernandez, but Hernandez dominated in categories such as ERA and strikeouts.

This year? Price not only had 20 victories, he led the American League with an ERA of 2.56, and he had 205 strikeouts. Of the 46 previous Cy Young winners, only eight could match those numbers.

He started 15 games against teams that made the playoffs and was 9-3 in them. He was 10-2 in the AL East.

He allowed two earned runs or fewer in 23 of his starts.

In his final 18 starts, as the Rays were scrambling toward the playoffs, Price was 12-1.

And so on.

Would you prefer to argue moments? Really?

Baseball will always be a game of numbers, and in recent years, there have been new and creative ways of measuring performances.

I have argued this before though, and I'll argue it again. Wins are not the only measuring stick of a pitcher, but yes, they do matter. Holding a 2-1 lead in the eighth with a runner on second and the pressure mounting does matter. Making a key pitch in a key situation is important. And pitchers know it.

Go back to a cool Friday night in September, when the Rays were trying to hold on against the Yankees. The season was slipping away from Tampa Bay by then, but Price went out and shut down the Yankees. For a night, at least, he kept the possibilities alive.

Do you want to argue the eye test, perhaps?

There is always a degree of difficulty pitching for a team that hits as little as the Rays. Verlander? He had a Triple Crown winner driving in runs for him. Price had a bunch of bargains behind him. Every start, it was Price and the price-breakers.

Consider this. In the six games in which Price didn't get a decision, his ERA was a glittering 1.62. Three times, the Rays were shut out in games Price started. Twice, he took a shutout into the eighth while allowing three hits or fewer; both times, he left with a no-decision.

Game after game, it was like that. Price pitched on a tightrope; any slip, and he was done. That's pressure. Of his 31 starts, 15 were against teams that reached the playoffs. That's pressure, too.

Given all of that, you could argue that Price doesn't need a trophy to convince you of how good he was. But, yeah, he does. For the history. For the reputation. For the franchise.

It's a cool award, the Cy Young. Realistically, it isn't much different than, say, the NFL defensive player of the year (won by Tampa Bay's Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks) or the NHL MVP (won by Marty St. Louis). But it resonates louder. You can probably name a lot more Cy Young winners than MVPs.

Besides, Price deserves the thing. No other pitcher did more with fewer bats behind him. No one else improved his team's chances more on a nightly basis.

It should be Price's night.

His trophy, too.

Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.

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