Bodley: Price leads young pitchers' revolution
Young, emerging arms highlight success in "Year of Pitcher"
ANAHEIM -- Tampa Bay's David Price will start for the American League in Tuesday night's All-Star Game. He's won 12 of 16 decisions for the Rays with a 2.42 ERA.
And oh, yes. He's just 24 years old.
With this prestigious start, one that will be watched by a worldwide television audience, Price becomes the poster child for the emergence of young, talented pitchers in the Major Leagues.
Washington's Stephen Strasburg, 22, has received enormous attention since he made his Major League debut on June 8 and struck out 14 Pirates.
These are just two of the youngsters that have burst onto the scene in 2010 with their guns blazing, defining a season graybeards are calling "The Year of the Pitcher."
A season that has bewildered sluggers moaning, "What's going on here?"
It's really not just the youngsters, but that's where you have to start while trying to figure out what's going on here.
Philadelphia's Roy Halladay, an elder statesman at 33, said, "The coaching is better and they're teaching these guys at a younger age how to be successful. That makes a big difference."
Halladay himself is in the thick of this dramatic shift from offense to pitching. He threw the second perfect game of the season against Florida on May 29, not too long after Oakland's Dallas Braden did the same thing against the Rays.
Detroit's Armando Galarraga was deprived of his perfect game when umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first base with two outs in the ninth inning.
This should tell you something about 2010's pitching:
There have been four no-hitters. Arizona's Edwin Jackson and Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, who starts for the NL on Tuesday night, complete the list.
Year of the pitcher?
There have been 22 instances this season in which a pitcher had a no-hitter through six innings. Never before have there been two perfect games in a season.
At the All-Star break, the combined ERA for both leagues is 4.15. The last time MLB finished a season with an ERA that low was 1992 (3.75).
Just ask the hitters, those home-run bashers we haven't seen on SportsCenter's highlights so frequently this summer.
There is an average of 1.89 home runs per game at the break. The high point for home runs was '00, when the average was 2.34. The runs per game average is 8.91, the first time since 1992 that number has dipped below 9.00.
I believe that because experienced, premier free-agent pitchers are so scarce and expensive, owners are putting an emphasis on developing their own. They're being drafted mostly out of college, taught how to pitch, rather than just throw, and when they get to the Major Leagues they're ready to compete at the highest level.
Price, for example, was the Rays' No. 1 draft pick out of Vanderbilt in '07.
"I think it's incredible," says Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who will skipper the AL All-Stars. "You see many young kids who are pitching at such a high level. I think it's the time of the pitcher right now. It seemed like 15 years ago it was a time of young shortstops, and at other times great young outfielders."
NL manager Charlie Manuel of the Phillies puts it this way: "I think young pitching is where Major League Baseball is at today. They have command and know how to pitch."
Last weekend, Cincinnati's 22-year-old left-hander Travis Wood, in just his third Major League start, lost a perfect game against the Phillies when Carlos Ruiz doubled to start the ninth inning.
"There are almost two types of these young pitchers," adds Halladay. "[Marlins ace] Josh Johnson and Jimenez are so overpowering and have such good stuff. Now, there are other guys coming up with three or four more pitches and they locate both sides of the plate -- Wood, [Reds teammate] Mike Leake, [Blue Jays starter] Shaun Marcum -- guys like that are able to pitch at an earlier age.
Halladay agrees these young pitchers are being taught about off-speed pitches, how to hit the outside of the plate and not be afraid to throw a certain pitch when behind in the count.
"When I was growing up, let's see how hard we could throw," he said. "Now they're working on changeups and other pitches, especially when they go off to college."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "I think now, more so than ever, it's critical for teams to develop their own pitching if you're going to contend. You're not going to be able to go out there and find pitching at the caliber you need to contend. And it has to be nurtured the right way."
Former All-Star Harold Reynolds, now an analyst for the MLB Network, agrees free agency is too expensive now and teams are "focusing on developing their own pitching. Take Pittsburgh in the last Draft. Nine of their first 10 picks were pitchers."
The Yankees' Andy Pettitte, 38, said, "The hitters over the last 15 years have gotten so good and the game became so hitter-dominant. Organizations are now doing a better job of developing young pitchers and teaching them how to pitch in the big leagues."
Teammate Alex Rodriguez joked, "I don't like it. They're pitching so well. Seriously, I think they are very refined coming out of college. A lot of them are throwing in the mid-90s. Most of them can throw three pitches at any count. They're very unpredictable. Some of them have four pitches they can throw for strikes. It's incredible and good for baseball."
Bottom line: It's a call to arms and the youngsters are answering.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.