Year in and year out, the Vanderbilt Commodores have one of the top baseball programs in the country. Current Head Coach Tim Corbin has had a very successful run as the manager for the Commodores, owning a 465-229 record since he took over in 2003. This record translates into a .670 winning percentage, the highest for any Vanderbilt Baseball Head Coach with more than one season coaching since the program began in 1904. Over the last 11 years since Corbin took over, Vanderbilt's baseball team has produced numerous players that have reached the Majors. As we are currently about three weeks into the MLB season, let's take a look at how some of these players are playing thus far.
There is no doubt that David Price has been the most successful Commodore in the MLB throughout his career. At 28 years old, Price is already a 3x All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner (2012). Through the first couple of weeks of this year's season, Price has seen some mixed success. After five starts, Price does own a 3-1 record, has an amazing 40 strikeouts, and has a WHIP of 1.09. However his ERA is 4.04, a lot higher than what we have come to expect from the All-Star pitcher. The main reason Price's ERA is currently so high is because of his performance against the New York Yankees on April 17th. In this contest, Price gave up six earned runs on ten hits in only five innings. A start like that will cause a huge bump in a pitcher's ERA. Take away that one game and Price has been his usual self this season, allowing only ten runs in the other 30.2 innings pitched and averaging over 8 strikeouts per game. His most impressive start occurred on April 11th against the Cincinnati Reds. In this game, Price pitched 8.1 innings, allowed only one run on four hits and one walk, while recording ten strikeouts. There is little doubt that by the end of the season, Price will accomplish similar success to the past couple of seasons, as he is still one of the league's most dominating pitchers.
Behind Price, Pedro Alvarez is the next most successful Vanderbilt alum currently playing in Major League Baseball. Alvarez is coming off his best season in the majors, where he earned himself a trip to the All-Star Game and finished the season with the most home runs in the National League (36). Alvarez is not known to be a contact hitter. His style of play has constantly been connected to that of slugger Adam Dunn. Both players are known for having a low batting average but hitting many home runs (he had a .233 batting average to go with his 36 home runs last season). So far this season, Alvarez has put up exactly the type of numbers we have come to expect from the young power hitter. After 78 at bats, he has 14 hits, six of which were home runs, which has resulted in a batting average of .179. He also has 13 RBIs. To go along with his six home runs, Alvarez has accumulated 19 strikeouts. While the batting average is a little lower than normal, the rest of his statistics are about the same as previous seasons. The only stat that is a big change from seasons past is the number of walks Alvarez has drawn. Through 21 games, he has walked 11 times. His previous season high is 57 walks over a span of 149 games, which came in 2012. If he keeps up this pace, Alvarez will shatter his season high walk rate. This statistic shows that Alvarez is being more patient at the plate, a good sign for the slugger.
Sonny Gray may not be as famous as Price or Alvarez, but so far this season, he has shown the potential to be one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. Gray earned the honor of being Oakland's Opening Day Starter, and did not disappoint. He pitched six innings of shutout baseball, while allowing five hits and three walks. He also recorded seven strikeouts. But Oakland's offense failed to provide Gray with any support, and thus he received a No Decision. However over his next three starts, Gray's success continued, and he was able to pick up three straight wins. Over this three-game span, Gray gave up five earned runs over 19 innings, while striking out 16 batters. Through his first four starts, Gray has earned a 3-0 record and an ERA of 1.80, incredible numbers for the young pitcher. The only number that is a little higher than he would like is his WHIP. Over the first 25 innings pitched, Gray has given up 25 hits and allowed nine walks, good for a WHIP of 1.36. While allowing runners on base is never good for a pitcher, if Gray can continue to work himself out of jams on the mound, then we can expect his success to continue throughout this season. Considering he made his MLB debut less than a year ago (July 30th, 2013), there seems to be a very bright future for the most recent Commodore to enter Major League Baseball.
Price, Alvarez, and Gray are currently the only three former Commodores that have achieved any success for their respective teams in 2014. Mike Minor of the Atlanta Braves is the fourth former 'Dore that performed well in the past, but he has been on the Disabled List all off this season thus far. However after making one more minor league start in the next couple of days, Minor is expected to be promoted back to the majors next week, where he will take back his regular spot in the rotation. In his few starts in the minors, Minor has posted a 3.52 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings. Mike Baxter, Josh Zeid, and Ryan Flaherty are also all former Commodores in the majors, but none have seen much success in 2014. Baxter is hitless in seven at bats for the LA Dodgers. Zeid has given up two earned runs in three innings of relief for the Houston Astros, good for an ERA of 6.00. Finally, Flaherty has posted a .204 batting average over 49 at bats, with zero home runs and only 3 RBIs. His On Base Percentage is a lowly .278.
Best of luck to all Commodores in the MLB! We hope to see more members of the Vanderbilt community in the Majors by the time the season ends. Anchor Down!