With the MLB All Star game now in our rearview mirrors, we are officially in the second half of the season. Let's take a look at how our former Commodores have played thus far.
Whoever says trade rumors have a negative affect on a player's performance has never met David Price. Price has been surrounded by rumors of his departure from the Tampa Bay Rays for well over a year, yet it has not seemed to faze him. The former ace of the Commodores pitching staff was in Minnesota this past weekend making his fourth All Star appearance after a stellar first half of the season. In 20 starts, Price is 9-7 with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. Don't let the somewhat low number of wins fool you, Price has been amazing this season. Of his 20 starts, only twice has he gone less than six innings. He has surrendered three earned runs or less in 15 of his starts, and has reached double digits in strikeouts eight times. In the month of June, all five of Price's starts saw him earning ten or more strikeouts, getting 54 in 39.2 innings.
Price currently has 164 strikeouts spanning 147.2 innings, both the highest in all of Major League Baseball. Not only has he been striking out batters left and right, but Price has also shown amazing control of his pitches throughout the season. Of the 16 pitchers with at least 20 starts (including All Stars such as Felix Hernandez, Johnny Cueto, Tyson Ross, and Julio Teheran), Price has the lowest number of walks with 21. In his last start before the All Star break, he threw eight innings of shutout baseball. If that was his last start with the Rays, he certainly went out with a bang. Who knows what team Price will end up on, but whatever team does trade for the former Commodore will not be disappointed.
2014 has seen another former Commodore ace solidify himself as a stud pitcher in the majors. Sonny Gray's 2014 season has been nothing short of amazing. He is 10-3 with a 2.79 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19, and earned AL Pitcher of the Month for his performance in April. Of his 19 starts, Gray has pitched less than six innings only twice and has given up more than three runs only three times, good for 16 quality starts (6 innings or more pitched with 3 or less earned runs allowed). His best performance came on April 28th when he threw a complete game shutout, allowing only two hits and one walk against the Texas Rangers. Gray needed a measly 108 pitches to get through that outing, quite an amazing feat. In 125.2 innings pitched, he has racked up 108 strikeouts while only allowing 106 hits.
On most teams throughout the league, Gray would be considered the ace of the rotation. However the Oakland Athletics have starting pitching like no other team in baseball, with Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir ahead of Gray in the rotation and Jason Hammel and Jesse Chavez behind him. While this may lead to Gray being slightly underrated in the eyes of baseball pundits around the country, it helps relieve the stress that normally comes with being a star pitcher. In a starting rotation that consists of four other players with ERAs lower than 3.15, Gray does not have to worry about one bad start here and there; he can rely on his fellow starters to help the team bounce back the next game. This helps take a lot of pressure off a starting pitcher. If Oakland can keep up this level of play (currently the best record in baseball) and win the World Series, Sonny Gray will join Harvey Hendrick (1923) and Joey Cora (2005) as the only Commodores ever to be named World Series Champions.
Vanderbilt has also produced some great hitters over the years, with Pedro Alvarez being one of the best. Alvarez is in the midst of another solid year in the majors. Through the first half of the season, Alvarez is batting .239 with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs, on par with his career averages. However Alvarez has shown signs that at the age of 27, he is still improving his game. He has less strikeouts this season than any other season where he played full-time. With 88 strikeouts after 93 games, Alvarez is projected to end the season with 150, well under the 184 strikeouts he has averaged the last two years. He is also being a lot more patient at the plate. His 41 walks is only seven less than his total from last season and 16 shy of his career high of 57. He is on pace to shatter that personal best.
With this big increase in walks, Alvarez is boasting the highest on base percentage of his career at .328. While his home runs and RBIs are not as high as they have been in years past, Alvarez is turning himself into a better all-around hitter, getting on base more and striking out less. His 78 hits puts him on pace to top his previous career best of 130 hits. Alvarez also seems to be a lot more confident on the base path. Previously he has never had more than two stolen bases in a season; this year he already has six. While his power numbers might be down, Pedro Alvarez has found success in other aspects of his hitting, proving to be a valuable piece of the young Pittsburgh Pirates team.
Price, Gray, and Alvarez are certainly the three biggest former Commodores in the majors, but there are a few others that have seen playing time this year. Since returning from the Disabled List at the beginning of May, Mike Minor has made 14 starts for the Atlanta Braves. He is 3-5 with a 4.86 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. However a lot of that is due to three starts where he gave up six, eight, and six runs, respectively. If you were to exclude those numbers from his season stats, he would have allowed only 25 runs in 69 innings, good for an ERA of 3.26. His 79 strikeouts in 83.1 innings is very good, and he has reached double digits in strikeouts in two of his starts. His best game of the season came on June 4th against the Seattle Mariners when he allowed one run in seven innings while recording ten strikeouts.
Ryan Flaherty is not an everyday starter for the Baltimore Orioles. But he has made a name for himself as their backup utility infielder, playing in 48 games. In those games, Flaherty is batting .226 with four home runs and 15 RBIs; his on base percentage is just short of .300 at .298. While he has not seen a ton of playing time this season, Flaherty has seven hits in his 20 at bats during the month of July, good for a .350 batting average. If he can keep on hitting, the Baltimore Orioles will surely find a way to get Flaherty more playing time.
Finally, Josh Zeid has not had a good 2014. As if being a member of the lowly Houston Astros was not bad enough, Zeid has an ERA of 5.59 and a WHIP of 1.71. In 19 innings pitched, he has given up 12 earned runs on 26 hits, including six home runs. Of his 21 appearances out of the bullpen, only once has he gone a full inning of work without giving up a hit. Let's hope Zeid can turn it around in the second half of the season.
There is your Dores in the Majors update. Good luck to all of our former Commodores in the majors, and as always, ANCHOR DOWN!