David Price sure isn’t pitching like we all thought or hoped he would. OK, lets be fair, no one can earn back the value of Price’s 31 million dollars a year unless they make 35 starts and go 35-0, and even then he hasn’t cured cancer, so it’s still not enough value. (To be clear that is no knock on Price, he should sign the best deal for him, and he did. I also have no expectation of him curing cancer.) So what is a reasonable expectation for Price?
Here is Price’s career averages in his 7 full seasons in the bigs.
Those are great averages, so let’s set the expectation just a touch below that even.
So I think that’s a plausible conservative expectation, and stats alone can’t tell this story, but we have to start somewhere. So where is he now after last nights less than stellar effort.
So first the positives, he is making his starts and taking the ball every 5th day. That’s a huge thing for an Ace. Durability, for me, is the 1st quality an ace must possess. Second, his strikeout rate is very good, better than can reasonably be expected. His WHIP is fine, not dominant, and part of the reason for the severely elevated ERA, but not the only reason and that is the problem. Too many guys are scoring, he isn’t pitching out of jams with any regularity and hasn’t been having “easy” inning with any consistency.
So where I list durability as the 1st quality an Ace must possess, consistency is 2nd. That is what Price has lacked, consistency. Of his 24 starts, Price has only gone 7 innings or more in 12 of them. Expand that to 6 innings and it only adds 3 starts, bringing the total to 15. In today’s MLB a good starter gets you 6 innings probably half the time and an ace should get you 7 innings, Price has done that 50% of the time. For comparison, Chris Sale, the best starter (and tailor) in the AL has done it 71% of the time.
For me the 3rd quality and Ace must possess is dominance. I’m going to define dominance as 8 innings pitched (or more) and getting the win. Price has gone 8+ innings 7 times in 2017 and his record is 3-3 with 1 no decision. In the no decision it was a blown save due to a fielding error, that’s not on Price. In the 3 losses though despite going 8 innings he was trailing in each of them.
- On June 8th he gave up the go ahead run in the 8th and left the game trailing 2-1.
- On June 14th he gave up the eventual winning run in the 8th.
- On July 5th, he left trailing 3-2.
Is run scoring a problem there? Yes, but he also has 2 wins in 2016 where he gave up 6 runs, so that balances out. And the Ace need to be dominant in 1 run games, and Price is anything but that. The team has 3 wins in 1 run games started by Price, and Price was the credited victor in 2 of those, but in 1 of those Price gave up 6 runs and got the win, in another Price only lasted 2 and 1/3rd innings after giving up 6 runs and in the 3rd was truly dominant winning a 2-1 game, his only really dominant performance of the year.
I don’t know what the answer is. The only real change in his pitch usage is he is using his fastball a little less and his cutter a little more, but his velocities are fine, his swinging strike percentage is up and most of the other sort of geeky pitch/fx stats on fangraphs are all within reasonable percentages of where he normally is.
For the Red Sox, specifically his Red Sox team, to be a serious AL East competitor they need Price to step up and be the ace. He can surely do it, but last night leaves me wondering if he will do it. To be a true Ace he needs to.