Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (July 1, 2018 – Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America)
Much maligned Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price had perhaps the worst outing of his career last Sunday, giving up eight runs in just 3.1 innings of work against the rival New York Yankees. With yet another underwhelming performance against the Red Sox biggest foes, some fans are calling for his trade or his outright release. While he’s far from a perfect pitcher, David Price makes the Red Sox better, and his pro’s far outweigh his cons.
David Price Makes the Red Sox Better
What Price Can’t Do
In order to appease the anti-Price side of Red Sox Nation, let’s start with the negatives. Yes, David Price has his clear flaws, chief among them his struggles against the Yankees. Obviously, New York is the biggest rival and the primary challenger to the Red Sox AL East chances. You want your best pitchers pitching their best in such big moments, and Price has done the exact opposite.
During his Red Sox tenure, Price owns an 8.43 ERA and a 6.17 FIP, allowing 13 home runs in 47 innings pitches. Obviously, none of that is good. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the Yankees own Price. Only Price knows why the Yankees are able to tee up on him so much, but whatever the reason, Price needs to get it fixed.
The other big criticism against Price is his historic struggles in the playoffs, although this complaint is definitely overblown. While Price’s lone 2016 playoff start went poorly, it’s not like any of the 2016 Red Sox performed well those playoffs. Cy Young winner Rick Porcello went five innings while allowing four runs, while the Game Three tandem of Clay Buchholz and Drew Pomeranz allowed four runs in a combined 5.1 innings. Quite frankly, that team was not ready for playoff baseball.
The Red Sox returned to the playoffs in 2017, and Price was the best pitcher on the club. Playing through a serious elbow injury (it was diagnosed by Dr. James Andrews, a highly respected doctor in the medical community. Price didn’t fake the injury), the lefty delivered 6.2 innings of shutout relief. For the second straight year, the Red Sox pitchers struggled in October. However, this time, Price was easily the best arm of the bunch, carrying the entire unit on his injured elbow.
Yes, there are genuine things not to like about David Price. His struggles against the Yankees are historically bad and incredibly worrisome. If the Sox run into the Yankees in the playoffs, manager Alex Cora would need to think about utilizing Price in the bullpen. While his playoff track record isn’t as rough as some say it is, it’s far from perfect.
However, despite these flaws, there’s still plenty to like about Price. Aside from games against the Yankees, Price has been one of the most consistent, dependable, and all-around best arms in the Red Sox rotation.
What Price Does Well
Basically, Price does everything else well. Since joining the Red Sox, Price owns a 3.35 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 1.12 WHIP, and a 25.3 K% against non-Yankee teams. These numbers show that Price is a great number two pitcher and that he puts his team in position to win almost every time he takes the mound.
Chris Sale is considerably better than Price, but outside of him, there isn’t a Red Sox pitcher who’s been as good as Price (Yankees excluded). The Red Sox have had one of the better rotations in baseball since 2016, yet none of Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, or Drew Pomeranz are able to match up to Price’s stat line.
Porcello (2016 Cy Young Winner): 3.81 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.18 WHIP
Rodriguez: 4.34 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 1.29 WHIP
Pomeranz (since joining the Red Sox midway through 2016): 4.09 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 1.42 WHIP
Price has each one of the other three main members of the rotation beat in every single category. If the Sox were to get rid of Price, they would be getting rid of their second-best pitcher. That’s not a formula for winning baseball, especially for a team in win-now mode.
Price Against Good Teams
One of the more common myths floating around Red Sox Nation is that Price builds up his numbers by dominating inferior opponents. While Price is better against bad teams than good ones (as is literally everyone), the former Cy Young winner still performs well against the elite of the league. Outside of the Yankees, of course.
In 2016, Price pitched 88.2 innings against playoff teams. In those 88.2 innings, Price posted a 3.76 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.14 WHIP, and struck out 24.4% of the batters he faced. Compare that to his overall numbers in 2016: 3.99 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 1.20 WHIP, 24% strikeout percentage. Price’s numbers against the league’s elite were essentially the same as his overall season numbers. He didn’t falter against the best of the best; rather, he played consistently solid baseball, regardless of opponent.
Injuries limited Price to just 27.2 innings against playoff teams in 2017. However, during that small sample, Price still stacked up well against the best teams in baseball. In all, Price posted a 3.90 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 1.34 WHIP, and a 21.3 K% against playoff teams. And yes, these numbers include the Yankees.
Once again, his numbers against good teams didn’t drastically vary from his season’s numbers. Through 74.2 innings, Price posted a 3.38 ERA, 3.64 FIP, and a 1.19 WHIP during the 2017 season. While his stats were worse against playoff teams than regular teams, that’s to be expected. Obviously, better offenses produce better, which leads to higher ERA’s.
Unfiltered Thoughts on David Price
Is David Price the best pitcher on the Red Sox? No, that honor goes to Chris Sale. Is Price a perfect pitcher? No, his struggles against the Yankees are a serious issue, and he needs to do something to address them. Is Price worth his massive contract? No, but John Henry pays that, not you, so it shouldn’t really bother you.
David Price is a very good number two pitcher, and his presence in the rotation makes the Red Sox a more complete team. Outside of the Yankees, he’s been the second best of the starters in just about every meaningful statistic. He plays his best against playoff teams, and he gives his team a chance to win. Sending Price away would be a bad move for the Red Sox, as David Price makes the Red Sox better.