Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (Oct. 5, 2018 – Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora made waves on Wednesday, announcing that lefty David Price will start Game Two against the Houston Astros. This move comes despite the fact that Price allowed three runs in 1.2 innings against the New York Yankees during the ALDS and has a career 5.28 ERA in the postseason. While his career track record in the postseason is reason for concern, David Price starting Game Two is, unfortunately, the best move the Red Sox could make.
David Price Starting Game Two Is Best Move Red Sox Could Make
Before we get started, let’s establish that I am not a Price hater. Far from it. Over the season, I’ve written multiple pieces about why Price deserves more respect and why he makes the team better. Before the postseason started, I wrote about why it was ok to trust Price with a playoff start.
While I still believe Price is a good pitcher most of the time, my tune on him and his 5.28 ERA has changed since that last start. However, the Red Sox simply don’t have a better option than Price. If Steven Wright were still healthy, then maybe, but Eduardo Rodriguez is not fit to start a playoff game.
Everyone talks about Price’s poor playoff numbers, but Rodriguez is no better. Despite this being his third postseason, managers Alex Cora and John Farrell have decided not to trust Rodriguez with a postseason start in any of those playoff runs. When Rodriguez has come in from the bullpen, he hasn’t done well. Granted, he’s only pitched 2.2 innings, but in that small sample Rodriguez has worked up a 16.88 ERA. In the Red Sox lone ALDS loss, Rodriguez matched Price’s pitching line by allowing three runs in 1.2 innings of work. Based on his limited postseason numbers, there is no reason to believe Eduardo Rodriguez can get the job done.
Comparing Regular Season Numbers
There is a chance that Price’s bad start wasn’t caused by the postseason atmosphere, but rather by facing a team he historically cannot beat. It’s no secret Price struggles against the Yankees, but he’s been elite against every other team throughout the season. In 2018, Price pitched 160 innings against non-Yankee teams, compiling a 2.92 ERA and a 3.32 FIP.
Price made two appearances against the Houston Astros this season, pitching well both times. In 12.1 innings of work, Price worked his way to a 3.65 ERA and an even better 2.19 FIP. These numbers, while good on their own, are even better when considering the Astros have arguably the best offense in the league. For Price, this continued a trend where, outside of the Yankees, he pitched well against the best competition. Against all non-New York playoff teams, Price allowed a 2.21 ERA and a 2.03 FIP in 20.1 innings of work.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, has struggled immensely against good teams like the Astros. While his season-long 3.82 ERA and 3.65 FIP show him to be a good pitcher, those numbers immediately fall apart when digging a little deeper. Rodriguez has dominated the bad teams while flopping against the good ones.
Rodriguez made one start against the Astros this season, going just 3.1 innings while allowing five runs. This equates out to a 13.50 ERA and an 11.26 FIP. When facing teams that made the playoffs, Rodriguez owns a 6.75 ERA and a 6.16 FIP over 26.2 innings of work. His ERA is a full point and a half higher than Price’s playoff ERA, and his FIP shows that his performances weren’t influenced by bad luck.
But Why Game Two?
Alex Cora isn’t going to just punt on a game, and by now we’ve already established Price is far more equipped to face the Astros than Rodriguez is. But why does he have to pitch Game Two. Chris Sale getting Game One is obvious, but Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi both pitched great in the ALDS. There’s an argument to be made that both players should pitch ahead of Price.
The answer to this comes in Price’s home and away splits. On the season, Price is a considerably better pitcher within the confines of Fenway Park. When pitching at home, Price has a 2.98 ERA and a 3.70 FIP in 96.2 innings of work. These number improve to a 2.32 ERA and a 3.06 FIP at home during the second half of the season.
Meanwhile, Price owns a season-long 4.31 ERA and 4.41 FIP in 79.1 innings on the road. While his 2.04 ERA on the road during the second half implies that he can handle starting on the road, his 4.22 FIP under those same circumstances implies Price was just getting lucky and he wasn’t as good as his ERA would lead you to believe.
Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi, meanwhile, are coming off starts where they pitched a combined 12 innings, allowing just two runs while pitching in Yankee Stadium. It’s hard to imagine a ballpark being more hostile than that one, but both players managed to do a fantastic jobs against another top offense in the New York Yankees. It stands to reason that if they can do it in the ALDS, then they should be able to do it in the ALCS.
Interestingly, Rick Porcello has actually been better all season long when pitching on the road. During 2018, Porcello owns a 4.77 ERA and a 4.63 FIP when pitching in Fenway Park. When pitching outside of Fenway, Porcello owns a 3.86 ERA and a 3.48 FIP.
While Eovaldi has struggled on the road with the Red Sox, he’s only compiled 54 innings as a member of the Red Sox. Of those 54 innings, only 21 came on the road. While a sample size that small, one bad outing can drastically affect the final result. Basically, with how little data there is, Alex Cora shouldn’t be making too many decisions around Eovaldi’s numbers.
Unfiltered Thoughts on David Price Starting Game Two
David Price starting Game Two is not a comforting thought when considering his postseason record. However, the Red Sox simply have no better option at the time. Eduardo Rodriguez is considerably worse than Price, especially when considering his struggles against the best teams in the league. Sending Rodriguez out to start is essentially admitting defeat in Game Two.
Since Price is in the rotation, pitching him Game Two gives the Red Sox the best chance to win. Price is considerably better at home than on the road, and Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi have both shown the ability to win on the road. In Porcello’s case, he’s actually better when pitching on the road.
Is this an ideal plan when facing the reigning World Series champs? Not at all. However, it’s the best move the Red Sox have, and it gives Boston Red Sox the best chance to win.