Friday Update: More on David Price, State of the Sox Rotation

on September 30, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Late Tuesday afternoon the Red Sox signed the crown jewel of the free agent class, inking former AL East foe David Price to the richest contract ever for a starting pitcher. I broke down the signing on Wednesday, and stand by everything I wrote earlier this week. However, there were a couple of things that I didn’t mention that I think deserve to be brought up:

  • Price has excelled at Fenway Park. In 11 career starts, he is 6-1 with a 1.95 ERA, 60 strikeouts, two complete games and a minuscule opposing batting average of .189. Is it a small sample size? Sure, but he’s actually thrown more regular season Fenway innings (74) than postseason innings (63.1). Since people won’t stop harping on Price’s postseason misadventures, I feel like I have the right to champion his stats at his new home park.
  • His career numbers vs. the AL East: 96 starts, 3.17 ERA, 8.2 K/9.
  • GFOB (Good Friend of the Blog) Tommy Viscariello emailed me an Excel sheet last night with some interesting numbers regarding Price’s pitch count over the past six seasons. Here’s the table with data from SportingCharts.com (Players with * were called up in late in 2010 and didn’t participate in a full season, so their 2010 pitch counts aren’t included in their final average):
Player 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Total Pitches Average
James Shields 3351 3576 3617 3657 3632 3336 21169 3528
Max Scherzer 3297 3344 3278 3388 3638 3359 20304 3384
David Price 3355 3696 3332 2707 3730 3388 20208 3368
Jon Lester 3357 3192 3424 3557 3493 3185 20208 3368
Cole Hamels 3368 3132 3316 3423 3136 3343 19718 3286
Zack Greinke 3445 2841 3383 2863 3210 3239 18981 3164
Johny Cueto 3117 2395 3448 958 3659 3268 16845 2808
Jordan Zimmermann* 556 2464 3089 3083 2924 3103 14663 2933
Jeff Samardzija* 374 1532 2767 3462 3339 3339 14813 2888
Chris Sale* 392 1105 3019 3253 2753 3323 13845 2691
Sonny Gray NA NA NA 995 3295 3078 7368 1842

The names on the list are pitchers whom the Sox have either actively pursued, been rumored to have pursued, or have been available (either in free agency or trades) in the past year. Price ranks third among these names, behind last year’s major free agents James Shields and Max Scherzer and tied with none other than former Red Sox lefty Jon Lester. The Lester part of this table is intriguing, as it highlights just how badly Boston’s front office screwed up that whole situation in 2014. The Red Sox weren’t willing to pay Lester for fear of his age and mileage on his arm, only to turn around the next offseason and pay $62 million more for a pitcher with the same age and milage (though Price has been the better pitcher of the two) that caused them to balk at bringing back their previous lefty ace.

The signing of Price raises the question of which starters will be the odd men out. By my count, the Red Sox have seven potential big league starters fighting for five spots: Price, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, and Henry Owens. Price is a lock, so is a healthy Buchholz. Porcello struggled mightily last season, but he’s a candidate for a bounce-back season in 2016. He posted a poor strand rate, a high BABIP, and the worst GB% and HR/FB rates of his career. His ERA- was a tough-to-look-at 117, but after stripping out his bad HR and sequencing luck, his xFIP- was better than league average at 92. He also had his best K% (20.2) ever  Those peripherals, plus his new extension kicking in, makes him a lock as well. Eduardo Rodriguez was impressive, if inconsistent, in his first big league season, posting a sub-4.00 ERA in 21 starts. I would be surprised if he didn’t start the season in the rotation as well.

That leaves three starters and only one rotation spot remaining. Miley has a strong case as a reliable back end starter who will provide plenty of innings and consistent performance. Over the last four seasons, Miley has averaged 198 innings per season, never throwing less than 193.2. While his 4.46 ERA was the highest its been since 2011, when he appeared in only 8 games, he, like Porcello, benefits from a look at his peripherals. Miley’s FIP, for example, was the best its been since his 2012 All-Star season. If Miley can replicate his 2015 season with a little bit more luck, he would make an excellent choice for the fifth man in the rotation, though three lefty starters is not an especially common occurrence

If Miley gets the #5 spot, where does that leave Kelly and Owens? Kelly could be an effective bullpen arm, as both IWWT’s Connor Collett indicated here. SBNation’s Mike Collins compared Kelly’s case to other recent starters-turned-relievers, and the results could look promising for the 27-year-old. Kelly was one of the hardest throwing starters last year, and his mid-summer hot streak turned a brutal 2015 season into one with a couple silver linings. Still, I think it would be wisest to stash him in the ‘pen, where he could thrive best. From there, he could be brought into the rotation in the case of an emergency. As for Owens, I would bet that he’ll start the season in Triple A. While he had his moments, like allowing only one run in eight innings against the Royals on August 21st or two separate September outings against Baltimore in which he pitched 7.2 shutout innings, he still struggled with his control and had plenty of poor performances. He could act as Buchholz insurance (or insurance for any other starter, but come on, there’s no way Buchholz makes 32 starts and tosses 190+ innings).

Regardless of what the Red Sox do, the Price signing helps to move everyone into better rotation slots, meaning we can do away with that “He’s the Ace” nonsense from last year, and gives Boston options heading into next April.

3 Up

  • Winter meetings are just a few days away, and although Dave Dombrowski has said that the offseason’s major moves are likely over for the Red Sox, I still can’t help but get excited for Monday. There’s still a lot of talent out there (Greinke, Cueto, Jason Heyward, etc.), and while there’s no guarantee that they’ll sign at the GM summit in Nashville, you never know when baseball’s power axis will suddenly shift thanks to a huge acquisition.
  • The Miami Marlins have named Barry Bonds their hitting coach (and Juan Nieves their pitching coach!) for the upcoming season. Bonds is infamous for a lot of reasons, but steroids or not he’s the all-time home run king and one of the greatest players of all time. Now he gets the chance to team up with the best slugger in the majors in Giancarlo Stanton. If he can stay healthy, I wouldn’t rule out 60 homers from The Outfielder Formerly Known as Mike.
  • DAVID PRICE IS ALL IN. DAVID PRICE’S NIECE IS ALL IN. 2016 WORLD CHAMPS HERE WE COME.

3 Down

  • One more stat that Tommy sent along: Price has allowed 10 earned runs after the sixth inning in his postseason starts. That gives him a postseason ERA of 15.00 in such games from innings 7-9. Yikes.
  • Poor Jordan Zimmermann made the mistake of cheering on his hometown Green Bay Packers after Aaron Rodgers’ miracle Hail Mary led the Pack to a last second win over the Detroit Lions. Zimmermann, who signed with the Detroit Tigers earlier this week, sent out a celebratory tweet that didn’t go over too well with his new fanbase. If you want to make friends in the Motor City, publicly declaring your love for the Packers probably isn’t the best way to do that.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks released a new uniform set last night. They were…something else. I’m all for thinking out of the box on uniforms (and I actually like how they reintroduced teal on two of their alternates), but sometimes teams who try this approach go a little bit overboard. This is one of those cases.
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