Is David Price Emerging as the Favorite for the American League Cy Young Award?
Trading for a soon-to-be free agent starting pitcher at the trade deadline, in the hopes that pitcher will perform well enough to get you into the postseason, is always a huge gamble to take.
Oh sure, it's worked a couple times in the past. In 2008, CC Sabathia worked magic in his half-season with the Milwaukee Brewers. Randy Johnson helped get the Houston Astros into the postseason in 1998, and David Cone hurled the Yankees into their first postseason appearance in 13 years in 1995.
This year, the Toronto Blue Jays' acquisition of David Price appears to be challenging those three signings as the best trade deadline rental of all-time. On Monday night, Price was magical against the New York Yankees, who entered the night just 2 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for first place in the American League East.
— MLB (@MLB) September 22, 2015
Toronto's win pushed their lead up to 3 1/2 games over the Yanks and improved Price to 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in three starts against the Bombers since his trade to The Great White North. And overall, since leaving Detroit for Toronto, Price is 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA. He has struck out 81 batters and walked just 17 in 69.1 innings since the trade, with a microscopic WHIP of 0.981 as a Jay.
On the season, Price is 17-5 with a 2.34 ERA and an AL-best 6.3 fWAR. His nERD of 2.61 is also best among American League hurlers, meaning Price would give up 2.61 runs a game fewer than a league-average pitcher over a 27-out contest. Here is where he ranks among AL pitchers in 2015.
Price's 2.34 ERA is the lowest of what has already been a brilliant career, and his sparkling numbers with the Jays are even more impressive when you consider he went from playing in a pitcher-friendly park in Detroit to a homer-haven in Toronto.
If Price were to win the Cy Young Award this year, it would be an extremely rare feat, as he would become the first pitcher since Rick Sutcliffe in 1984 to win it in a season in which he was traded. Sutcliffe's Cy Young was even more incredible in that he started the year in the American League and won the National League Cy Young Award after an early-season deal to the Cubs.
And while Price was doing well before his trade to the Blue Jays, he has jumped up a notch in the month of September. This month, Price is 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 9 walks in 26 innings, and a lot of that is due to Price pitching inside a lot more.
NYY have noted that in recent starts that David Price has shifted his focus from one side of plate to other, and has hammered RHers inside.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 21, 2015
According to Brooks Baseball, Price went from throwing his four-seam fastball about 20 to 22% of the time in July and August to just about 12% of the time in September. He's replaced it with his cutter, which he's been throwing 32.5% of the time this month, a pitch that dives in on righties.
Of course, the race for the Cy Young isn't over yet. Dallas Keuchel's 5.8 fWAR and 2.51 ERA, Chris Archer's 5.4 fWAR and 2.92 ERA, Sonny Gray's 2.72 ERA and 3.7 fWAR and Chris Sale's 5.9 fWAR and 11.97 strikeouts per 9 innings will all merit strong consideration, and all still have three or four more starts yet to stake their case.
But with a little over two weeks left in the regular season, it's Price's award to lose.
Not bad for a rental.