Dustin Pedroia Is Trying to Fix David Price, But David Price Doesn't Need to Be Fixed
David Price has spent his entire career terrorizing the American League East. So, when the Boston Red Sox signed him this offseason, it's safe to assume they thought that terror would finally be directed at other teams rather than themselves.
His 6.75 ERA through seven starts with the Sox tells you that the brown stuff has hit the fan on that strategy.
Instead of receiving the former Cy Young lefty, it would appear on the surface as if the Red Sox gave a $217-million contract to an over-the-hill, fading star whose best days were behind him. That's not quite an optimal return on investment, me thinks.
In an attempt to turn Price's performance around, teammate Dustin Pedroia hit the film room to see what was going on with the team's ace to cause the drop off. It turns out he found something in Price's leg kick and glove placement as he started his wind-up.
Here's a side by side view of the difference in David Price's mechanics that Dustin Pedroia noticed. https://t.co/31uWZTUMiS
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) May 9, 2016
Well, the video tells it all. David Price is, indeed, a wildly different pitcher than he was back in 2013, and this is something the numbers will back up.
The table below compares some of Price's peripheral stats in those two seasons to show that he was one of the top pitchers in the game one year while merely above average in the other. Swinging-strike rate is the percentage of strikes he gets via swings and misses, and contact rate is how often hitters make contact when they swing.
|Season||SIERA||Strikeout Rate||Walk Rate||Swinging-Strike Rate||Contact Rate|
Man, looking at those numbers, I certainly wouldn't want Season X on my team when Season Y was a possibility. No wonder Pedroia was trying to fix Price.
There's only one problem: Season Y -- the demonstrably more dominant season -- is 2016. Season X is 2013.
Price, by every peripheral stat in the book outside of his velocity and walk rate, is performing grotesquely better than he did in 2013, and they say he's having one of his best seasons ever. His 2.99 SIERA is the second best of his career, trailing only 2014, and he has never had a strikeout rate nearly as high as the one he has this year. The only area he's lagging is walks, but he's even below the league-wide mark of 8.2% for starters there.
Price isn't just performing well relative to his previous marks, though; his numbers show that he has been one of the best starters in the entire league. This table looks at some of his peripheral stats -- ones that will stabilize more quickly than his ERA -- and shows where he ranks in the league among qualified starters.
|Statistic||SIERA||Strikeout Rate||Swinging-Strike Rate||Contact Rate|
Based on this, we would say that Price is -- at worst -- a top-10 pitcher in the league. He could be even better than that. Do you still think that needs fixing?
There are only two explanations, then, for why Pedroia would be trying to get Price to make adjustments even though he's pitching like a straight up beast. The first is that he doesn't understand how sample sizes or advanced statistics work and thinks Price's struggles are exclusively his fault. The second is that he's sabotaging Price after years of rivalry. Price never plunked Pedroia in 67 plate appearances, so that seems a bit less likely, but it's too early to rule it out.
If you were to issue one criticism of Price, it would that he has allowed a 29.1% line-drive rate and 41.2% hard-hit rate to opponents. Both of those marks are among the five highest in the league among qualified starters, and it would partially help explain his absurd .373 batting average on balls in play against. However, as shown in this FanGraphs piece on sample sizes, line-drive rate against requires 650 balls in play to stabilize, and Price is only at 110. This could just as easily be the product of a small sample size as it is a sign of struggles. Additionally, SIERA takes into account batted-ball types, and he has the seventh best mark in the league there. The best argument against Price is one that doesn't hold up this early in the season.
There is another difference that Price has between now and 2013. That would be his defense. The Tampa Bay Rays' Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) per 150 innings that year was 4.9, the seventh best mark in the league. The Red Sox are still above average, but they're below that year's Rays at 2.6.
Who needs the fixing now, Dustin?
The reality here is that expectations should have been a bit lower for Price as he moved to the second worst pitcher's park in the league. That, combined with some bad luck and a small sample size, is going to lead to a lofty ERA that'll inspire thoughts that maybe Price has lost his touch. But he hasn't, as illustrated by his peripheral stats. In fact, he may be even better than he was in the past. It's time to chill with the freak out about Price's start and attempts at adjustments; he's going to be just fine.