This past offseason, the Red Sox hierarchy had one goal in mind: sign an ace. They thought they had one when they inked David Price to a seven-year deal worth $217 million for the 2016-22 seasons, the most lucrative contract ever for a pitcher. However, any objective observer would say that the way Price is pitching this season, that the pitcher, who will be 31 at the end of next month, is not an ace this season.
Tuesday night, Price immediately put the Sox into a hole by allowing a home run on the first pitch of the game to Shin-Soo Choo of the Texas Rangers. In 18 starts this season, Price has allowed 16 homers in 116.1 IP. That’s one fewer homer than he allowed last season in 220.1 innings pitched.
Price is allowing a lot of home runs
By the time the 1st inning was over, Texas was winning 2-0. In 18 1st innings this season, Price has allowed 12 runs, one fewer than he allowed in 32 1st innings last season. Batters are hitting .351 against Price in the 1st inning this season.
Price is getting racked in the 1st inning
John Farrell, denier-in-chief
Sox manager John Farrell‘s job is in jeopardy. After a strong start, the Sox have reverted to their losing ways that have become their habit during Farrell’s stewardship. Farrell has lost the support of Red Sox Nation in part because of contradictory comments made by him about Price and Price’s own assessment.
Last night: “They got to him early,” Farrell said of Price. “After that, he settled into a very strong eight innings of work. He became much more efficient — decent power to his fastball, swing and miss to his changeup — but a couple of runs early.”
“There’s nothing positive to point at right now,” a frustrated Price said. “I threw 50 pitches through two (innings), still went eight, we still lost. It doesn’t matter. I’ve got to be better. That’s why they brought me here, and I’m not doing it right now.”
This follows Price’s last start when he allowed four runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings in a 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay: “On a day when I thought overall he probably had his best stuff of the season in terms of velocity and in terms of the shape of his secondary pitches,” Farrell said of Price after the game, “they bunched a couple of hits together, particularly the third inning for the three runs.”
Meanwhile, Price’s was more honest on his outing: “Changeup, that’s probably the worst changeup I’ve had in probably a month. Curveball was awful. Can’t get my cutter or my slider where I want to. I’m just bad right now.”
Aces don’t lose Quality Starts
I believe that there is a significant difference between number one pitchers and aces. One way that it is measured is that aces win close, well-pitched games. The Rangers defeated the Sox last night 7-2. However, Boston was just down 3-2 when they entered the 9th and the other disappointing major Sox acquisition, Craig Kimbrel, allowed four runs it four batters in the 9th. That is worth a whole other column. The key here is that in a game when Boston went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position, they still managed to tie the score 2-2 in the 4th inning, but Price squandered that rally by allowing a tie-breaking run in the 6th.
When Price left after eight, he and his team trailed, 3-2. Price took the loss, his fourth Quality Start loss of the season.
Perhaps it’s a sign that you are a former ace when you start to lose multiple Quality Starts. When you look at the list of starters with at least four losing Quality’s this season, you see three pitchers who fall into the category of erstwhile aces: Price, James Shields, and R.A. Dickey.
Nine to Know: 2016 pitchers with at least four QS losses
David Price QS losses by year-by-year
Do you remember Hideo Nomo?
Raise your hand if you remember Hideo Nomo. If you do you might remember that in 2001, Nomo pitched one season for the Red Sox. Now what does that have to do with Mr. Price, whose 130 strikeouts and six 10-strikeout games both lead the American League? Well, Nomo also led the league in strikeouts that one season, but had a 13-10 (.565) record and a 4.50 ERA. Price seems on his way to a similar season with an 8-6 (.571) record and a 4.64 ERA.
The Sox that season finished 82-79 in second place 13.5 games out of first.
With last night’s loss and Toronto’s victory, the Sox dropped into third place for the first time since April 13 when they were 4-4 after spending 33 days this season in first place. When your 1-2-3 pitchers are David Price, Steven Wright, and Rick Porcello with a combined record of 27-13 with an ERA of 3.65 and you have nothing in the rotation after that, third place feels pretty right.
Last season, the Red Sox were a last place club. Last season after 18 starts, David Price was 9-2 (this Tigers were 15-3 in this starts, Boston is 10-8 this season). He had 15 fewer whiffs (115), allowed seven fewer homers (9), and he had an ERA of 2.38 (2.26 lower than this season).
In the words of the great Boston sportscaster Bob Lobel, “Why can’t we get players like that?”