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With Chris Sale sidelined the role of staff ace is now entrusted to David Price. Price is certainly not a novice at leading a rotation, but that was a younger and not older Price.
The attention getter headline has a caveat attached and that caveat is Chris Sale. By any conceivable measurement Sale is the ace of the staff and argumentatively the best pitcher in baseball, but with Sale on the shelf, that means lefty David Price assumes that role.
If Sale was not on the staff and still sequestered in Chicago or elsewhere Price would now have been adorned the ace based on his performance this season. The trials and tribulations of Price are well documented right down to the cryptic comments directed to the media either directly or via Twitter.
Price is ranked 24th in the American League among starting pitchers with a 2.2 fWAR. Rick Porcello is slightly above Price with a 2.4 fWAR, but Price has had remarkable consistency this season. The Red Sox chances of winning move upward exponentially when Price takes the mound.
What I note is Price’s ability to make amends for getting hammered in a game. The Yankee onslaught of allowing eight earned runs in 3.1 IP was followed by a six-inning and two earned start in his next go around with the Bronx Bombers. Expect some bumps with Price as he is a pitcher that is in transition.
At pitching middle age – Price is soon to be 33-years-old – the heater has certainly lost some zip. Price’s cutter is being tossed at a higher rate and with similar career velocity (88.4V versus 88.5 V). The cutter is now at a 28.3% and Price’s curve at a 20.8%. The fastball is now down to a 47.7% rate against his career 60%. So much for the metrics which show a transition off the fastball.
Pitching combines intelligence and ability and when ability starts to erode then the intelligence becomes paramount. Price is smart as an individual and as a pitcher. The evidence is clear that Price is certainly on the path to redefining himself in the latter stages of his career. The great pitchers have managed to adjust as their skill set changed and Price is doing just that.
Price is the ace until and if Sale returns. Sale eventually may be in a similar situation when his incredible talent shows the wear and tear of MLB innings. The next issue for Price is down the road and that is being a stopper if the Red Sox start to go into a mini-tailspin. Price also will have to establish his postseason credentials and that also is within almost certain reach.
I would suspect Price will remain tethered to Boston and not opt out of his contract since his “numbers” would certainly not be rewarded with a $32 MM or higher elsewhere. Price and Boston are now matched together through 2022.