When the Boston Red Sox started this season, how many of you would have expected David Price to be sporting a 7.06 ERA? Or Rick Porcello to have three wins?
Let’s be honest here: put up your hand if any of you had picked Porcello for your fantasy team high in the draft. If any hands actually go up, you are definitely in the minority. Yet, Porcello, at the moment, stands as the better pitcher compared to Price. Statistically, at least.
Price, the big-name free agent pitcher and declared ace of the Red Sox, threw just 3.2 innings in Fenway Park, yesterday, allowing eight runs on eight hits, two of them for home runs. The majority of the damage happened in the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, his former team and a divisional rival. This collapse was just after Boston’s bats gave him a 5-1 lead. In three starts at home, Price has given up 15 runs, which is not what Red Sox Nation was expecting to see.
What they did expect to see was Porcello, almost the forgotten big-name pitcher at times, struggling to justify his huge contract that he signed last season. Instead, in two starts at home, Porcello has allowed only six runs.
Has the world completely flipped the script, here?
There’s no denying that the optics look bad on Price, as this latest disaster happened right in the middle of the cathedral of Boston. However, the traditional baseball phrase that it’s still early may ring true for both men.
As far as Porcello goes, the numbers may be in his favor but they may be due to some good luck and some poor opposing hitting. In each of his starts, Porcello’s pitches have looked flat. Really flat. So flat that hitters have been gift-wrapped pitches that looked like beachballs crossing the plate to some hitters. His sliders, for the majority of his starts, have looked more like cork-screwing fastballs down the heart of the strikezone; however, many of them have been mishit by the opposing lineups, possibly expecting them to loop in like lame ducks and then not moving to the locations they expected.
At Fenway against the Blue Jays, Porcello kept missing his locations to the right of the plate, when the catcher was clearly setting up in other places. However, the lefty bats of the Blue Jays continued to miss pitches that they expected to come inside on them because the ball would continue to drift to the right, throwing off the batter and the catcher who scrambled to catch the pitch on the other side of the dish. Yet, it didn’t seem to work against the righty bats of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, or Edwin Encarnacion. Bautista and Edwin both took Porcello for two home runs twice this season. If Porcello was as on point as some people are suggesting, then what do we call this display? A mere mirage of an otherwise stellar season?
That’s not to say that Price can be taken off of the hook. Price, himself, was critical of his poor play last night, as reported by ESPN‘s Scott Lauber: “”I know I’m better than that […] Whenever you get five runs in the bottom half of the first inning, that’s unacceptable [to lose it].” And Lauber provides context as to Price being known for being slow out of the gate to start the regular season, stating that “one poor homestand is hardly a reason for Red Sox fans to bail” on Price and that he is “likely to do more to make the Sox a better team than a worse one.”
However, Lauber also agrees that members of Red Sox Nation would be understandably upset about the performances so far, considering Boston signed Price to a seven-year contract worth $217 million.
In case anyone is wondering, Porcello is signed through 2019 and will be paid $82.5 million. That contract was one that Red Sox Nation wanted to pull out the pitchforks for, last season. Porcello pitched so badly that fans could not understand why the team was willing to give him that kind of money. Now, when looking only at both pitchers’ performances in 2016, which contract looks worse?
It is still early, but this is also Boston. Don’t expect fans to be very understanding of poor outings, especially in Fenway Park, regardless of it being just the beginning of the season. They will expect better things sooner for the money that the team is spending. Price likely will bounce back to his usual standards of excellence. Porcello may bounce backwards into a funk, if the hitters finally figure out how to hit his misses. However, let’s be more understanding of a fan base that has suffered two straight seasons of dwelling in the American League East basement.