This is the type of run that we were talking about. We didn’t want to see one good start. We didn’t want to see back-to-back good starts. For as many starts as you sucked, give us that many good starts, and then go beyond that. David Price has now done that.
Price’s first seven starts in a Red Sox uniform were hard to watch. With a 6.75 ERA on May 7, it wasn’t early anymore. There weren’t any excuses to use for the guy, especially after he maintained that he was healthy. There was the velocity angle, which has definitely played a factor, and also the weather factor, which could still hold to be true. But let’s talk about that velocity for a second. The turning point in Price’s season was that May 12 start against the Houston Astros when Price struck out 12 and allowed one earned run over 6.2 innings. This was the game that Price debuted the mechanical adjustments after Dustin Pedroia pointed out the flaw in his delivery.
Red Sox fans got all excited about this because, hey! Results! He had just given up six earned runs in consecutive starts to the Yankees, so it was nice to see a dominant outing for a change. But, perhaps the biggest change change of all was in Price’s fastball velocity. In that second start against the Yankees on May 7, Price’s fastball was averaging 92.91 MPH, which was the second lowest average velocity for him on the season — first being Opening Day (92.46 MPH). One start later, after adding the leg kick and raising his glove in sync with his knee, Price registered his highest fastball velocity of the season at 95.18 MPH, which is still his highest average fastball velocity in a start this season.
Was the mechanical adjustment that big of a difference maker, or has Price just finally gotten in a groove after a slow start? Well, over his first seven starts, Price’s fastball velocity was 93.2 MPH. Over his last eight starts, his fastball is averaging 94.3 MPH. So, he’s gained a full mile per hour on his fastball since he corrected the flaw in his delivery, but I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that he added one mile per hour to his fastball and boom, he’s fixed. It’s a little more detailed than that.
Over his last eight starts, Price has a 2.47 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 58 innings, and opponents are hitting .204 with a .615 OPS against him. As I mentioned, the fastball has been better, but it’s the changeup that has been doing a lot of the damage for Price. But because the fastball has improved, that allows the changeup to become more devastating. During his most recent eight-game stretch, he’s thrown 202 changeups, 110 of them for strikes, only 47 of them have been put in play, while opponents are hitting .156 with a .388 OPS against Price’s changeup, and 26.2% of his strikeouts have come on that pitch.
Speaking of strikeout percentage, here’s another reason why Price has been so good over his last eight starts. I broke down Eduardo Rodriguez’s struggles last week, and how he’s really only featuring two pitches and only one of them is half decent. That isn’t the case at all with Price. Since May 12, here’s how Price’s strikeouts break down — 23.4% on the cutter, 26.2% on the changeup, 25% with the fastball, and 22.2% with the curveball. That’s a pretty evenly sliced pie, so when you get two strikes on you, not only do you not know what’s coming, but you have four different pitches you have to think about, all four of which are capable of striking you out. Good luck with that. Now you know why, despite his early struggles, Price is still the American League leader in strikeouts.
The Red Sox started the season by giving Price a league-leading amount of run support, but it’s been the exact opposite in the month of June. In his four starts this month, the Red Sox are averaging 1.75 runs per game when Price starts, which explains why the Red Sox are 1-3 in his starts, even though he has a 2.32 ERA. The home runs have certainly been an issue for Price, as he got tagged again on Sunday, which represented his lone earned run against the Seattle Mariners.
Speaking of home runs, it was a Mookie Betts home run in the bottom of the seventh inning that gave the Red Sox their first lead of the day, and that’s all Price and Craig Kimbrel would need. By the way, Betts is an All Star. Whether or not he makes the team is entirely up to you, but he’s having an All Star season. With that home run, he’s now up to 50 RBIs out of the friggin’ leadoff spot, which is the fifth most RBIs in the American League behind Edwin Encarnacion, David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, and Mark Trumbo. It’s crazy to think about, but Betts is actually on pace right now to hit 36 home runs and drive in 114 runs. That’s insane.
Quick note on Kimbrel: Since he blew that save on April 24 in Houston, he’s appeared in 18 games, 17 of which have been scoreless, so that boils down to a 0.49 ERA. He’s faced 63 batters over that span, and he’s only allowed one earned run on six hits, and has struck out 25 of those 63 batters. That means that he’s struck out 40% of the batters he’s faced over the last two months. Not terrible.
Final score: Red Sox 2, Mariners 1