Price vs. Lester: After Four Starts, Lester Clearly Better

The comparison between Price and Lester is a lot simpler after four starts: Lester is clearly having the better season. Price laid an egg on Thursday. Lester had another great outing on Friday. 

Price started Thursday afternoon against the Rays. After being spotted to a 5-1 lead in the first, Price lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up eight earned runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out five.  He absolutely fell apart in the fourth, responsible for all six runs in that inning. His ERA now stands at 7.06. 

Lester started for the Cubs on Friday and was outstanding.  Lester went seven innings, giving up only one earned run on five hits. He walked only one and struck out four. His ERA currently stands at 1.98. 

We’re still only four starts into the season. There’s lots of baseball to play, as underperforming teams always like to say. But so far, it’s looking like the Sox made a mistake passing on Lester and then spending all that money and more on Price. With the amount of money we’re paying Price, he has to be stellar this season or it will be difficult to say his signing wasn’t a mistake. At $31MM a year, there’s no grace period.  Note: In light of the solemnity of the situation, I am foregoing the employment of any cheap puns involving Price’s last name and his exorbitant salary.

I am a Red Sox fan and I am rooting for David Price to turn this ship around. Price is a great pitcher and he often heats up as the season progresses, so I still have a lot of hope.  So far, however, it’s impossible to say that he is anything other than a huge disappointment. 

As a Red Sox fan, I am also delighting in Lester’s success. He got his start with us. He beat cancer as a Red Sox. He didn’t go to the Yankees or even to another American League team. I am rooting for Jon Lester to have a Hall of Fame career. Keep up the good work, Jon!

As a side note, Price and Lester continue to prove the point that win/loss records are pretty meaningless. Price’s record is 2-0. Lester is 2-1. As I previously noted, Lester took the loss on a beautiful outing where he got no run support. In this most recent outing, Price once again avoided taking the loss, in spite of the fact that he blew a four run lead and left in the fourth with his team down 8-5. Because the Sox later tied it up, which they accomplished while Price was most likely in the shower bemoaning his dismal performance, Price was off the hook and Cuevas took the loss. 

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Price vs. Lester: After 3 Starts

Ok, maybe I will go start-by-start through the season with these two. 

After three starts, both pitchers are looking good, but Lester has been the more dominant. 

Price has pitched a total of 18 innings, for an average of six innings per start. 

Lester has pitched a total of 30.1 innings, for an average of 6.7 per start. 

Price has given up nine earned runs for an ERA of 4.50. Lester has given up only 5 earned runs for an ERA of 2.21. Lester’s ERA+ for the season (after two starts) was a great 157. It should improve after this latest, solid start. Price’s ERA+ after three starts is a lowly 85. 

Price does have the edge with strikeouts. He has 27 where Lester has 19. 

Price’s record is 2-0. Lester is 1-1.  As often is the case, the win-loss record is deceptive. Price avoided getting the loss on a bad outing (Kimbrel got it) and Lester just got the loss in a beautiful outing where he got no run support. (Remember this when the writers ridiculously cite Schilling’s wins total as reason for keeping him out of the hall.)

So, after three starts, Sox fans should be relatively to very happy with Price. But Lester has been the more dominant of the two pitchers so far. The Cubs should be thrilled. 

Price vs. Lester: Round Two

I promise I’m not going to go start-by-start through this whole season. However, with Price and Lester both starting their respective home openers in two classic old ballparks, this is really too good to pass-up. 

Recall that both pitchers started the first game of their respective teams’ seasons with solid outings and wins, although Lester was the more dominant of the two. 

This time, neither pitcher got a decision. Price lasted only 5 innings, giving up 5 earned runs for a 9.00 ERA for the day.  He walked two and struck out eight. His ERA on the season is 5.73.  The Red Sox lost. 

Lester lasted 6 innings. He gave up 3 earned runs for a 4.50 ERA on the day. He walked two and struck out five. His ERA on the season is now 2.77. The Cubs won. 

We can’t say that pitchers batting in the NL helped Lester today either. Lester had to bat himself and the pitcher he faced went 1-3 at the plate with an RBI. The Orioles’ DH went 0-4, striking out all four times. 

So, two games into the Price era, Lester is the better pitcher. Obviously, this is a minuscule sampling. I remain ok with not re-signing Lester, happy with the Price signing, and looking forward to the Summer. 

Where are they now? Mark Bellhorn

Back in February of 2015, Patrick Coyne over at Monster Mash produced an excellent summary of Mark Bellhorn’s baseball career.  If you’re looking to reminisce on this flame that burned briefly but ever so brightly during that magical 2004 season, check out Patrick’s post here: 

 http://monstah-mash.com/mark-bellhorn-bio/

Patrick notes that Bellhorn has been involved in several business ventures since retiring from baseball in 2009, including owning several Dunkin Donuts franchises in the Boston area. 

Wikipedia reports that Bellhorn got married in 2013 and that he and his wife had their first child in June, 2014. 

He’s also been playing some golf. In April of 2014, Bellhorn won the Arizona Stroke Play Championship by shooting a final round 7-under 64 (!), forcing a playoff, which he won with a birdie putt on the first playoff hole. Clutch. Just like in 2004. 

The Arizona Golf Association bills the stroke play championship as one of the state’s best amateur golf tournaments.  To play, you must be a member at an AGA course and have an index under 3.4. The article I found about the victory noted that Bellhorn lives in Scottsdale. 

http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/golf/2014/04/22/former-mlb-player-mark-bellhorn-captures-arizona-stroke-play-championship/8031709/

Good News from Pawtucket: Owens and Vazquez

The PawSox beat the Buffalo Bisons (sic) last night, 2-0. (Note to Bisons management: the plural of Bison is Bison.)  

On a cold night, Henry Owens threw six innings of one-hit ball, with that one hit getting doubled up on the next play. He faced 21 batters, striking out eight and walking three. Those three walks are likely to be the biggest concern for the Red Sox, since Owens struggled with his command in Spring training. 
Christian Vazquez had a good night as well. He went 1 for 2 at the plate with a double and two walks.  Vazquez knows how to work an at bat.  He struck out once. 

The positive outing from Owens was particularly huge, considering the state of Boston’s starting pitching right now. 

Price vs. Lester, Part 1 of a Series

Let me ask a question that cannot yet be answered: are the Red Sox better off with David Price than they would be if they had signed Jon Lester to an extension in either the Spring or December of 2014?  The short answer is that only time will tell, so I’ll revisit this question from time to time.  But let’s review the situation now that Price has his first start in a Boston uniform under his belt.

I think we all know the history here.  Our man Jon entered Spring training 2014 looking for a new contract with enough room after the dollar sign for nine digits and two commas and which would keep him gainfully employed, or at least drawing a paycheck, beyond the Tokyo Olympics.

Sox GM, Ben Cherrington, said he’d check with his boss, John Henry, who colored at the suggestion he’d pay such a gaudy amount of money to a pitcher over the age of thirty.  Still, he agreed to see what could be done; but after he checked his bank book, the envelope in the back of his sock drawer, his wife’s purse, and between the seat cushions on his yacht, he was only able to come up with about 40 mil.  When Ben brought this to Jon, Jon suggested they could just talk about it later.

When the topic came up again in December, Mr. Henry had scraped together as much as $130 million.  Nice.  But not as nice as $155 million, especially when that came with the opportunity to face a hapless pitcher every ninth batter rather than big, scary men with names like A-Rod and V-Mart.  Jon bid farewell to the Fenway faithful and took his talents to a place called Wrigleyville.

At some point during the Summer of 2015, Mr. Henry realized that it really sucks fielding a Major League Baseball team that conspicuously lacks that special someone who can consistently pitch a baseball in such a way that opposing batters are not able to hit it.  Therefore, in a fit of pique, Mr. Henry hired a guy named Dave as the new President of Baseball Operations, gave all of Ben’s job responsibilities to him, and informed Ben that his new responsibilities as GM would be ordering hot dog buns and building some new shelves in the basement.  Mr. Henry was surprised and a little hurt when Ben tendered his resignation.  After unpacking his stuff, Dave asked Mr. Henry for $217 million dollars so he could go buy a pitcher.  Mr. Henry said “Sure, no problem” and the Red Sox signed David Price as there new, number one starter.

So, with that history in mind, and acknowledging that the signing of Price was a complete abandonment of the principles that kept them from signing Lester, let’s take a look at the numbers and see whether the fumbling of the Lester negotiations might end up working out hunky dory for the Sox in the end.

The Cubs signed Lester to a six year, $155MM deal in December, 2014. So, they have him wrapped up through 2020 at $25MM a year. There’s a “vesting option” for a seventh year at $15MM.

This past winter, the Red Sox signed David Price to a 7 year, $217MM contract. That means we have him through the 2022 season at $31MM a year.

Lester turned 32 in January. The Cubs will be paying him $25MM a year through the age of 36 and another $15MM at the age of 37, if the option vests.

Price is 30. He will turn 31 in August. We’ll have him through the age of 36.

Lester’s ERA was 3.34 in 2015. Price’s ERA was 2.45 in 2015.

Lester’s career ERA is 3.54. That’s over 286 games, 1808 innings.

Price’s career ERA is 3.09. That’s over 219 games, 1447 innings.

In his first start of 2016, Lester was strong, giving up one run over 7 innings for the win. His ERA stands at 1.29.

In his first start, Price was also strong, although not as dominant as Lester. Price gave up two runs over 6 innings for the win. His ERA stands at 3.00.

By not signing Lester, the Sox missed out on the opportunity to pay him $25MM for a so-so season in 2015. Over the next 5 seasons, 2016 to 2020, we’ll be paying $6MM more per year for a younger, better pitcher. If Lester hits his benchmarks, the Cubs will have him in 2021 at the age of 37 for another $15MM, whether they want him or not. We’ll have Price for 2021 and 2022, ages 35 and 36, for $31MM each year.  At age 37, he’s on his own.

It’s understood that, if the Sox had wrapped up Lester in Spring 2014, they would have gotten a hometown discount.  But how much?  I suspect Lester wouldn’t have considered less than 6 years and less than $20MM a year at that point. By the end of 2014, word was that 6 years, $130MM wasn’t enough to woo him back to Boston.

So, the Cubbies paid a whole lot of money to get a great pitcher and a great guy. I wish them well. I wish him well. But right now, it certainly seems that not signing Lester and saving that money for Price was a good move.

But only time will tell.  To be continued…