Red Sox

McAdam: When it comes to Price, the eyes have it

McAdam: When it comes to Price, the eyes have it

NEW YORK -- In this age of statistical baseball data, there is a seemingly endless supply of numbers to support virtually any subjective claim.

Don't think someone has played well defensively? You could find reams of stats to back your hypothesis.

Believe that a hitter has actually performed better (or worse) than the "traditional" numbers suggest? There's evidence to help you make your point.

And while there's no shortage of numbers to remind you that David Price hasn't pitched nearly well as the Red Sox had hoped when they signed him to that landmark seven-year, $217 million last offseason, they're really not necessary.

Yes, you could highlight the 4.36 ERA, the most damning number of all. Or the 1.231 WHIP, the highest of his career since his first full major-league season in 2009.

Need more? The 16 homers allowed, which are on pace to be the most allowed in his career. The .728 OPS against, again, the highest he's ever yielded.

The peripheral numbers aren't any better. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) is the highest since 2010. And his ERA-plus of 103 highlights exactly how average he's been within the context of his ballpark and the rest of the league.

But as conclusive as those numbers are, they're not really necessary. Not if you've been watching Price pitch.

He was trumpeted as the No. 1 pitcher the Red Sox so obviously lacked last season, when their rotation ranked in the lower third in baseball.

Price was going to change things, because he was a true, honest-to-goodness ace.

He's been anything but that, however. And it has nothing to do with the numbers and everything to do with perception and a simple eye test.

Aces don't stumble when their team has won six straight and is going for a series sweep of a struggling rival.

Aces don't trip up when that struggling rival is desperate for a win, in a game the opposing manager suggested was "the most important (July) game we've played in a number of years."

And aces don't consistently get outpitched by the best pitcher on the other side, the way Price has far too often this season.

He's already lost to Madison Bumbgarner in San Francisco. And Chris Tillman of Baltimore. Now, add to that list Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees.

Price wasn't horrendous Sunday night in the Bronx. To his credit, he's only been really poor once -- in Texas -- since he adjusted his delivery in mid-May, when the Red Sox made their previous trip to New York.

He followed that self-correction to a 10-game stretch in which he reliably kept the team in every start, compiling a 2.46 ERA over that run.

But aces don't pitch well for stretches; they consistently dominate opponents and deliver their best efforts when they're most needed. Like Sunday night.

That the Sox missed out on a chance to put the chokehold on the Yankees won't, in the long run, make or break the season. The Yankees aren't a factor in the division, and are unlikely to transform themselves into one in the coming weeks.

And even with the loss, the Red Sox won a road series against a division opponent and are 9-3 in the month of July, heading home for an extended homestand against (mostly) mediocre clubs.

But again, that's not the point. Aces don't let down, or fail to finish a task off the way Price did Sunday.

That's not about analytics or advanced metrics or anything else. That's about what your own eyes are telling you.

It's already established that won-loss record is a far from accurate measure of a pitcher's effectiveness. It neglects to take into account run support, the performance of the bullpen following a starter's exit and a host of other factors.

A more elementary stat, however, is equally as damning regarding Price: The Red Sox are just 11-9 in his 20 starts.

And while it's true that that number can be equally inadequate (run support goes unaccounted for in that measure, too), it gets closer to the bottom line.

Whether it's overcoming sloppy fielding or inadequate offense, or being just a little better than the opposing starters, aces help their teams win games, and Price hasn't done nearly enough of that yet.

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge are about to go global.

Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday confirmed the Sox are interested to play the Yankees in London during next year's regular season. Bloomberg reported the clubs are nearing an agreement to play two games there in June 2019. Discussions are indeed taking place, but a deal is not done.

MORE - Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

“We would love to participate in a series in London against the Yankees but this is a decision that MLB and the MLBPA will make," Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.

Bloomberg reported the games would be played at London Stadium, which was the main facility for the 2012 summer Olympics.

MLB has not played any games in Europe before. The Red Sox have made trips before, including to Japan before the 2008 season.


Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Blake Swihart’s strong spring seems to have the Red Sox more inclined to deal one of their natural utility infielders, such as Brock Holt or Deven Marrero, rather than Swihart, a converted catcher with high upside who's getting a look in other roles.
"Sounds like they’re holding Swihart to open," a rival executive said. "More likely to move a utility guy."
A true utility guy, that is.


The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported Sunday that Marrero has been drawing interest from other teams.

"We do have depth with our middle infielders," Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday. "However, [I] would not get into potential trade discussions."
Swihart, who turns 26 on April 3, is most valuable as a catcher. But he could still be useful in a bench role for the 2018 Red Sox, and a win-now mentality may be the driving force here. (It is possible, as well, that there is nothing available via trade for Swihart that has piqued the Sox’ interest. Marrero or Holt wouldn’t require as much in return.)
The potential drawback is that Swihart won’t grow much if he’s not playing every day -- and in particular, if he's not catching every day. But the Sox may be be at a juncture where they feel his bat is a worthwhile experiment off the bench, at least for this season. They can figure out his future -- and their future at backstop -- later.
"He’s a great athlete," Cora told reporters on Sunday. "We’ve seen it in the batter’s box. It’s not only the results, but the way he’s driving the ball to left field as a left-hander, the quality of at-bats as a right-hander. [On Saturday], as a pinch-hitter, that kid was throwing 99 and he throws a breaking ball and squares a ball up."
Swihart entered Monday with a .283 average in Grapefruit League play, with a .905 OPS and a pair of home runs. But he does not have the infield experience that Marrero or Holt has, and the Red Sox essentially have to carry one of those two to start the year. 
Eduardo Nunez, the temporary replacement for Dustin Pedroia, is coming off a knee injury, and a sure-handed infielder -- Marrero’s glove is particularly good -- is a must. Rafael Devers is still coming into his own at third base. 
Tzu-Wei Lin is available in the minors too, and the Sox could see some redundancy with him, Holt and Marrero. Lin, unlike Marrero, has minor league options remaining. Lin also has some limited outfield experience.
The way the Sox roster looks now, they have two spots available for the three guys: Marrero, Holt and Swihart. Health can change that. Holt, despite being the most veteran of the group, has minor league options remaining, so he theoretically could go to Triple-A to start the season. But if the Sox don't see a role for him on this year's team any way, they'd be wiser trading him, considering he's due to make $2.225 million. It also would be kindest choice for Holt, to let him have an opportunity elsewhere, if one exists.


Swihart has played first base, third base and left field in addition to catching this spring. Perhaps, in time, there will be a way to work Swihart in behind the plate for the Sox. At the least, retaining him would be insurance if Christian Vazquez or Sandy Leon do not perform well offensively.
There was a clear personal-catcher system for the Red Sox in 2017. Leon was Chris Sale’s guy, for example. Manager Alex Cora said he is not taking that approach. As an auxiliary effect, moving away from a personal-catcher system might make it easier for Swihart to receive more time behind the plate, if called on.
"Whoever I feel comfortable with that day behind the plate, he'll catch," Cora told reporters in Florida. "Christian already caught him. Sandy's going to catch him today. And then the next turn, Christian's going to catch him. Everybody's going to work with everybody."