FG on Fox: What to Expect from David Price

On Tuesday night, the Red Sox made David Price the highest paid pitcher in baseball history. Dave Dombrowski is clearly a Price fan, having previously traded for him while running the Tigers, and made good on his stated desire to bring a #1 starter to Boston. Of course, at $217 million over seven years, Price certainly isn’t coming cheaply, and the Red Sox throwing money at free agents certainly didn’t solve their problems a year ago, so it’s fair to be somewhat skeptical of this kind of team-building approach. But, rather than simply paint with broad strokes, it’s instructive to look at how pitchers who have performed similarly to Price have fared during the same stretch of their careers as the Red Sox just signed Price for.

To identify a list of similar pitchers, I used the FanGraphs leaderboard to identify pitchers in the last 20 years who had compiled between +26 and +34 WAR in their age-24 through age-29 seasons; this gives us a group that approximates the +30 WAR that Price put up during his six years as a full-time starter. Nineteen pitchers have accomplished this feat, Price included, though a couple of them — Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw — are present-day peers, and thus, don’t have anything to tell us about how pitchers like this perform in their early 30s. So, excluding those two, we’re left with 16 pitchers who were comparably dominant during their 24-to-29 seasons.

How’d they do from ages 30 through 36? Well, take a look.

David Price Comparisons
Pitcher Innings WAR WAR/200 IP
Mike Mussina 1,444 36 5
Roy Halladay 1,413 35 5
Andy Pettitte 1,282 28 4
John Smoltz 813 24 6
Javier Vazquez 994 19 4
Roy Oswalt 832 16 4
CC Sabathia 861 15 3
Dan Haren 958 12 2
Kevin Appier 930 11 2
Justin Verlander 557 11 4
Zack Greinke 425 10 5
Johan Santana 482 8 3
Jack McDowell 327 5 3
Jose Rijo 86 2 3
Ben Sheets 168 1 1
Brandon Webb 4 0 0

At the top, we see four very obvious success stories, with Mussina, Halladay, Pettitte, and Smoltz all maintaining their dominance, putting up performances as good or better than they did early in their careers. This is the kind of performance the Red Sox are clearly hoping for, and if he pitches like any of these four, this will go down as maybe the most successful free agent pitcher contract in baseball history. These four represent the best case scenario, and show that yes, it is indeed possible for a pitcher to maintain greatness even after turning 30.

Read the rest at FOX Sports.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

23 Comments
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Me
6 years ago

“if he pitches like any of these four, this will go down as maybe the most successful free agent pitcher contract in baseball history.”

But if he does pitch at the level of those top 4, the Red Sox will only have him for 3 years and then he’ll be off shopping for another contract. So it’d be just a solid 3 year deal. If he pitches like Brandon Webb, they’re stuck with the contract.

jdbolick
6 years ago
Reply to  Me

So it’d be just a solid 3 year deal.

It would be a fantastic three year deal.

arc
6 years ago
Reply to  jdbolick

Are you me?

jdbolick
6 years ago
Reply to  arc

Yes.

Me
6 years ago
Reply to  jdbolick

I didn’t mean to imply it wouldn’t be fantastic. My point being that they won’t get it for a full 7 years. It’ll be 3 great years or 7 meh to bad years.

arc
6 years ago
Reply to  Me

“So it’d be just a solid 3 year deal.”

If he pitches like those 4 for 3/90M, it’s a fantastic deal.