David Price won’t have as big an impact on the Tigers as some would think


(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Tampa Bay Rays project to be on the best teams in the American League East (.524 win percentage the rest of the season) but that gives them just a 11.5 percent chance at making the playoffs. Detroit was in a dogfight with Oakland for World Series favorite but must have felt the heat after the A’s traded for Jon Lester.  As a result, David Price was acquired as part of a three-team deal with Tampa Bay and Seattle.

Price has gone 11-8 this season with a 3.11 ERA and 3.9 wins above replacement using primarily a sinker, against which batter have mustered a .228 batting average against and .302 slugging.


Looking forward, he has a ZiPs projection of 5-3,  3.07 ERA and 1.5 WAR for the rest of the season. Here is how Price stacks up to the current Tigers rotation (minimum 10 starts).

Price Tigers

The Tigers now have the last three Cy Young award winners in Max Scherzer, Price and Justin Verlander. But how much of an impact will adding Price have?

Detroit had a four-game lead over Kansas City in the AL Central before the trade, and wasn’t in jeopardy of missing the playoffs, so we need to look at the postseason impact of the deal to help determine its worth.

The Tigers are still the favorite to win the World Series, but now see their chances at 18.2 percent, an increase of two percentage points from a day ago. And having Price in the playoffs could also be a low value add.

Price replaces Drew Smyly in the starting rotation, who projects to have a 4.28 ERA the rest of the season. Last postseason, the average starter pitched 5.6 innings, so rounding that off to six means Price would allow slightly more than two runs per game in the playoffs, while Smyly would allow 2.85. Using the pythagenpat formula, we can see how that translates into a change in expected winning percentage for each start.

The Tigers are scoring 4.7 runs per game. With Price pitching six innings, pythagenpat estimates Detroit would win close to 76 percent of their games. In a best-of-seven series where Price gets two starts that’s 1.57 wins on average. Swap out Smyly for Price and that drops to 67.9 percent, or 1.36 wins.

Put another way, Price has a 57.8 percent chance at going 2-0 in a best-of-seven series for Detroit while Smyly had a 46.1 percent chance.

Oakland made aggressive moves to bolster their rotation, and understandably Detroit felt they needed to do the same. However, I wouldn’t crown them World Series champs just yet.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Neil Greenberg · July 31

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