The anniversary of Joba Chamberlain's debut is August 7th and while I'm sure not much will be made of it, outside of the YES Network of course, we could be on the verge of seeing something similar play out in St. Petersburg. The Rays are 51 games from finishing their season and have a lead, although slight, in the division that has prompted some fans to begin magic number counts. A young and talented contending team may add another young piece before too long as last year's top draft pick David Price is making AA look pretty simple, yet Edwin Jackson and Andrew Sonnanstine have done okay as starters, despite Jackson's atrocious K/BB ratio, which prompts a few questions:
1. Why is it always "good young team' and never "good old team"?
2. Should David Price be a reliever or starter upon his promotion to the majors?
I decided to see what would be more valuable to the Rays by using Leverage Index and projecting Leveraged Runs Saved. The formula is (5.75 (4.75 for relievers)-ERA)*(IP/9)*(LI).
We'll assume that if Price came up today he would throw around 27 innings as a reliever, and make eight starts for 45 innings. A 4.5 ERA for starting, a 3 ERA for reliever, obviously he could do something like become Velociraptor Jesus combined with Mariano Rivera out of the bullpen, but for now we'll assume he's good, not great. We'll place the pLI of his relieving duties at 1.25 - roughly the 7th inning guy on most teams - and the starter pLI around 0.95.
Above we see that Price saves a little more than a half of a run as a reliever over his usage as a starter. Not only does this allow the Rays to move on from using a Jason Hammel or Al Reyes type and instead use one of their best 12 pitchers, but also allows for one of their backend starters to improve on potential trade value as well as a sneaky way of limiting the amount of innings Price throws in his first professional season. Remember Price didn't pitch last season from June until spring training and in that first spring training inning he'd strike out the Yankees side that featured Wilson Betemit amongst other pros.