I don’t know. I’m not actually going to answer that question. But here’s what I am going to do: estimate to what degree the Rays ballpark, defense, and pitch framing abilities might have helped Price’s ERA. There are many reasons my final estimate is probably wrong, which I’ll discuss later, but the biggest one is that I’m going to push the extremes of how much these things matter.
- Ballpark. The Trop is friendly to pitchers. B-Ref has park factors of 92-95 over the past few years. Fangraphs has 95. Seamheads has 87-93. So, somewhere in the 90-95 range. Price’s average ERA over the past four years is 3.03 and adjusts into the 3.18 - 3.36 range after accounting for park. That’s a bump of .15 to .33 points of ERA.
- Defense. The Rays are known for having good fielders, and positioning them well. UZR and DRS don’t like them as much as their awesome reputation, maybe about +20 runs per season. But it’s possible they are better, maybe in the +40 range*. That’s .13 runs to .25 points of ERA.
- Pitch Framing. Jose Molina is awesome, but other Rays catchers not so much. This *could* be 30-40 runs per season going forward, but realistically it’s been more like +20 runs the past couple seasons, or .13 runs of ERA.
Put it all together, you get an ERA bump of .80 pts of ERA aggressively, and .40 pts more realistically. In other words, David Price might be more of a 3.43 ERA pitcher and less of a 3.03 pitcher.
Ok, so where is this analysis going astray? I can think of a few things:
- Maybe I’m overestimating any of those factors. They are all tough to measure.
- Maybe David Price isn’t as affected as the typical pitcher by those factors. He strikes out a lot of guys, so maybe the park and defense have less of an influence. He’s a fastball pitcher, so maybe catcher framing matters less, or maybe he’s pitched to the worse Rays pitch framers.
- Maybe defense and pitch framing are a *part* of the Rays park factor, somehow
- The Rays play in the AL East, probably against better hitters than average.
Random note: Baseball-Reference neutralizes David Price’s 2013 ERA of 3.33 to 3.93 when pitching in a neutral 2013 AL environment. That’s a huge shift, and I’m not sure how they get that number, especially given a non-extreme 95 park factor.
* Ben Jedlovek of BIS noted that the Rays defenders didn’t rate amazingly well in 2013, but the team as a whole was near the top in shift runs.