I'm not saying Alfredo Simon is better than David Price. I'm not even saying that Alfredo Simon is on his way to being better than David Price. The "ace" title implies, at least in part, a track record of consistent greatness that goes beyond occasional flashes of brilliance, even if those flashes last for several months. That being said, Alfredo Simon, by many peripheral and even non-peripheral statistics, is pitching like the Tigers' ace. For how long? Who knows. But for now, the man is pitching out of his mind.
Here's a quick look at some of those "side bar" statistics.
Expected Runs Saved
The RE24 statistic measures a pitcher's performance by the number of "expected runs" he prevents. It's a way of evaluating his performance on a batter-by-batter, situation-by-situation basis. An average pitcher will give up as many runs as he prevents, so RE24 is baselined at zero. Anything above that means you're preventing more runs than your run-of-the-mill pitcher.
Ranking by RE24, Alredo Simon is at the top of the Tigers' starting rotation by a comfortable margin.
RE24 (Expected runs saved)
Going the Distance
When you're the Detroit Tigers and your bullpen is still something of a question mark, it's important to have starting pitchers who can take you deep into games and keep the pressure off the relief corps. The Tigers are fortunate to have five starters who are all pitching more innings than the league average, but here again, it's Alfredo Simon who is making a serious run for team leader.
Average IP per game
Picking Up the Offense
A pitcher's win/loss record is heavily impacted by how many runs his offense is giving him. Any decent pitcher can rack up wins when his team is scoring five or six runs per game, but a pitcher who can overcome a streaky, faltering offense (such as the Tigers have had this season) and keep his team in the win column is worth his weight in resin. And look who's at the top:
Team Win %
I know these stats aren't for everybody, but they do tell a part of the story. It's one thing to find a few advanced metrics that support a partiular narrative, but it's even more impressive when all the stats, new and old, say the same thing.
I have no idea how Alfredo Simon will continue to perform going forward. His 2014 season suggests that he's no stranger to strong starts, followed by hard regression, so I wouldn't bet the farm on him just yet. Still, not too shabby, right? And with the Tigers' starting rotation experiencing heavy doses of injuries (Verlander, Lobstein) and brow-furrowing implosions (Sanchez, Greene), Alfredo Simon has been a life-saver so far. It's probably a good idea to just enjoy that reality for what it is.