Friday, September 30, 2016
What are we to make of David Price, the Red Sox’ $217 million pitcher, this season?
There is much to consider.
After signing a contract that large — the biggest in club history — big things were obviously expected. Perhaps a Cy Young Award? That's not going to occur. Not this season, at least.
First the good…
Price led the Red Sox’ staff with 34 starts and 225 innings this season. In fact, Price leads the majors in both categories. Those are really important numbers. It means that he wasn’t getting shelled early and that he made the most of his starts, taking pressure off the bullpen and, ultimately, manager John Farrell.
Price also led the Red Sox with 224 strikeouts in his 225 innings. That’s impressive stuff. Strikeouts matter because the ball is not being put in play, meaning the batter cannot reach base. In that regard, a strikeout is not like any other out. Line drives, ground balls and fly balls can all fall in for hits.
Ultimately, the lefty won 17 games (against 9 losses) this season and if a fortune teller had told me that in spring training, I would have been satisfied.
Now the bad…
Price had a 4.04 ERA this year, which is not the stuff of a No. 1 pitcher, much less an ace. Some of that can attributed to the fact that the lefty surrendered a career-high 29 long balls this season.
Then there’s the fact that Price posted a .259 batting average against this season, which is the worst for any Red Sox pitcher who made at least 14 starts. Again, it's not the sort of thing one expects from a No. 1 pitcher.
However, Price has made his final regular season start and now it’s on the post-season, where the lefty hasn’t fared well.
Over 14 games / 63.1 innings in the post-season, Price has posted a 2-7 record (the two wins were in relief) and a bloated 5.12 ERA.
An ERA of that size is particularly troubling since most post-season contests are low scoring affairs. In other words, the Red Sox won’t likely be able to slug their way through the playoffs. They will have to win close, low-scoring games with great pitching and great defense.
The $217 million question is whether Price will finally be able to reverse his post-season struggles, putting the Red Sox in a position to prevail whenever he pitches.
Though his history says otherwise, why not? Price routinely pitches in stadiums filled with 40,000-50,000 screaming fans, with millions more watching at home. He’s started many games on national television. It’s hard to imagine that he gets psyched out or overwhelmed by the moment in the post-season.
I’d say it’s merely a coincidence that he's pitched at his worst when the lights shine brightest and, as a result, that luck is likely to change this year.
On the other hand, Price certainly hasn’t pitched at his best this season. This was sort of a middling year for a pitcher of his caliber and achievements.
But over the course of the next month, Price can surely make this the greatest season of his entire eight-year career.
We all know he’s capable of it. Now he just has to go out and do it.