Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy!
No Red Sox player had a more complicated 2016 season than David Price. And no Red Sox had a more disappointing season than David Price. That might be more a testament to the overall performance of the roster than it is an indictment of Price himself, but it is true nonetheless. The lefty entered the season with a $217 million price tag and accompanying high expectations, and he failed to fully meet them. Contrary to the belief of some Sox fans and local radio hosts, Price wasn’t actually bad, or really anything close to it. But he was disappointing, and he needs to be better in 2017.
What went right in 2016
You don’t have to squint too hard or dig too deep to find stats that indicate Price had a great first season in Boston. Price was good for a 4.5 fWAR in 2016, the 12th-best in baseball among pitchers. His FIP of 3.60 was 17th-best in the game. He led the majors with 35 starts and 230 innings pitched while earning a 17-9 record. Price whiffed 228 hitters, placing him seventh in baseball. (One of the six pitchers ahead of him was new teammate Chris Sale; 2017 should be fun.)
Price rounded out the regular season well, going 7-1 in his last 10 starts with a 3.26 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. For the most part, the southpaw was very solid in 2016, but could never quite get beyond “very solid.”
What went wrong in 2016
If you’re making $30-plus million and “very solid” is your ceiling, you can plan on disappointing some people. Price finished with a 3.99 ERA, his highest since 2009 and a figure that he only pushed below 4 at the tail end of August. His 1.20 WHIP, too, was his highest since 2009, his first season as a starter. Price allowed a career-high 30 home runs, tying him for ninth in baseball in that unflattering category. Some rather concerning peripheral numbers plagued him as well: Price allowed 1.96 walks per nine innings, his highest number since 2012, while his 8.92 strikeouts per nine was down from his previous two campaigns. And his average fastball velocity of 92.9 was down more than mile per hour from his 2015 figure of 94.2.
All of these numbers indicate the following: his high ERA may paint an unfairly critical view of his season, but David Price in 2016 was not the pitcher the Red Sox paid him to be.
Thus far, we’ve only discussed regular season performance. Please hold while I put on noise-cancelling headphones to tune out the deafening roar of fans shouting about Price in the playoffs. Okay, deep breath, we can proceed. In Game 2 of the ALDS against the Indians, Price was terrible. He allowed six hits and a pair of walks for five runs in a 6-0 loss opposite Corey Kluber. Price lasted just 3.1 innings, his fewest in a playoff start in his career. As Price has repeatedly reminded himself and his followers on Twitter, he has never won a playoff game as a starter, now owning an ugly 0-8 record. So, on the plus side, at least he’s self-aware?
What to expect in 2017
Things will be better. After a year in Boston met with some adjustment pains, I expect Price to continue to be an innings-eating workhorse while striking out plenty and bringing his ERA back down to earth. He may not win a Cy Young (that’s Chris Sale’s job), but Price’s ERA should return to the mid-to-low 3s to better coincide with his FIP. Price remains one of the best lefties in the AL, even though only some of his numbers in 2016 reflected that. The prediction from this corner is that he’ll be the second starter on next year’s staff, the result both of a modest improvement on his part and slight regression from Rick Porcello.
As for the postseason, your guess is as good as mine. The 2017 Red Sox would be a massive disappointment if they missed the playoffs behind this rotation and core of young talent. David Price will likely take the mound next October, and it’ll be up to him to make it count and to change the narrative of his career.
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