The Rain Delay

Hard-Hitting Baseball Analysis

David Price might never be an ace again, but that’s okay

On the heels of a highly disappointing 2016 season by his lofty standards, Red Sox LHP David Price endured an entire off-season of derision from the notoriously demanding Red Sox fans. While Price himself was disappointed by his performance – particularly his ALDS implosion against the Cleveland Indians – it’s important to note that the Red Sox almost surely would have missed the playoffs last season without him.

If you take a step back and ignore the exorbitant contract and resist comparing 2016 Price to prime Price – I know, it’s not easy to do – Price was objectively a very valuable starting pitcher in 2016. Sure, Price’s 3.99 ERA and 3.61 FIP aren’t close to what one would expect, but he still ate 230 innings with solid strikeout and walk rates to match. And if you’re a fan of fWAR for pitchers, a 4.5 mark isn’t too shabby, either.

david price tommy john scare

What hampered Price’s performance was his propensity to throw meatballs over the plate with a diminished fastball velocity, which resulted in a career-high 13.5% home run to fly ball ratio. Price will never be able to throw 95+ anymore – barring a visit to Anthony Bosch – but he should see some natural improvement if he’s able to command his fastball and cutter like he has in years past.

Will improved command be enough to return Price to his preeminent status? I would wager no, due to his age and disconcerting trends in both four-seam fastball velocity and usage. After confidently hurling his four-seamer 32.3% of the time in 2015, Price lost his confidence in his four-seamer, as its usage plummeted to a career-low 12.4% in 2016. This is the sign of a pitcher adjusting to the realities of the game, that pitchers over 30 tend to lose arm strength.

The good news for Price is he’s a very intelligent pitcher and should see some slight improvement just by better locating his fastballs and cutters.

With former White Sox ace Chris Sale added to the fold and Rick Porcello coming off a surprising Cy Young campaign, the pressure will be off Price to perform at an elite level. And that’s a good thing for Price, because he may never be able to meet that standard again.

Just a couple weeks ago, Red Sox fans got a scare when Price complained of forearm soreness, an ominous harbinger of Tommy John surgery. Fortunately, and a bit shockingly, Price received a clean bill of health from Dr. James Andrews and was told to rest for 7-10 days.

Hopefully, after this scare, Red Sox fans will appreciate Price for what he is now, and not what his contract says he should be. Because a diminished David Price is still a damn good pitcher. And without David Price, the Red Sox chances of winning a World Series in 2017 are bleak.

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Updated: March 10, 2017 — 6:33 pm

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