Tag: David Price

Scott Miller’s Starting 9: Bryce, Machado, Championship Coffee and Looking Ahead

A free-agent storm is on the way, some big names can’t find homes and some unintended victims of MLB‘s new CBA…


1. Forecast Two Years From Now: Nuts

Talk about attention deficit disorder. As free agents Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista go door-to-door asking, “Brother, can you spare a free-agent contract?” this winter, one reason things are moving so slowly is because even the industry’s executives are looking ahead to the free-agent class two years from now.

It may be the best ever: Bryce Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP award, will be on the market. So will Josh Donaldson, who won the 2015 AL MVP award. Manny Machado, who finished fourth in AL MVP voting in 2015 and fifth in 2016, is free. So, too, are starters Matt Harvey and Dallas Keuchel, and closer Zach Britton.

If that isn’t enough, Clayton Kershaw has an opt-out clause in his Los Angeles Dodgers contract that winter, as does David Price from the Boston Red Sox.

Harper and Machado will be entering the free-agent market at the age of just 26. Britton and Keuchel will be nearly 31, Donaldson 32, Harvey 29 and, if they use the opt-out, Kershaw will be 30 and Price the old man of the lot at 33.

Executives are making roster moves right now with an eye to 2018. It’s one reason why the Washington Nationals acquired Adam Eaton from the White Sox: They are leveraging themselves for the real possibility that they will lose Harper to free agency given that he is expected to demand a deal worth $400 million or more.

It’s why, other than the Aroldis Chapman signing last week, the New York Yankees mostly are concentrating on young talent and short-term veterans (like signing Matt Holliday to a one-year deal this winter for $13 million).

The executives know what’s up ahead, a winter unlike any of us has ever seen.

“As we bring more youthful executives into the game, there seems to be a tide to young players,” superagent Scott Boras, who represents Harper, Britton and Harvey in that group, said at the winter meetings last Wednesday at National Harbor, Maryland. “I think the information that is going to ownership is that those players who are 26-, 27-, 28-year-old free agents are very, very highly coveted.

“A lot of clubs have now marshaled their positioning to that age group.”

Every club is going to have money to spend for the foreseeable future, too, with the game expected to surpass $10 billion in revenues in 2016 once the final figures are in. Of course, without a salary cap and with different teams taking in more money than others, some clubs still will be far more equal than others. But the way Boras sees it, each club likely soon will have $200 million or more of revenue at its disposal before even selling tickets.

“Consequently, clubs who have the ability to attract a major superstar are going to be far more in than in prior times because of the success of the game,” Boras said.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman happened to be talking about his own free agent this winter, closer Kenley Jansen, but he could have been speaking about anybody in any year when he told reporters last week, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register: “The free-agent market plays out to the point of doing more than what you rationally want to do.

“If you do what you rationally want to do, you will finish third on every free agent.”

Who knows, perhaps there will be more fallout, too. The expiration of Machado’s contract coincides with the last year of Baltimore manager Buck Showalter’s deal.

“We’ve got control of him for two, two years?” Showalter said last week. “This year and one more. That’s when my contract runs out. Timing’s everything.”

Everyone laughed at the notion that Showalter could cruise on out the door with his best overall player before the Orioles are weakened immensely in the post-Machado term.

Of course, laughs come easy now, two years ahead of what for some clubs surely will be Armageddon. The laughing will be more difficult for a lot of people when the winter meetings come to Las Vegas (of course they would be there, right?) in December 2018.


2. World’s Greatest Athletes, MLB and…Coffee?

We already have Boras down as a staunch advocate of the free-market system. He long has been vehemently opposed to the slotting system for determining bonuses that can be offered to amateurs drafted each June. And in discussing his reaction to the new collective bargaining agreement, he not surprisingly expressed displeasure with the part of the deal that places a hard cap on international amateur signing bonuses that ranges between $4.75 million in the first year of the agreement to $5.25 million or $5.75 million.

Boras’ gripe: Baseball is waging a battle with other sports for the best athletes in the world, and with the new CBA capping the money available, he thinks those athletes will gravitate hard to other sports. Of course, limitations on signing bonuses take a bite out of the paydays of agents everywhere, as well.

“Most upsetting thing to me is that baseball only has so much earth where the game is played,” he said last week. “We only have a few cultures that really, there’s an opportunity to play baseball in the world. If you go back to the 1930s, the most popular sports in the United States were track and field, boxing, horse racing and baseball. Now, baseball’s included, but we have three other sports in hockey, football and basketball that have eroded the others.

“I think we have to be very cautious. If baseball’s not out pursuing the best athletes in the world, you’ve gotta really look at this and say, ‘What are we doing?’ I was raised on a farm and water’s valuable. If you want to save water and you don’t use it on your crops, you don’t have crops.”

In making his pitch, Boras mentioned not only NBA and NFL signing bonuses, but the college baseball landscape, too.

“We have a grand disadvantage in something out of baseball’s control, and that is the number of college scholarships [available],” Boras said. “We have 11,000 scholarships in football, we have 3,000 in baseball. And you have a young man who’s 6’6” and they need an immediate value. He’s 14, 15 years old and his family is looking for immediate value. He’s looking for a college scholarship or he’s looking for a bonus. And with baseball being last in offering those scholarships, our industry has to look ahead in getting the greatest athletes in the world.

“We have to consider that in how we compete with other sports. So when we get into CBA and even looking beyond that, we have to say as an industry, we’re making $10 billion, should we really build the Berlin Wall to youth? We just cut off the American players and limited them well below the NBA and NFL. And now we’re doing it with the Latin players as well.”

Boras doesn’t think much of the current luxury-tax system, either, in which high-spending teams are taxed a percentage of their payroll over a certain threshold (It’s been $189 million, it will rise during this CBA).

“Under the old CBA, I think the old luxury tax was the Center for Disease Control,” he quipped. “And now the luxury tax should be Starbucks. Because if you want championship coffee, you’d better be visiting there often.”


3. You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Bautista

Whenever Joey Bats signs his free-agent deal, the anticipation is that he will quote actress Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech from years ago and exclaim to the signing team and city, “You like me, you really like me!”

By far, the most entertaining moment at last week’s winter meetings came when general manager Dan Duquette told the Baltimore Sun‘s Eduardo A. Encina that though Bautista’s agent reached out to the club, the Orioles wouldn’t even consider signing Bautista because, essentially, Baltimore fans hate him.

“That’s true,” Duquette said. “That’s true. The agent called and I said, ‘Really? Jose is a villain in Baltimore and I’m not going to go tell our fans that we’re courting Jose Bautista for the Orioles because they’re not going to be happy.'”


4. Ruffled Feathers of the Week

Angry that the Washington Nationals acquired outfielder Adam Eaton because the move likely meant the club would shift Trea Turner from center field to shortstop and himself to the bench, Danny Espinosa skipped the club’s annual Winterfest on Saturday.

By Saturday night, the Nationals had shipped Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels, who were in the market for a second baseman.

Meanwhile, at Pittsburgh’s PirateFest over the weekend, All-Star Andrew McCutchen admitted that the very public rumors that the club nearly had him dealt to the Washington Nationals this month can’t help but bother him.

“I’d be lying to you if I told you none of this bothered me,” McCutchen said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Stephen J. Nesbitt. “Of course it did. I’m human. If someone cuts you off while you’re driving, you get bothered. To have my name talked about possibly getting traded, yeah, of course that got to me.

“We all have these dreams of being something. My dream is to be a Pirate my whole career. My dream is still to win multiple World Series. We all have those dreams. Sometimes, with my name being popped up there, it did kind of make me think, whoa, those dreams could be altered a little.”

At age 29, McCutchen had one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .256/.336/.430 with 24 homers and 79 RBI. The days of his 2013 NL MVP award seem further and further away. Among other things, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has talked to him about the possibility of moving to a corner outfield spot, likely right field, as his defensive metrics have declined as well.

“Andrew is a professional guy that I think keeps things in a pretty good place,” Hurdle said at the winter meetings last week. “I think it’s another part of his career that he’s getting to work through, walk through, and he’s got a great support system. That’s one of the things I shared with him, is there anything I can do to help lessen the distraction, to be there, talk, whatever.”

McCutchen is still young enough to resurrect his career. The 2017 season, wherever he is, will be enormous.


5. Unintended Labor Consequences

As part of the new CBA, the players’ per diem meal money will shrink to $30 per day from $105 per day because, among other reasons, each club now will be required to provide a clubhouse chef for players who increasingly eat in the first-rate clubhouses in the new ballparks.

While few folks are likely to feel sorry for the players, there is fallout that will hit the blue-collar ranks, and it is unfortunate: Clubhouse attendants stand to lose thousands of dollars annually in tips each summer. And ancillary members of a team’s traveling party, who don’t make nearly as much as the players and depend on the per diem as a way to supplement their modest salaries, are taking a hit, too.

Traveling media relations folks, for example, who sometimes work 18 hours a day during the season and average only between $40,000 and $50,000 in salary, qualify for per diem and because of this will lose some $5,000 or so in income.

Media relations directors can make up to $80,000 or $100,000 per year, but the vast majority of assistants who work 80-100 hours a week and are away from home half the summer earn only half of that.

Meanwhile, visiting clubhouse attendants who are in the $40,000 salary range and depend on generous tips to get beyond just scraping by will be hit extremely hard now, too.

Here’s hoping (but not expecting) that the individual clubs will move in to help ease the financial loss for the behind-the-scenes personnel who help make the game go but don’t share in the wealth. It’s probably too much to ask, but it’s the right thing to do.


6. Weekly Power Rankings

1. Christmas shopping: The hustle, the bustle, can put you in a foul mood more quickly than Orioles fans thinking about Bautista.

2. Edwin Encarnacion: So, can we show you some real estate in Cleveland, Edwin?

3. La La Land: Darling of the Golden Globe nominations announced this week, the musical tells the story of Corey Seager and Kershaw singing and dancing and wooing free agents Jansen and Justin Turner back to the Dodgers for another championship run in 2017. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are in there somewhere, too, I think.

4. Snow days: The absolute best, the Mike Trout of ways to get out of school. Even well beyond my school years, when I hear snow has caused school closings, wherever I am, I can’t help but smile and feel 16 again.

5. Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize: A no-show at Saturday’s ceremony in Sweden, he’s like the Manny Ramirez of the Nobel Prize ceremony.


7. Plus, 2017, too?

Lord over the peeps at your favorite watering hole or neighborhood basement with this one:

The answers: Koji Uehara closed out the 2013 World Series for the Red Sox, Wade Davis (just acquired from Kansas City last week), who closed out the 2015 World Series for the Royals and, of course, this year’s last-pitch thrower, Mike Montgomery.

Question now is: Can the Cubs win again in 2017 and employ relievers who tossed the clinching pitch in four of the past five World Series?


8. Chatter

• Yankees GM Brian Cashman may have awarded Chapman a record-setting contract for a closer at five years and $86 million, but he isn’t jumping for joy. The part he’s not thrilled about is Chapman’s ability to opt out after the third year, which is just when the Yankees envision having a chance to begin their next dynasty. “Oh, I don’t like it,” Cashman said during a conversation after the Rule 5 draft just before departing the winter meetings last Thursday. “It’s just, at the end of the day, I know that the competition we were up against were giving opt-outs in Years 1 and 2. So at least we were able to put it in Year 3.”

 The Tigers’ retooling effort is on hold. They did not trade J.D. Martinez, despite strong talk that San Francisco is interested. They did not deal Ian Kinsler, despite the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a clear need there. Justin Verlander stayed in Detroit while the White Sox traded ace Chris Sale. And USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale reported that Detroit GM Al Avila did not receive one phone call on slugger Miguel Cabrera, signifying that maybe Detroit will wind up keeping him and paying the $220 million owed him over the next seven years.

 With Ian Desmond in the fold and Mark Trumbo maybe on the horizon, the Colorado Rockies, who have endured six consecutive losing seasons and have not played in the playoffs since 2009, are spending money on free agents for the first time since Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. Must be the Denver school system.

 The Dodgers are still in the market for a second baseman, and one intriguing question is whether new Twins executives Derek Falvey (president of baseball operations) and Thad Levine (general manager) will deal Brian Dozier following his 42-homer season. “As Derek and Thad have said, we have to be open-minded about just about anything that people would bring to us just to try to increase our chances of doing what we need to do both in the short term as well as going forward,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor at the winter meetings.

 Harper doesn’t have much time this month for all of the speculation on his price tag when he becomes a free agent in 2018 because he’s speculating on his own future this week: He’s getting married in San Diego.


9. The Devil(s) Made Him Do It

The Nationals’ Winterfest was highly entertaining over the weekend simply in calculating who wasn’t there. Angry Espinosa wasn’t the only no-show:

Duke basketball was bragging about its celebrity fan, too:


9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Week

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. Thanks for reading this year, thanks for making Bleacher Report such a go-to place and if you haven’t seen this Christmas video, you must (it’s Nobel Prize committee endorsed!).

“Who’s got a beard that’s long and white? 
“Santa’s got a beard that’s long and white.
“Who comes around on a special night? 
“Santa comes around on a special night.
“Special night, beard that’s white
“Must be Santa, must be Santa,
“Must be Santa, Santa Claus.”

— Written by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Is Red Sox’s Price-Sale-Porcello Trio a True Sustainable Super-Rotation?

In a discussion about just how good the Boston Red Sox‘s starting rotation is, there are two options: Going over it with a fine-tooth comb, or just buying into it as the greatest thing since the last greatest thing since sliced bread.

Given that the genesis of this discussion only began last week, it’s oh-so-easy to choose Door No. 2. 

If by some chance you missed it, the Red Sox acquired ace left-hander Chris Sale in a winter meetings blockbuster. This would be the same Chris Sale who’s finished no lower than sixth in the American League Cy Young voting five years running now. He hasn’t actually won one yet, but that could change.

Not that the Red Sox need that in order to claim a former Cy Young winner in their rotation, of course. David Price won it in 2012. Rick Porcello won it this season. The insta-analysis of them now joining forces with Sale: That’s some trio!

Arguably even the best in baseball, for that matter. But I’ll leave that to Chris Bahr of Fox Sports:

However, this is baseball we’re talking about. The translation rate of offseason hype into on-field results isn’t overwhelmingly positive. Just look at the 2015 San Diego Padres or the 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks. Or rather, please don’t. It’s not pretty.

Strictly based on that principle, some skepticism about Boston’s supposed super-rotation is warranted. Then there’s what the fine-tooth comb turns up.

Although he’s been the best lefty not named Clayton Kershaw since 2012, Sale appears to be past his peak dominance. He’s followed a 2.79 ERA between 2012 and 2014 with a 3.37 ERA the last two seasons.

And it’s no secret that there was a concerning wrinkle in his most recent effort. After pushing his average fastball up to 94.5 mph in 2015, Sale’s average dropped to 92.8 mph in 2016. His strikeout rate also fell, from 11.8 per nine innings to 9.3. 

According to the man himself, this year’s velocity drop was intentional. Sale told Scott Merkin of MLB.com that he wanted to stop throwing “every single pitch as hard as I can every inning, every out.” If so, it’s possible he could turn the velocity back on if the Red Sox asked him to.

What’s more likely, though, is that his best velocity is gone for good. With his age-28 season due up, Sale is already past the point where FanGraphsBill Petti found that starting pitchers begin to leak velocity. 

The Red Sox are already going through something similar with Price, who they have signed through 2022. He’s fresh off an age-30 season in which he finished with a modest 3.99 ERA. His average fastball was down to 92.9 mph from 94.2. That helped push his strikeout rate further south of its peak.

Worse, bad things happened to Price when the ball was put in play off him. He served up a career-high 30 home runs, and he allowed career-worst hard-hit and pull percentages.

For his part, sitting at just 90.2 mph with his heat didn’t bother Porcello as he carved out a 3.15 ERA in 223 innings in 2016. Nor did he suffer from striking out only 7.6 batters per nine innings. The 27-year-old was the same pitch-to-contact guy he’s always been.

Except, only far more successful than usual. Porcello‘s batting average on balls in play plummeted to a career-low .269. Conventional sabermetric thinking says that what goes down must now come up.

So, there you have it. These are the reasons to worry about Boston’s trio of aces. It could turn out that two of them are past their prime and one of them got seriously lucky when he broke out as an ace.

But for every “Yeah, but…” there’s an equal and opposite “Well, actually…”

Porcello‘s exit velocity and other batted-ball data send mixed signals about how good he was at managing contact in 2016. But after Craig Edwards of FanGraphs dove deeper into the numbers, he calculated that even Porcello‘s adjusted batting average on balls in play still would have been well below average.

That is, he truly earned his roaring success on balls in play. How? By pitching!

“He’s really improved as an overall pitcher,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who also oversaw Porcello with the Detroit Tigers, told ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber in November. “Just the ability to change speeds, I mean, his changeup, his curveball, he cuts the ball. He’s really got a better pulse of changing the [hitter’s] eyesight on various pitches. You really see the growth. I think he’s taken another step further from what he was in Detroit.”

Brooks Baseball backs up Dombrowski on all of this. Porcello does have a cutter now. He does change speeds better than he used to. He is more willing to change eye levels as well.

Put another way: Even Porcello‘s rate of 1.3 walks per nine innings in 2016 doesn’t capture how in command he was when he took the mound. He’s always been a strike-thrower. He’s now a strike-thrower with a purpose.

Same goes for Price. The veteran lefty walked only 2.0 batters per nine innings in 2016, continuing a longstanding trend of him being well under the league average. And despite all the hard contact he gave up, it wasn’t like he was consistently putting the ball right down the middle. Per Baseball Savant, he actually did that far less often than he did in 2015, when he finished second in the Cy Young voting.

So despite his 3.99 ERA, it’s no wonder Price was just aces for most of 2016. He was terrible in his first seven starts. After that, he had a 3.39 ERA in his last 28 starts.

Speaking of finishing strong, it’s a good look that Sale didn’t need an uptick in velocity to go from an 8.9 K/9 in the first half of 2016 to a 9.7 K/9 in the second half. This points to two things.

One: Even with less velocity, Sale’s stuff is filthy. Per Baseball Prospectus, the action on his four-seamer, sinker, changeup and slider all rated as elite. Here’s a taste:

Perhaps because he had been watching Porcello, Sale also started being more proactive changing eye levels in the second half. He began locating his hard stuff (namely his four-seamer) higher and his off-speed stuff lower.

Sale had to take matters into his own hands in part because White Sox catchers were doing him no favors. As Mike Petriello covered at MLB.com, Sale lost more runs to bad pitch framing than any other American League starter.

Simply switching uniforms will help solve that, and Sale could even end up on the other side of the spectrum if Christian Vazquez seizes Boston’s everyday catcher gig. Baseball Prospectus gives him 20.7 career framing runs in the majors, an absurd amount for a guy who’s only played in 112 games.

Vazquez’s framing would obviously also help Price and Porcello. And it’s worth noting none of Boston’s starters should suffer from the team’s defense.

The Red Sox were 12th in defensive efficiency in 2016. The only threat to their defense going forward is Pablo Sandoval returning to third base, but he figures to be on too short a leash to become a major threat. Meanwhile, Mitch Moreland should be a sizable defensive upgrade at first base.

It’s a big ol‘ complicated picture, but the bottom line is that the Red Sox will be happy with their rotation trio if the particulars live up to their most recent performances. Had the Red Sox had Sale, Price and Porcello in 2016, they would have combined for a 3.50 ERA and a whopping 679.2 innings.

There are indeed tangible reasons to believe this won’t happen, but they’re overwhelmed by the essential truth of the Sale-Price-Porcello trio: It’s a group of truly good pitchers. One of them has never thrown hard and the other two don’t throw as hard as they used to, but all three have proved they don’t need power to survive.

In basic terms: Believe the hype. These guys are good.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. 

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David Price Allowed 5 ER in 3.1 IP and Is Now 0-8 in Career Postseason Starts

Fact: David Price gave up 5 ER in 3.1 IP in the Red Sox‘s 6-0 loss to the Indians on Friday. He is now 0-8 in his career in postseason starts. 

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David Price’s Postseason Demons Follow Him to Boston, Put Red Sox in ALDS Hole

When pitcher David Price was introduced as the Boston Red Sox‘s new $217 million toy last December, he said something the future would either vindicate or bring back to haunt him.       

“I think I was just saving all my postseason wins for the Red Sox,” he told reporters during his introductory press conference.

Now, the quote is sneaking up behind Price to say “Boo!” in his ear.

The left-hander did not last long in his first postseason game with the franchise: a 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday. Boston manager John Farrell pulled him after he allowed six hits, two walks and four earned runs while recording only 10 outs. Price had a fifth run tacked on to his line after one of his inherited runners scored, which did this to his career postseason ERA:

  • Before: 5.12
  • After: 5.54

The Red Sox could have lived with this if Rick Porcello had led the club to a win with a strong performance in Game 1 Thursday. But that didn’t pan out. In order to bounce back and avoid an 0-2 hole, the Red Sox at least needed good innings out of Price. They needed to be great innings if Indians right-hander Corey Kluber turned his Klubot mode to 11 in the first postseason start of his career.  

Naturally, that’s what happened. Seemingly anticipating that Red Sox hitters would be sitting curveball after Cleveland’s hook-heavy attack in Game 1, Kluber went right at them with two-seamers and overpowered them. He struck out seven and scattered the only three hits the Red Sox got in Game 2.

Congrats to Kluber on his brand-new 0.00 postseason ERA. Wouldn’t you know, Price had one of those once. Eight years ago, he made his first foray into October baseball with three scoreless appearances in the American League Championship Series againstwho else?the Red Sox.

But that was ages ago. Price has dominated in the regular season, punctuated by a 3.21 career ERA and an American League Cy Young Award in 2012. But whether he’s been wearing a Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays or Red Sox uniform, he just can’t carry that success into October. And Katie Sharp of River Ave. Blues highlights how, lately, he hasn’t escaped the opposite of success:

When Eno Sarris of FanGraphs dug into what’s gone wrong for Price in the postseason, he found in part that the quality of his competition has gotten tougher. But this is, of course, a fact of life for all pitchers who find themselves playing in October. It’s on them to overcome it.

One reason Price hasn’t done that is because he gets hurt at the worst times. He’s normally good at cracking down with runners in scoring position, allowing just a .240 batting average in the regular season. According to Baseball Savant, that figure jumps to .349 in his postseason outings since 2010.

Cleveland boosted that figure by going 2-for-3 against Price with runners in scoring position in Game 2. The big blow was the seed Lonnie Chisenhall sent just over the right field fence for a three-run homer that made it 4-0 in the second inning.

The one silver lining to take away from Price’s latest October flop is he was at least making decent pitches in that momentum-swinging, gut-punching second inning. All four of the hits he gave up came on pitches that were right on the edges of the strike zone.

While we’re on the topic of silver linings, the Red Sox have others to point to. The big one is that they’re not dead yet. Math confirms this, as the Indians have only two of the three wins they need to advance.

There’s also the fact this series is now shifting to Boston, where the Red Sox were 47-34 this season, for Game 3 Sunday. The return to Fenway Park should be especially beneficial to the Red Sox’s cold offense. Red Sox hitters had an .858 OPS at home compared to .762 on the road.

Facing Josh Tomlin in Game 3 could also awaken the offense. After seeing all sorts of power from Trevor Bauer and Kluber in Games 1 and 2, Tomlin’s 80-something heat will be a welcome change. The Red Sox could add to the whopping 36 homers he’s already allowed this year.

It’s unlikely the Red Sox can come back from their 0-2 hole, but it’s not impossible. Teams have done it before, even in instances where they’ve been outplayed worse than the Red Sox. Game 2 was a blowout, but Game 1 was an intense one-run contest either team could have won. If the San Francisco Giants could come back over the Cincinnati Reds in 2012 and the Blue Jays could do it over the Texas Rangers last year, the Red Sox can do it to the Indians in 2016.

If it does happen, Price is one guy who may have no part in it. Assuming Farrell doesn’t change his plans, Clay Buchholz will pitch Game 3. If necessary, Eduardo Rodriguez will take Game 4 and Porcello Game 5. If Price appears again in this series, it will likely be in relief.

To his credit, he doesn’t seem to care how he gets the ball again this season as long as he gets it, period.

“I know my number’s going to get called again to pitch again in 2016, and I’ll be ready,” Price said after Game 2, per Newsday‘s Erik Boland. “I want it for sure.”

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm. And in this case, you can’t blame Price for wanting to get back out there and deliver on what he said last December.

But what’s certain is this: If Price does get back on the mound, there are going to be a lot of raised pulses in and around the city of Boston.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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David Price Starting to Become Clutch Ace at Crucial Time of Playoff Push

The Boston Red Sox gave David Price ace money over the winter.

Now, finally, after months of wobbling and hand-wringing, he’s giving them ace results.

Price wasn’t awful in the first half. At the very least, he proved he could still miss bats with 140 strikeouts in 124.1 innings. But the 4.34 ERA he lugged into the All-Star break wasn’t what the Red Sox had in mind when they inked him for seven years and $217 million in December 2015.

Price’s early troubles, as Bleacher Report’s Zachary D. Rymer outlined in May, seemed to revolve around diminished velocity and less spin on his pitches. He was flat. He was hittable.

Overall, Price’s average fastball velocity this season (92.9 mph) is down a tick from his career mark (94.2). In his most recent start against the Baltimore Orioles, however, he frequently touched the mid-90s.

The result was eight innings of two-run, two-hit ball with nine strikeouts and no walks as Boston rolled to a 12-2 win Monday.

In a dozen second-half starts, Price is 7-2 with a 2.99 ERA. The Red Sox, at 81-62, sit in first place in the potent, competitive American League East, two games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays (79-64), three up on the O’s (78-65) and five ahead of the New York Yankees (76-67).

Everything, in other words, is coming together for Boston.

“I knew good things were going to happen to me,” Price said, per Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com. “I’ve had a lot of good things over the course of how many starts it’s been. Whether it’s hard-hit balls going at guys or soft-hit balls not finding the holes, whenever I make a really good pitch, having good things happen, that’s what’s going on for me my past couple of starts. I just want to keep it going.”

On Monday, Price hit a milestone that put him in elite Beantown company, as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe outlined:

Price is a ways off from matching Curt Schilling’s Red Sox legacy. He’ll need a couple of Commissioner’s Trophies and perhaps a bloody sock to do that.

But this is the innings-chewing, strikeout-stacking, rotation-topping stud the Sox thought they were getting. While they would’ve loved to have this guy from April onward, he’s showing up at the best possible time.

The Red Sox have other weapons in the rotation, including 20-game winner Rick Porcello, trade-deadline acquisition Drew Pomeranz, young left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and knuckleballer Steven Wright, assuming he returns from a shoulder injury.

The offense leads MLB in batting average, runs and OPS. David Ortiz is cranking back the clock in his farewell season, and whippersnappers like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are joining the party. If anything propels Boston back to the promised land, it’ll be the bats.

Price, though, has a chance to be a difference-maker.

His career postseason resume is far from sterling, as he owns a 5.12 ERA in 63.1 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers and Toronto. Now, he can boost his October legacy and vault into the pantheon of Red Sox heroes.

“We all have that feeling in the clubhouse, out in the dugout,” Price said, per WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable. “This is a very close-knit group of guys. That is what you want to be part of. That is what makes 162 games plus spring training that much fun.”

A few months ago, “fun” wasn’t a word you’d have connected to Price. Now, it meshes.

Yes, during his recent run of success, the veteran southpaw got starts against the San Diego Padres, Oakland A’s, Rays and Kansas City Royals, all of whom rank among the bottom third in MLB in scoring.

That’s what made Monday’s effort so promising. Price tamed a fearsome Orioles lineup that paces baseball in home runs. The Sox will face the O’s six more times. In addition, they have seven games against the upstart, archrival Yankees and three against the big-swinging Jays.

Price will be tested. He’ll be forced to show his cards.

Judging by recent returns, he could well come up aces.


All statistics current as of Monday and courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

David Price and Sonny Gray Building a Bromance That Transcends the Game

Theirs is a friendship based on curveballs, Commodores and chip shots.

Maybe one day, these two Vanderbilt University alums and Tennessee neighbors will be teammates, too.

For now, David Price is the $217 million anchor in a sketchy Boston rotation as the Red Sox take aim at another World Series run.

And Sonny Gray? Scouts are bird-dogging the down-on-his-luck erstwhile ace of the Oakland Athletics as the August 1 non-waivers trade deadline approaches, though his 4-8 record and 5.12 ERA over 17 starts don’t exactly make him the sexiest midseason trade target.

Acquiring Drew Pomeranz from San Diego last week likely precludes Boston from adding another starting pitcher this month. But maybe it doesn’t. However it plays out, one thing is clear: Somewhere, sometime, these two great friends would love to be teammates.

“Absolutely. It’s something we’ve talked about before,” Price told B/R during a conversation before Boston acquired Pomeranz. “Before I signed with the Red Sox.

“I knew how they operate in Oakland…[And with] our minor league system, how many prospects we had, and how young our team still is with the core group of guys we have and to be kind of logjammed at some of those positions, [I knew] that something like [a trade for Gray] could happen…

“We can do anything. We have the money to do whatever we want. We have the prospects to make whatever trades we want. There’s not a guy in baseball that we could not trade for: [Bryce] Harper, [Mike] Trout, it doesn’t matter who it is. We have the prospects, we have the money and we have Dave Dombrowski [Boston’s president of baseball operations], who is not afraid to go out there and make a big splash.”

Nobody is more aggressive at the trading table than Dombrowski. Price knows this firsthand. The former Tigers president and general manager brought Price to Detroit from Tampa Bay at the 2014 trade deadline, then shipped Price to Toronto at last summer’s trade deadline.

In the last couple of weeks alone, Dombrowski has acquired infielder Aaron Hill (from Milwaukee), closer Brad Ziegler (from Arizona) and Pomeranz (from San Diego).

Over the past several seasons in Detroit, aside from Price, Dombrowski landed right-hander Doug Fister (from Seattle), Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez (from Miami), Prince Fielder (free agent) and more.

“Those were all the factors that went into my decision to be here,” Price says when asked about the possibility of one day teaming with his buddy Gray, and knowing Dombrowski‘s aggressive nature. “I know we’d all welcome him as our teammate, for sure. He’s just a good dude. He’s an energy-giver. He works his tail off. He’s a guy you want to be around every day.”

In the winter, Price has that chance.

They often work out together at Vanderbilt.

“He’s great,” Gray says. “He’s super fun to be around. He has great personality on- and off-field…He’s a fun-loving, genuine guy.”

They talk, they laugh, they golf, they tweet.

“I think it’s a middle-Tennessee bond, to be honest with you,” says Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt’s head baseball coach since 2003. “They come from a very similar area. Murfreesboro [where Price grew up] and Smyrna [Gray’s home], really, are side by side.”

Price came through Vanderbilt first, pitching for the Commodores from 2005-07, when Tampa Bay picked him first overall in the draft that June.

Gray followed, pitching for the Commodores from ’08-11. Oakland picked him 18th overall in the June 2011 draft.

Each entered Vanderbilt as a local star, each pitched right away as a freshman and each exited as a highly celebrated first-round pick.

But it isn’t simply geography and common alumni status that cause the two to text each other incessantly and frequently share their affinity for each other via social media.

“Their personalities are similar,” Corbin says. “They’re fun. You see them smile a lot. They have an innocence about them that has never been tainted by getting to the big leagues very fast. They keep the game for what it is. They’ve never taken the game and made it more serious than what it is.

“They’re very good competitors, but they also enjoy what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. They’re both very inclusive. They celebrate teammates.”

From the exterior, it would seem to be an odd pairing.

Gray is 5’10”, right-handed and white.

Price is 6’5″, left-handed and African-American.

Yet they fit together like texting and teenagers.

Take the time Gray had a starring role in his high school’s production of High School Musical. Corbin, his wife, Maggie, and their daughters, Molly (now 31) and Hannah (28), trekked to Smyrna High School to see his recruit’s acting chops.

“He was the lead singer; he can’t sing; he’s terrible,” Corbin says, chuckling. “Like everything Sonny does, he thought he was really good. And he is really good at most things. Just not singing.

“So he’s on stage, there are something like 300 people in the auditorium at the play. My phone buzzes, and he must have seen I was on the phone. He texts me during the play, sends me a text that says ‘Pay attention!’

“I showed that to my wife, and she couldn’t believe he was singing and acting and could still text.

“At that point, I knew we had a confident player.”

Then there’s Price, a frequent winter visitor to Corbin’s office. One problem: Corbin is a neat freak who likes things organized and clean. And Astro, Price’s beloved French bulldog, usually rides shotgun with his master.

“David will bring Astro into my office and let him run around on my couch, and he laughs because I’m so meticulous with my things,” Corbin says. 

“He’ll have Astro up on my couch, and when I’m not in, he’ll have Astro sleeping on my pillow.

“It pisses me off, and he loves it.”

What Gray, Price and the other Commodores do is essentially serve as the sons Tim and Maggie never had. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, you should have been watching the MLB Network television broadcast of last year’s AL Cy Young Award announcement. Because they were both finalists and live within 25 minutes of each other, Gray and Price gathered, along with an MLB Network production crew, in Price’s basement.

As they were setting up, Price told the technicians, “OK, I want Corbs and Maggie to be right behind us” in the live shot.

“Why?” a technician asked.

“Because we’ve got to get some recruiting advantage out of this,” Price reasoned.

“So we’re sitting behind them,” Corbin recalls, “and I’m holding Sonny’s baby, Gunnar (one-and-a-half years old), and I had Gunnar drooling all over me in the shoot, and my wife’s holding Astro, and Astro is lapping her leg.

“The kids were getting interviewed, and we’re like grandparents holding the kids in the back seat of the Ford station wagon.

“Those two are pretty funny. They’re comedians. They provide lot of comic entertainment for us, for sure.”

Neither won that night, as Houston’s Dallas Keuchel ended up taking home the AL Cy Young Award. Price, the 2012 winner, finished second, while Gray was third.

Another unique shared memory in two lives filled with plenty of shared experiences.

Gray, 26, first became aware of Price, 30, when the latter was starring on the Blackman High School baseball and basketball teams in Murfreesboro. When Gray was in high school, he watched Price pitch at Vanderbilt.

Price recalls that during his junior year at Vanderbilt, after having heard so much about Gray’s local exploits quarterbacking the Smyrna High team to Tennessee 5A state titles in ’06 and ’07, he finally went to watch him play baseball that spring.

“He played quarterback, and he’s not the biggest in stature and that was in 5A, the biggest class at the time in Tennessee,” Price says, still wowed. “I remember my junior year we didn’t have practice [one day], so I went back home and he was pitching, so I went to go see what all the hype was about. Sonny Gray. I was blown away.

“It was hands down the best high school arm I’d ever seen. He was 94-96 mph, 97, hitting spots, throwing a curveball, slider, changeup. He had a four-pitch mix at 18 years old. It was by far the best high school arm I’d ever seen.”

Gray was aware of the big guy’s scouting mission.

“We all knew his name, obviously, with him being so close to where I was from,” Gray says. “Anytime he came around, you obviously knew he was there because it was a big deal to everyone. It’s not like he can show up somewhere and hide.”

Price says he didn’t help recruit Gray to Vanderbilt, deferring all credit for that to Corbin. Neither recalls the first time they met. Rather, the relationship simply evolved. Corbin told Price that Gray reminded him of Price—his work ethic, how much he cared, how special he was both as a baseball player and as a person. He told Price that Gray’s total focus was the team, same as Price’s always was.

From there, they gravitated toward each other.

Now, it isn’t so much gravity as a magnetic force.

“At times it’s like [he’s a] big brother, and at times it’s like a good friend,” Gray says. “It’s definitely a relationship that’s grown over the last three or four years.”

Says Price: “I don’t look at it as big brother-little bother. He’s just a really good friend. He’s a really good dude. I don’t know anybody that has anything negative to say about Sonny Gray. He’s a really good human.”

In the winter, they’re among a group of 30 or so who work out at Vanderbilt. The gathering includes ex-Commodores and random major leaguers drawn to the school’s facilities by Price, Gray or both. Last winter’s group included Baltimore’s Brad Brach and Pedro Alvarez, Tampa Bay’s J.P. Arencibia and Curt Casali, Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier, the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist and more.

Quite a statement, too, given that Arencibia is welcome even though he played at rival Tennessee. But that’s how difficult it is not to smile along with Gray and Price, and their crowd.

“Good kids attract good kids,” Corbin says. “It’s a nice element we have.”

Price and Gray, of course, are regular throwing partners during these winter workouts, which led Price to quiz his younger colleague about the grip on his lethal curveball. Despite the fact that Gray is right-handed and Price is a lefty, the curve Price started throwing last year came from Gray.

“I worked on it every day with him [that winter],” Price says.

Conversely, when Gray pitched against Boston in Fenway Park earlier this season during a stretch in which he was struggling badly, it was Price who dispensed wisdom afterward. They talked for 15 or 20 minutes on Gray’s bullpen day, two days after the Sox blistered him for seven runs in 3.2 innings.

Trust your stuff, Price told him. Things are going to get better. Everything is falling in for a hit right now, and that will change.

“You can’t change what you’re doing just because you’re not getting the results you expect to get,” Price says.

The seeds of the trust factor between them spring not just from their elite talent, but from time spent together away from the field, too.

In the winter, Price estimates they golf together five times a week.

“Absolutely,” Price says. “He’s the first guy I’m going to text and say, ‘Do you want to play golf?’ We play a lot together, his stepdad and myself, his Uncle Rick and our friends from high school.”

Says Gray: “We already have a trip planned this offseason. We joined a place back home, joined the same place and we got to play quite a bit.

“It’s really fun when you beat him, too.”

Scoreboard? Price says they probably each win about 50 percent of the time…then, grinning, he backs off just a bit.

“I’d say he probably wins a little bit more, for sure,” Price says. “But it’s always fun.”

If this winter’s trip is anything like Price’s golf tournament last winter, more laughs—if not birdies—are in store.

“They have log cabins they built a couple years ago,” Price says. “So we all stayed out at the log cabins. They left the lights up at night; they had little garage doors you could hit out of onto the driving range. The driving range lights up, and they have these huge putting greens, and two greens in the back you can hit chips.

“Sonny, myself and some more of our buddies stayed out there for a couple of nights, had that whole experience. We played night golf, because they gave us these really souped-up golf carts with lights on them, and we had a blast. We’re going to do it again this year.”

Often in Nashville in the offseason, they’re together attending the NHL’s Predators games. Or they’re going out to eat, or just hanging out. And though they live about 25 minutes apart now, that distance is about to shrink: Gray is building a house closer to Nashville.

If it sounds like one big, happy family, well…

Gray will be married this offseason and is already father to Gunnar, which continues to amuse Price.

“He’s a good kid, cute and well-behaved,” Price says. “I don’t have any kids, so I don’t know what all that entails. But I know that a lot of people who know Sonny Gray, if you told them he has a one-and-a-half-year-old, they’d be like, ‘Oh boy.’ Because Sonny’s a little kid himself, and to look at him being a dad, it’s kind of crazy.”

Eventually, it may happen to Priceand perhaps sooner rather than later: He’s recently engaged now, too.

So Corbin figures he’ll have Gray’s wedding to attend this offseason and Price’s maybe a year from then.

“I thought [Price] was marrying Astro when he told me he was getting married,” Corbin quips.

Seriously, Corbin says, “They’re talented human beings. They’re five-star people, they really are…They’re as loyal as the day is long. It’s great. You don’t really think about their relationship because it is very simple and it’s real. It’s not manufactured.”

So far, they’ve been teammates for only one game: the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati.

That could change, of course, in this or a near-future trading season. That conversation Price had with Gray last winter? Hey, man, this could work out if Oakland trades you…why not dream big?

“He just smiled that big ol‘ smile he has,” Price says. “He probably rubbed his fingers through his thinning hair.

“He just wants to win. That’s what it’s about and that’s what he’s done. When the time comes, if that were to happen, I can’t speak for him but I know that I would be happy. That would be very cool.”

Says Gray: “We always talk about hopefully one day down the road, or whatever happens, it would be nice. We’ve never actually played on the same team. It would be cool. But who knows? Who knows how this game ever turns out?

“He’s a good guy to be around, for sure.”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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How Concerned Should Red Sox Be over David Price’s Roller-Coaster 2016?

Boston Red Sox left-hander David Price was not an especially good pitcher Wednesday in a 4-0 loss to his old employer, the Tampa Bay Rays. Just ask him.

“Changeup, that’s probably the worst changeup I’ve had in probably a month,” Price said after the game, per John Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. “Curveball was awful. Can’t get my cutter or my slider where I want to. I’m just bad right now.”

That’s about as candid an assessment as you’ll hear from any player. In a way, Price was a bit too hard on himself.

He lasted 6.1 innings Wednesday, after all, and struck out 10 next to one walk. But he did surrender nine hits and four earned runs. His ERA for the season rose to 4.74, and his record fell to 8-5.

Those are serviceable numbers for a fourth or fifth starter. For a guy who inked a seven-year, $217 million contract over the winter, it’s an unmitigated disappointment.

Really, Price’s 2016 is all about contradictions.

He paces the American League with 120 strikeouts and is third with 108.1 innings pitched. And after watching his ERA balloon to 6.75 on May 7, he pitched into the seventh inning or deeper in his next eight starts and shaved more than two points off his ERA in the process. 

Then came a 12-hit, six-run, 2.1 inning disaster against the Texas Rangers on June 24, followed by Wednesday’s loss. Suddenly, the questions are back like the unkillable villain in a slasher flick.

Here’s the biggest one: How worried should Red Sox fans be about their mercurial ace?

The first place we look in these instances is velocity. And, indeed, Price’s average fastball is down from a career mark of 94.2 mph to 92.3 mph, and opponents are making more hard contact against him than at any point in his career.

On Wednesday, though, his heater reached as high as 97. Instead, as Price indicated in his self-flagellating postgame remarks, the issue seems to be location and off-speed pitch execution.

That could suggest a mechanical issue, though Price dismissed that after his June 24 shellacking.

“I’m fine. You know, I’m fine,” Price said at the time, per ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber. “I just didn’t execute pitches. It’s not mechanics. It’s not pitch selection. It’s executing pitches. That’s all it is.” 

If Price is telling the truth, and if there’s no mystery injury lurking, maybe the problem is simply between his ears. Perhaps the pressure of living up to that gargantuan deal is getting to him.

That brand of dime-store psychoanalysis is often a cop-out. All players deal with pressure, and Price has been a premier pitcher for years.

This roller-coaster season, however, has gone on long enough to give the Beantown faithful vertigo. We know Price can still dominate like the man who won American League Cy Young Award honors in 2012. We also know he can be a gas can.

That’s troubling for a club with postseason aspirations that’s expecting Price to anchor its staff.

If the season ended today, Boston would host the AL Wild Card Game. At this point, you can make a convincing case that knuckleballer Steven Wright, who leads Red Sox starters with a 2.18 ERA, would be a safer choice to start that win-or-go-home contest.

Wright is making a shade over $500,000 this season; Price is pulling down $30 million.

Price turns 31 in August, so there’s no reason to assume the decline has arrived. But even if he shines the next time he takes the hill, or the next two times, the doubts will linger.

Price doesn’t deserve all the blame for the Red Sox’s 10-16 June, which dropped them out of first place and 5.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. The rest of the rotation has scuffled, and the formerly world-beating offense has wobbled at times, including in Wednesday’s shutout loss.

The Ringer’s Bill Simmons, the unofficial spokesman for Red Sox nation, voiced his unqualified support for Price, which counts for something:

Still, this up-and-down act can only go on for so long. When you’re making roughly a million dollars a start, the expectations of sustained excellence will never go away.

If that’s gnawing at Price and impacting his performance, he’s got to find a solution, whether it’s extra bullpen sessions, studying tape or an appointment with a psychic healer.

Price’s honesty after Wednesday’s dud was admirable. Now, it’s time for his results to consistently follow suitor Boston’s very valid worries could curdle into a full-blown panic.


All statistics current as of June 29 and courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. 

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David Price’s Latest Dud Turns Slow Start with Red Sox into Real Concern

The Boston Red Sox made a $217 million bet that David Price would be the ace they badly needed. And at first, it seemed like he would be.

Things have gone so far downhill since then, however, that it’s hard not to bite your nails and wonder if there will come a time when things start going uphill again.

Seven starts into his first season with the Red Sox, Price is running a 6.75 ERA. The New York Yankees did their part to push that figure skyward when they got to the veteran left-hander for six runs last Sunday, and they tagged him for six more in an 8-2 thumping at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.

It was Didi Gregorius who got the big hit, sending a three-run double down the right field line that gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning.

Now, it’s not impossible to put a positive spin on Price’s inflated ERA. For example, you can look at expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP) and see that it puts Price’s “true” ERA at 2.95. That ranks him among the top 10 starters in baseball.

The suggestion there is that a rogue wave of bad luck in the early going has blindsided Price. That’s apparent on a micro level, as Mike Axisa of CBS Sports pointed out the pitch Gregorius hit was actually a well-located changeup.

It’s also apparent on a macro level, as Price is dealing with a .373 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and has stranded only 54.2 percent of the runners he’s put on base. In time, both numbers should change for the better.

But to chalk Price’s 6.75 ERA entirely up to bad luck is to ignore that he has some real problems he may not be able to fix.

One of these problems is an open secret: Price hasn’t had his usual velocity. According to Brooks Baseball, he worked around 95 mph with his four-seamer and sinker and over 90 mph with his cutter in 2015. He hasn’t been able to find zip like that on his heat so far in 2016:

It would be one thing if Price’s velocity was at least trending upward, but it’s heading in the opposite direction. Not exactly encouraging, that.

The popular retort in a discussion like this is that velocity isn’t everything. But while that’s true, even Price himself can admit it’s something that counts for a lot.

“I feel like the more velocity that you have, the more mistakes you get away with,” Price said after Saturday’s game, per Ian Browne of MLB.com. “Right now, I’m not getting away with mistakes—or good pitches, for that matter. That’s part of it. They hit some good pitches today.”

Price has a point. Even before the Yankees knocked him around (again), Baseball Savant had the slugging percentage against his fastballs at .455. That’s the highest it’s ever been.

Less velocity may not be the only dark cloud hanging over Price’s arsenal of pitches. His stuff has often looked flat to the naked eye, and that may not be a mirage. He’s seeing some slight variation in the horizontal and vertical movement of his pitches. In a related story, the average spin rate on his pitches going into Saturday’s start was down from last season:

  • 2015: 2,147 rpm
  • 2016: 2,029 rpm

This is where it becomes hard to blame Price’s struggles on bad luck. There has been some of that, but he’s also been hit harder. His average exit velocity was more than 2 mph higher than his 2015 mark going into Saturday, and the Yankees probably made that worse. Such is life when a pitcher is dealing with lesser velocity and flatter stuff.

The question that arises is whether there’s something physically wrong with Price, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of that. His release point is fine, and the Red Sox don’t see any red flags.

“That’s not health-related,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said in reference to Price’s velocity, per Browne. “Right now we’re examining everything. Physically, he checks out, as we check all of our pitchers after a start. So it’s not a health-related issue.”

If Price is indeed healthy, the hope that arises is that maybe the struggle that seems so real is actually, you know, just one of those things.

But that may be a fool’s hope. The likely explanation is that Price is finally succumbing to age now that he’s past his 30th birthday. Per the aging curves that Bill Petti presented at FanGraphs, Price is already well beyond the age when starting pitchers tend to start losing velocity. We don’t yet know how spin rate is affected by age, but it’s easy to imagine there’s a similar correlation.

So rather than wait for Price to get his old stuff back, the best hope is that he’ll find ways to make do with what he has. That’s a matter of sequencing and location, and the bright side is that the latter is still one of Price’s strengths. He may be struggling to get hitters out, but he’s not having issues with walks (2.6 per nine innings) or throwing strikes (66.2 strike percentage).

Whether a new version of Price can be better than vintage Price is anyone’s guess. That’s a high bar to clear, as vintage Price used his power arsenal to win two ERA titles and a Cy Young in the last four seasons.

If that’s the guy the Red Sox were hoping to get, it may be time for them to lower their expectations.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Price Matches Career-Best Mark with 14 Strikeouts in Win over Braves

Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price made the most of Tuesday’s favorable matchup against the woeful Atlanta Braves, matching his career-high mark of 14 strikeouts as the Red Sox cruised to an 11-4 victory, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe.

Coming off an eight-run shelling in his previous outing, Boston’s prized offseason acquisition overcame a shaky start to Tuesday’s game, eventually holding Atlanta scoreless from the fifth through eighth innings after surrendering two runs through the first four frames.

Price held the Braves to two runs on six hits and two walks, ultimately exiting with a 6-2 lead after eight innings and 114 pitches, having struck out each of the last five batters he faced.

The Red Sox then added five runs in the top of the ninth to ensure the lefty improved to 3-0 in spite of his 5.76 ERA.

The latter mark might seem like a concern at first glance, but with 46 strikeouts through 29.2 innings in a Red Sox uniform, Price figures to get his ERA in line soon enough.

In addition to matching a career-best mark, Price’s 14 strikeouts were the most by any Red Sox pitcher since Jon Lester recorded 15 against the Oakland Athletics on May 3, 2014.

The franchise single-game record for strikeouts is the same as the all-time record, with Roger Clemens responsible for two of the three 20-strikeout performances in MLB history.

Clemens accomplished the feat while playing for Boston in 1986 and 1996, then was matched by Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood in 1998.

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David Price Gives Red Sox the Ace They Have Desperately Missed

When you spend $217 million on a pitcher you expect to be an ace, you want him to at least make a strong first impression.

And Tuesday, that’s exactly what David Price gave the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox have plenty of positives to take out of their season-opening 6-2 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mookie Betts and David Ortiz went yard. Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel wrapped it up with three hitless innings and five strikeouts.

But for the most part, it was the Price show. The 30-year-old’s first start in a Red Sox uniform resulted in six innings in which he allowed two earned runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out 10.

With Price’s debut in the books, Boston is already one-eighth of the way to the number of double-digit strikeout games it got out of its starters in 2015. For that matter, Tuesday was a good first step toward improving on the ugly 4.39 ERA it got out of its starters last season.

The performance taught the Red Sox they were wrong to think their rotation could thrive without an ace. Thanks to Price, their troubles in that department should be over.

Before Price made his strong first impression, he had his track record. In compiling a 2.45 ERA for the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays last season, he earned his second American League ERA title in four years. Since 2012, he has a 2.90 ERA in 866.1 innings.

The left-hander’s pinpoint command has been a huge part of his dominance, as only six qualified pitchers have thrown strikes at a higher rate than he has over the last four years. And so the story went in his Red Sox debut. Price threw 71 of his 103 pitches for strikes and succeeded in working both sides of the zone.

And as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe observed, Price made things tough on Cleveland hitters by keeping them off-balance:

“He was able to mix his complete complement of pitches for strikeouts, getting swings and misses with his fastball, curveball and changeup and employing a backdoor cutter to get called third strikes.”

There is one aspect of Price’s outing that’s not quite as awesome. After sitting in the 94-95 mph range with his fastball in 2015, the raw data at Brooks Baseball put Price in the 90-92 range Tuesday. He topped out at 93.9.

But when a pitcher commands the ball like Price did, it’s that much easier to get away with uncharacteristic velocity. He further helped his cause by using his changeup. The 24 he threw yielded five whiffs and not a single hit.

No surprise there. Batters hit Price’s changeup at just a .226 clip last season. And if he continues to draw whiffs on it, he may be able to improve a chart that already catches the eye:

The increasing whiffability of Price’s changeup hasn’t come by accident. As noted by Owen Watson of FanGraphs, the pitch has gained arm-side run almost every year. And with an average of 11.8 inches of horizontal break Tuesday, Price may keep the trend alive this season.

His fastball velocity, meanwhile, isn’t worth panicking over just yet.

With the temperature at Progressive Field hovering in the mid-30s, the cold may be to blame for Price’s radar gun readings. And in light of how his velocity progressed last year, he should be expected to heat up with the weather anyway.

An optimist would say this makes Price’s debut a win for Boston on two fronts. He gave the Red Sox precisely what they wanted and yet still has room to improve.

That’ll do for a promise that Price will be the ace Boston has been missing since it traded Jon Lester in 2014. It wanted him so bad, in fact, that Red Sox owner John Henry was willing to disregard his typically stingy approach to free-agent pitchers by wowing Price with a seven-year, $217 million offer.

“The one place we really had a need for was at the top of the rotation,” Henry said in December, per Ian Browne of MLB.com. “You have exceptions to any rule, and certainly this is one of them.”

Simply finding a missing part isn’t the only reason Boston had to target Price. It’s trying to get back to the postseason after a second straight last-place finish in the AL East. It’d be hard to do that without good starting pitching. In the last five seasons, only four teamsthe Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals in 2015, the Tigers in 2014 and the Baltimore Orioles in 2012—made it to October with a starting staff that ranked in the bottom 10 in the majors in ERA.

Between asking Price to fit comfortably in a pair of ace shoes that had been unoccupied and asking him to spearhead a return trip to October, the Red Sox are certainly demanding a lot. It’s a good thing, then, that he’s as confident in himself as they are.

“I think everybody wants to be ‘The Guy,'” Price told Scott Lauber of ESPN.com. “Whatever team it is, you want to be that No. 1.”

This, of course, was just talk before Price took the mound Tuesday. Had he fumbled his chance at a strong first impression, it surely would have been noted that talk is considerably cheaper than $217 million.

Instead, he did his thing, allowing Boston to feel confident the guy it paid for will indeed be “The Guy.”


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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