The Red Sox finally received some good news in regard to David Price's comeback. He is scheduled to pitch in minor league rehab games on May 14th, 19th, and 24th. This puts him on track to make his 2017 debut on either May 29th or 30th in Chicago against the White Sox. For months now the Sox have been hesitant to provide a timetable for his return to the rotation, but now one has finally been set.
With Price being so close to returning it seems like a good time to revisit his performance from 2016, and take a closer look at exactly how he faired. For much of last season he was probably considered overrated, due to his slow start and how much money he was making. But after his disastrous playoff performance in game two of the ALDS fans have seemingly turned against him so strongly that he's almost become underrated. This happens often with big off-season acquisitions in Boston, but a lot end up turning it around. What he does in 2017 will determine whether he's the next Carl Crawford or Rick Porcello. If he pitches well Boston fans will grow to love him, so let's take a look back at what exactly he was last year.
We'll start with what went wrong. I'll admit there were some disturbing trends in Price's overall stats. His strikeout rate went down, his walk rate went up, and his average fastball velocity fell from 94.2 mph in 2015 to 92.9 mph last year. Both his ERA (3.99) and WHIP (1.20) were his highest since his rookie year in 2009. He also allowed a career high 30 home runs, which can be taken as both a positive or a negative. In one sense it's never a good thing for a top of the rotation starter to be serving up that many long balls, but in another sense it was such an outlier from the rest of his career that it could simply have been a fluke. There's also a chance that he was pitching through whatever injury he has right now. It would explain his control issues as well as the decreased velocity.
Now on to what went right. In 2016 Price led all of baseball in both games started (35) and innings pitched (230). So right off the bat, before even knowing his ERA, Price was valuable to the Sox last year. Even in games when he didn't have his best stuff Price was giving us seven or eight innings a night, giving the bullpen much needed rest. This was particularly important last year when we didn't have the quality of starters we do in 2017.
According to FanGraphs he was worth 4.5 WAR, which was the 12th most among starting pitchers. If analytics aren't your thing and you prefer traditional stats then you'll be glad to hear he won 17 games with 228 strikeouts. And in Price's final 10 starts, in the middle of the Sox fighting for the division, he went 7-1 with a 3.26 ERA. He never dominated last year the way he has in the past, but he was rock solid for most of the regular season.
Ultimately did David Price live up to his contract last year? Of course not, but most free agents don't. If you're mad about his contract than blame Dave Domborwski for it, you know the guy who actually offered Price all that money. Don't be mad at the guy who simply said yes to a gigantic overpay. If you want to be upset with Price for his Twitter account and cringe worthy media interviews...well then I have no defense for that. He likely isn't going to win another Cy Young and who the hell knows what he'll do in the playoff this year, but thanks to all the quality innings he throws Price makes the Red Sox a much better team. He might be the best number two starter in baseball, and he has somehow become underrated.