I'm a David Price believer. I don't know why. Maybe it's the inner Red Sox fan in me that wants the team to succeed above all else, but I'm also a sucker for a comeback story. Boston is too. We cheered when Josh Beckett performed much better in 2007 after his miserable first season at Fenway. We cheered for John Lackey in 2013. Rick Porcello and Hanley Ramirez last year too. But Price is a different animal. I can't remember another high profile Boston athlete that the media (and the fans?!) scrutinized so much.
I recapped Price's first season in Boston in this blog from a couple of weeks ago, and came away with the conclusion that he really wasn't that bad. The 3.99 ERA wasn't great but according to FanGraphs he had the 12th highest WAR among starters in the American League. Your opinion of Price may therefore be tied to your personal value of WAR. Regardless, he wasn't as bad as you people made him out to be and now he no longer has to be "the ace" for obvious reasons.
So anyways Price made his 2017 debut in Chicago against the White Sox yesterday and all things considered...it was pretty similar to last year. Good, not great. Serviceable, but slightly underwhelming. The typical Red Sox version of David Price we have all come to know and love. In five innings Price allowed three runs on two hits, walked two, hit two batters, and struck out four. However, what was most encouraging to see was the fastball velocity. Per my good friend Jared Carrabis Price averaged 95.19 mph on his fastball yesterday as opposed to 93.82 in May of 2016. His fastest pitch from yesterday, which was clocked at 97.31 mph, would have been the fastest pitch he threw all last season. More than anything though he appeared to be competing. This is impossible to quantify of course, but it's something.
Ultimately would I bet my life that Price posts a sub 3.50 ERA this year or that he wins his next playoff start? Of course not. But I remain optimistic, if for no other reason than I want to see him overcome this. I also think clutchness is a learned skill, to some extent. It has a lot to do with visualizing positive outcomes, keeping your heart rate low, etc. That doesn't come naturally to everyone. Randy Johnson was a #notgood postseason pitcher until dominating the 2001 World Series. We also used to live in a world where Lebron James "wasn't a winner". So these things can change. Price has been to Hell and back in terms of his relationship with this city. But by all accounts he's an incredible teammate and really does want to succeed. That's enough for me to want him to succeed here long term. Yesterday was hopefully just the start.