Believe it or not, Now is NOT the time to completely give up on David Price

I’m probably going to catch a lot of grief for this post, and deservedly so. The man who people call the Mental Midget, the Gutless Coward, and the Worst Postseason Pitcher of all time, has done more than his share of work to earn these demeaning nicknames. He has failed in the postseason for the Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays, and now Red Sox, time after time. With last Saturday’s nightmare performance, his record as a starting pitcher in the post-season fell to 0-9 in 10 starts with an ERA of 6.03. His teams have lost all 10 games he has started.

It’s truly remarkable to ponder how a pitcher with his track record of success in the regular season can continue to falter every time he’s trotted out as a starting pitcher in October. Let’s focus on the immediate concern, which is Price’s role against the Astros in the ALCS. This is where people are going to call me crazy, but Price is going to need to play a very important role for the Sox to win this series.

As of right now Price is slated to start Game 2. If Sale and the Sox struggle in Game 1, you never know, they could still end up bringing Price out of the bullpen instead of trusting him in a must win Game 2. I know I sure as hell would be very skeptical if they trotted out Price to start the 2nd game of this series, after dropping Game 1. Throw out a guy who’s never won a post-season game, to try and ensure you don’t fall down 0-2 going back to Houston against the defending World Champs. Yeah, no thanks!

Last year against the Astros in the ALDS, Price pitched out of the bullpen due to an elbow injury. Price was dynamite in the series pitching 6.2 scoreless innings against the ‘Stros. As we all know, the Astros would go on to win the World Series despite Price’s dominance in that post-season series.

Price pitched very well against Houston in this year’s regular season. In June he went 6 innings against them (in Houston) with 7 Strikeouts and 3 Earned Runs allowed. Then about a month ago, at Fenway, he went 6.1 with 10 K’s and 2 Earned Runs in what was one of his best outings of the season. The bullpen would go on to blow that game for him (surprise surprise). It’s at least promising to see him have some success against the Astros, compared to his putrid career record against the Yankees. That’s one mental hurdle that he’s hopefully already over, headed into this series.

Just as important as Price’s success against Houston, the Red Sox may not be able to constantly roll Rick Porcello and Chris Sale out of the bullpen in important situations, like they did in the Yankees series. Sale is going to be called upon to start 2, maybe 3 games in this series, depending on how it trends. Porcello, may see 2 starts as well, which would limit his exposure in the bullpen.

All of this leads to the point that the Red Sox are going to need to get something out of Price in this series. As mentioned before, it appears his first shot will be as a starter in Game 2. If he fails to impress once again, I have zero doubt that he will be relegated to the bullpen moving forward. If that’s the case, he’s going to become the team’s “long reliever” out of the pen. He could be counted on to get some big outs early (or late) in games if any of the starters face trouble later on in the series.

Eduardo Rodriguez may have been made for the long reliever role had he not earned his way into the doghouse with Alex Cora. This was after his lack of effort to cover first base back in Game 2. Aaron Judge hit a ground ball to first, that should have been an out. Instead it turned into an undeserved infield single due to E-Rod’s laziness.

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge, right, is safe at second after a single off Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez during the seventh inning of Game 2 of a baseball American League Division Series,Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Photo Credit: MassLive

Cora called out E-Rod out after the game for his effort or lack thereof. He then had him come out to pitch the 9th inning of the Game 3 blowout against the Yanks in which the Sox were leading 16-1. This was a clear sign that Cora isn’t currently pleased with Rodriguez.

You can hate on David Price all you want. I think even he, would agree to some extent, that it’s well deserved. But at some point “every dog has their day.” At some point Price is going to go out there and win a big post-season start or come out of the bullpen and be the x-factor in a series. For all the bad things we say about him, it’s never a matter of him not caring or dogging it on the mound (like Mr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who’s now dogged it a few times this year). It’s a matter of him getting too stressed on the mound. It appears he almost cares too much.

Despite all the failures, the Sox need Price to step up in this series whether as a reliever or starting pitcher. He’s going to play a major role… for better or for worse, that remains to be seen. As a Red Sox fan, wouldn’t it actually be a great story if he came out in Game 2 of the ALCS and threw a gem? Then he follows it up with a strong performance later on in the series or in the World Series? Here’s to hoping David Price finds a way to finally begin to earn our respect and make us forget about his post-season struggles for the next few weeks.

GO SOX!!

 

5 Burning Questions Heading into the 2018 Red Sox Season

Don’t look now folks, but opening day at Fenway Park is a little more than a month away. There hadn’t been much buzz around the Red Sox this offseason until their signing of JD Martinez, which became official on Monday. Now they’ve added the big power bat they’ve been craving ever since Big Papi retired. There are still a lot of questions surrounding this team as we sit a little over a month away from the start of the season.

1. Can David Price prove to be healthy and finally live up to his huge contract?

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Photo Credit: The Boston Globe

It’s now been over 2 years since David Price signed a 7 year deal worth $217 million with the Sox. I think it’s fair to say Price’s first 2 years in Boston have been rocky. He’s clashed with the media and team broadcasters, battled an elbow injury all of last season, and hasn’t lived up to expectations on the mound. In terms of the elbow injury, it sounds like Price has fully moved past it. A few weeks ago he was quoted saying, “I haven’t had one instance this offseason, whether it was playing catch or doing anything on the field, where I was like, ‘That doesn’t feel right.” This is great news for the Red Sox because Price appeared to have turned a corner on the mound when working out of the bullpen late last season. He looked as dominant as he has since putting on a Red Sox jersey.  He appeared 7 times between September and October throwing a combined 15 and 1/3rd innings, allowing 0 Earned runs, and striking out 19 batters. If Price can carry that momentum into this season, I believe he can make a run at a second career Cy Young Award and form the best 1-2 pitching punch in the MLB, with Chris Sale. Finally, when speaking with the media at Spring Training a few weeks ago, he admitted that he could have handled the media better last year. Let’s hope Price can keep his head on straight both on and off the mound this year.

2. Have Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts already peaked?

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Photo Credit: Boston.com

If we rewind 3 or 4 years, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley were arguably more highly regarded than Mookie Betts. Now as we approach the 2018 season, the Red Sox are getting close to the point where they need to decide whether they see both players as the future of the organization. The hype around both of them has fizzled out in the last year or so. Xander’s batting average has dropped in consecutive seasons. Although he had 21 home runs back in 2016, that was sandwiched between 7 in 2015 and 10 in 2017. People keep waiting and wanting to see him pop 25+ HR’s year in and year out, but it seems like that’s wishful thinking. Bogaerts was once regarded as an exciting elite shortstop in the MLB, but has now become an afterthought with studs Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor rising as superstars at the SS position. I worry that Bogaerts’ ceiling isn’t quite as high as we envisioned a few years back. Bradley on the other hand continues to be a defensive stud in center field, but proves to be a below-average hitter. He led Red Sox hitters in strikeouts last year, and was below the league average in batting average, and on-base percentage. He just hasn’t made the strides as the solid hitter that Red Sox fans have hoped for. The upcoming season feels like a make or break year for both of them.  If they struggle again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sox try and unload one of them next year, since they are both represented by Scott Boras. Boras said it’s likely that neither one will sign a contract extension before they hit free agency in the next 2 years.

3. Can Rick Porcello rebound after his disastrous 2017 season?

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Photo Credit: Over the Monster

There’s no denying that Rick Porcello was horrible last year. Just a year removed from winning the AL Cy Young award, Porcello set a career high for most losses in a season with 17, gave up a league leading 38 HR’s, and had an ERA of 4.65. This was a far cry from his 3.15 ERA back in 2016. Over Porcello’s last 4 seasons he’s alternated between good/great seasons to horrible seasons. During even numbered years 2014 and 2016, Porcello had a WHIP under 1.25, an ERA of under 3.50 and 15+ wins. while of course winning the 2016 Cy Young. In odd numbered years 2015 and 2017, Porcello has had an ERA of 4.92 and 4.65 and a combined 32 Losses. If past history is any indicator, Porcello should be in store for a good season. The thing is the Sox don’t need Porcello to return completely to his Cy Young Form. He’s now the clear #3 starter going into the season, with Chris Sale and a healthy David Price together for the first time. The expectations don’t need to be as high for Ricky. If Porcello can keep the ball in the yard this year, and bring his HR allowed to around 20ish, while keeping up his strong strikeout rate (8th in the AL in 2016 and 9th in 2017 in K’s), then he should easily bring his ERA below 4.00. This would give the Sox one of the best rotations in the MLB.

4. Will JD Martinez fill the David Ortiz void?

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Photo credit: USA Today

In the Red Sox’ first year without David Ortiz (last year), they finished 27th in Home Runs with 168. By comparison, Yankees sluggers Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge combined for 144 Home Runs between the 3 of them. As a fellow Red Sox fan I was very disappointed when they missed out on Stanton this offseason, never-mind the fact that he went to our arch rival the New York Yankees. Thank goodness, they redeemed themselves by signing JD Martinez. JD hit 45 home runs. in only 119 games. The 45 HR’s were a major outlier in JD’s career, as his previous 3 year totals for Home Runs starting in 2014 were 23,38, and 22. The key question now is can Martinez carry over the momentum from last year and provide the Sox the missing power bat they’ve needed since Big Papi retired. Also, one question we always have to ask when someone is coming from a smaller market like Arizona/Detroit (JD’s previous 2 teams) is, can he handle the Boston Media? If JD can come close to replicating last years numbers of 45 dingers with a .303 Batting Average and 104 RBI’s, then they have clearly found their man… at least in the regular season. The Postseason is totally different, as Big Papi displayed year in and year out.

5. Just how much potential does Rafael Devers have?

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Photo Credit: The Boston Globe

Red Sox fans and people in the organization got a glimpse of 20 year old (let that age sink in for a second) 3B Rafael Devers last year. He was highly regarded around baseball as the 2nd best prospect in the organization and had a lot of positive flashes in his brief time in the majors last year. In just 58 games, he had 10 HR’s and batted a very solid .284.  He even batted .400 against lefties in 50 at bats last year, so he probably won’t be losing many starts to Eduardo Nunez when a fellow lefty is on the mound. Does anyone remember his opposite field game tying home run against a 103 MPH fastball from stud closer Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees?

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While Devers struggled defensively at 3rd base, committing 14 errors in 56 games, The Red Sox have a great deal of confidence in him at the plate. Early whispers out of spring training are predicting he’ll be batting in the middle of the lineup. Fangraphs, a projection website has a projection of 27 HRs/80 RBI’s and a .275 average for Devers. All which would be more than welcome for a 20 year old kid brimming with potential. If Devers can bring his high strikeout percentage down a little, then the sky is the limit for him.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m slowly getting excited to get back to Fenway to down some Fenway Franks, sing along to Sweet Caroline, and hopefully see the Sox get back to the World Series. Go Sox!