When the Boston Red Sox host their home opener on April 9th, there’s a very real chance that left-handed pitcher David Price receives the biggest ovation. Once the recipient of an absurd amount of (mostly) undeserved criticism, Price won the hearts of Boston with one of the best postseason runs of anybody on the roster. He was the ace of the staff when Chris Sale was fighting through injury, but can he keep up that success in 2019?
Boston Red Sox 2019 Preview: David Price
Price finished the year with a good-but-not-great 3.58 ERA and a 4.02 FIP through 176.0 innings pitched. However, the full-year sample doesn’t show just how good Price was for the majority of the season. He had a few absolutely horrible starts (more on those later) which artificially ballooned both his ERA and FIP.
As mentioned in Chris Sale’s 2019 Preview, the ace of the staff missed the grand majority of the 2019 season. Somebody needed to step up in the second half, and that somebody was David Price. Price put up absurd numbers after the All-Star game, posting a 2.25 ERA and a 3.64 FIP in 68 innings pitched. He struck out an average of one batter per inning while walking only 2.1 batters every nine innings.
The biggest knock against Price throughout his career has been his underwhelming work in the postseason. While that narrative was overblown to an extent, Price put that talking point to bed during the 2018 postseason run. Over his final four appearances (three starts), Price posted a 1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings pitched. He struck out 19 batters while walking just six, and in the process earned his first three postseason wins as a starter. During this stretch, Price outdueled Justin Verlander on the road in the ALCS clincher before beating Clayton Kershaw twice in the World Series. These are two of the best pitchers of their time, and Price outplayed both in the biggest moments of his career.
As previously mentioned, David Price’s final numbers for 2018 don’t look as good as one would expect. This is because Price had a few of baseball’s worst starts mixed in with a majority of good-to-great starts. Unfortunately, most of those starts came against Boston’s dreaded rival, the New York Yankees.
Price pitched 15.2 innings against the New York Yankees during the 2018 regular season. In those innings, Price allowed an atrocious 10.34 ERA and an 11.14 FIP. He struck out just 6.3 batters per nine innings while walking 5.2 batters per nine. Price wasn’t any better in the postseason, as he allowed three runs in 1.2 innings against New York during the ALDS.
Price shut down the postseason narrative, but those who devote their lives to hating Price will certainly pivot to this talking point. If Price is able to conquer the postseason, he should be able to conquer the Yankees. He may not be as good as he was against the Astros and Dodgers, but look for Price to shut down the Yankees narrative during 2019.
According to Steamer Projections, Price is expected to pitch 196 innings in 2019 to the tune of a 3.96 ERA and a 3.98 FIP. While the 196 innings looks right, the ERA and FIP look way off. Since 2010, Price only had one season with an ERA above 3.96, and that was all the way back in 2016.
Yes, Price lost a bit of zip on his fastball in 2018. However, that hasn’t made him an ineffective pitcher by any means. Similar to what happened with C.C. Sabathia all those years ago, Price completely re-worked his mechanics and pitching strategy to become a smarter, better pitcher. The results were on full display during the second half of the season when he had a 2.25 ERA and a 3.64 FIP.
Price will be a good pitcher no matter what, but his velocity could come back. While Sabathia never found his heater at an advanced age, Justin Verlander actually did. Verlander had an average fastball velocity in the mid 90’s for the majority of his career before the number dropped to the 92-93 range from 2013 to 2016. However, since 2017 Verlander’s fastball is back up in the mid 90’s. Only time will tell if Price undergoes a similar phenomenon, but he’s made himself into a pitcher who can succeed with or without the velocity. Price’s ERA will easily end up below 3.96 in 2019.