Let it be known that the 2017 Red Sox will only go as far as David Price will take them. Even if Price duplicates his numbers from last season, having Chris Sale in the place of Clay Buchholz is going to be enough to get you back to the playoffs. However, the postseason is a completely different animal. As we saw with Rick Porcello in 2016, it’s extremely possible to have a killer regular season and then throw up a stinker in Game 1 of the playoffs. When you take into account Chris Sale’s lack of postseason experience, the possibility of a second consecutive year of losing a Game 1 seems pretty likely. The Game 2 start that follows is the one that Price is going to have to prove that he can pitch. But contrary to popular belief, the best way to make this happen is not by replying to all of his tweets and instructing him to “win a playoff game”.
The key to David Price improving is exactly the same as it was for Rick Porcello. He needs to stop letting the pressure get to him, and get back to the basics. During Rick Porcello’s interview after being named the AL Cy Young Award winner, Porcello talked about how much pressure he put on himself to win in 2015. He wanted to win so badly that he would go out on the mound and try to do too much. This is exactly what I saw from David Price this season. Instead of trying to fire it into the strike zone and daring the hitters to swing, he would nibble on the corners and try to strike out every batter he faced. As a result, his mistakes here fatal.
Price’s major issue in 2016 was his inability to pitch to contact. There’s a reason that he was able to rack up his 2nd highest strikeout total while having the worst year of his career. Start after start, I’d watch Price try to dot the corners with every pitch (most commonly backdoor change-ups to righties), and eventually he’d yank one that would go right down the middle and end up on Lansdowne Street. While he was successful in racking up K’s night in and night out, I’d rather have him start pitching down in the zone to help induce more ground balls because I don’t think that I can handle the pain of watching him allow 30 dingers for a second straight year.
David Price’s 2017 will come down to whether or not he can take the pressure off of himself and do what he’s paid to do. He needs to understand that he doesn’t need to strike everyone out. He can allow a baserunner every once in awhile and it’s not the end of the world. David Price can not expect to throw a perfect game every time he takes the ball. If he can get it together, we may get to witness a rotation with 3 true aces. If not, it’s going to be another long season full of, “This guy sucks! Get him out of Boston! $217 million down the drain!” For now, we just have to hope that it all works out because whether we like it or not, the 2017 season will depend on David Price.