The first year for a free agent pitcher coming to Boston can be exacting. Whether it be pressure from the fans and media, the difficulty of pitching in the vaunted AL East, or adjusting to the bandbox that is Fenway Park, results don’t always match expectations for pitchers in their first year in Boston.
Year two is an opportunity to reset, an opportunity to prove the critics wrong. Here are some notable Red Sox pitching acquisitions over the past two decades, and a look at year one versus year two in Boston:
- Pedro Martinez
1998 – 19-7, 2.89 ERA, 233.2 IP, 251 SO, 67 BB, 1.091 WHIP [CYA – 2]
1999 – 23-4, 2.07 ERA, 213.1 IP, 313 SO, 37 BB, 0.923 WHIP [CYA – 1]
- Josh Beckett
2006 – 16-11, 5.01 ERA, 204.2 IP, 158 SO, 74 BB, 1.295 WHIP
2007 – 20-7, 3.27 ERA, 200.2 IP, 194 SO, 40 BB, 1.441 WHIP [CYA – 2]
- Daisuke Matsuzaka
2007 – 15-12, 4.40 ERA, 204.2 IP, 201 SO, 80 BB, 1.324 WHIP
2008 – 18-3, 2.90 ERA, 167.2 IP, 154 SO, 94 BB, 1.324 WHIP [CYA – 4]
- Rick Porcello
2015 – 9-15, 4.92 ERA, 172 IP, 149 SO, 38 BB, 1.360 WHIP
2016 – 22-4, 3.15 ERA, 223 IP, 189 SO, 32 BB, 1.009 WHIP [CYA – 1]
Not included above, due to injuries and other mitigating factors:
- Curt Schilling – Schilling was excellent in 2004, but his well-documented ankle injury in October definitely affected his 2005 campaign.
- Matt Clement – Clement was okay in 2005 and was actually named to the All-Star team that season. He faded in the second half, though, before being sidelined for good with shoulder issues in mid-2006. Some have said that he was never the same after getting hit in the head by a line drive (thanks again, Carl Crawford).
- John Lackey – Lackey was a big-time disappointment in 2010 and 2011 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012. He did post solid numbers in 2013 and 2014, though, before getting shipped out of town.
Health aside, most pitchers post better numbers in their second year in Boston. Will David Price be able to follow that trend?
Price has as much talent as any one mentioned above not named Pedro Martinez. He already has a Cy Young Award and two Cy Young Award second place finishes on his resume. But does he have the mental toughness to put an underwhelming 2016 behind him and kick ass in 2017? His postseason resume does not seem to indicate that. Concern regarding the status of his left elbow could also make it harder for him to focus on just pitching in 2017.
Maybe some time off for Price is the best thing for him and the Sox right now. If he starts the season on the DL, Rick Porcello and Chris Sale can take the heat off him for a few weeks. If the Sox come out of the gate strong, Price can come back a few weeks into the season without the pressure of having to be the team’s No 1. guy. That would make it easier to focus on just pitching.
It would also mean that a strong improvement for Price in 2017 wouldn’t make or break the Red Sox championship hopes. A campaign similar to his 2016 campaign could be a enough on a team as talented as this one.You’d like more from a guy making $30 million, but Dave Dombrowski knows that championships aren’t cheap.