I’ve said a bunch of times that Pablo Sandoval is the most interesting player on the Red Sox this year and easily has the widest range of possible season outcomes. I still believe that. I think Price is the most interesting pitcher, though, even if he doesn’t have as wide a range of potential outcomes as someone like Eduardo Rodriguez or Drew Pomeranz. Price was undeniably disappointing in his first season in Boston, missing too many spots and giving up too much hard contact. Luckily, all he has to do is pitch to his peripherals (DRA, at least) and he’ll be thrust right back into the upper echelons of the American League. Obviously, doing that will be easier said than done, but we and the rest of baseball know he clearly has the talent. Unfortunately, the league is taking a special interest in the lefty, and in a way that could hurt his quest to get back to his former level.
According to the pitcher, whose message was relayed by Rob Bradford, the Players Association has warned Price that umpires will be paying special attention when he’s on the mound. Specifically, they’ll be looking at his wind up, citing similarities between how he sets up when in the stretch vs. when he’s in the windup. Apparently, there is “too much deception” involved.
There’s a few different ways to look at this, but the first and most important is whether or not the league has a point here. Below are two random screenshots of Price getting set to pitch. On the left is the windup, and on the right is the stretch.
So, a few things about this. As much as I hate to admit it, I feel like the umps kind of have a point here. Price has an abnormal wind up in which he just kind of shuffles his feet, and you can see in these pictures that both set ups look awfully similar. There are some slight differences, though. The biggest difference that I see is that when he’s in the stretch, he is a little more bent over and he’s more tense in his hands. In the linked post from Bradford, Price says he’s at more of a 45 degree angle when in the windup and his hands are in different spots. I don’t really see that.
Whether or not there is a big difference is kind of secondary here, anyway. This is a very strange thing for the league to suddenly get interested in after seven years of throwing like this. Price has had this kind of shuffle wind up since 2009. It’s unclear what has sparked this interest. My first instinct whenever MLB gets involved with anything is that it has to do with pace of play. Although Price certainly is a slow worker, I can’t imagine the two issues are related.
No matter the reason, I have a feeling this is something we’ll hear about now and then at the start of the year but it will quickly fade away. Perhaps we’ll see him receive a warning from an overzealous umpire in one of his first few starts, but I’d be shocked if it ends up being more than that. MLB, after all, has a history of saying they’ll enforce rules before quickly giving up on them. Remember when the league and its umpires were SUPER SERIOUS about players not leaving the batter’s box?* Yeah, that was a fun week.
*This is off-topic, but I wish they stuck with that. It did make games move a little more smoothly.
If this does become more of A Thing, however, that could be bad news for the Red Sox. Price is a talented pitcher and could probably get past anything they threw in his way, but this would be a challenge. Pitching, of course, is all about repeating mechanics and deliveries. It’s a difficult practice that needs to be made as simple as possible. Getting in Price’s head and either making him pitch exclusively out of the stretch or changing his wind up could easily have adverse effects. Again, I don’t think this will get that far, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as he starts pitching in real games next week. As for why MLB is worried about this in the first place, well, I think it’s safe to blame either the Yankees or the Rays. Or both.
Update: Price will not have to alter his mechanics. Instead, he and a few other pitchers with similar wind ups will have to declare whether they are pitching from the stretch or the wind up when a runner is on third. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯