In case you haven’t heard, the Red Sox are moving David Price to the bullpen after he wasn’t able to recover from his injury in time for a full rehab assignment to get ready for a starter’s workload. There are some who disagree with this decision and think the team should have made a bigger effort to get him back into the rotation. From the outside and without knowing any medical information, it’s really hard for me to have a strong opinion on this. Either way, the decision has already been made and people are understandably excited about what Price can add in this new role. The most common way I’ve heard people explain their hopes about the veteran lefty is by saying that he should be Boston’s Andrew Miller. It’s something I’m hearing more and more about Price as the playoffs get closer, and it’s something that probably needs to be chilled out just a bit.
I want to be clear that I’m not trying to be a wet blanket here, though I undoubtedly will come off that way at least a little bit. That being said, there surely is every reason to believe Price can be very good in this role. For one thing, the lefty is talented. It sounds obvious, but it needs to be said if you’re talking about his potential impact. He’s also had success in this role before, albeit it was almost a decade ago so I’m not really positive how much stock we should put into that fact. Still, we’ve seen him in one outing this year out of the bullpen and he looked very good.
That being said, there are plenty of reasons to check your expectations for a little bit. For one thing, his health is still something of a question. Granted, as I alluded to above, he looked perfectly healthy in his last outing. Still, arms issues like this can creep up at any time and there’s no telling if he’s going to be able to stay this effective. On top of that, there is the issue of his previous playoff experience. Now, this is something I’ve always downplayed and I still think there is very little relevance to his past October performances. That being said, it’s at least something to consider as you try to set your expectations for the upcoming month of baseball.
With both sides being presented, I certainly find myself on the side of him being a positive presence in the Red Sox bullpen. If I had to pin down a role I’d probably put him third in the unit behind Craig Kimbrel and Addison Reed. However, when people bring up the Andrew Miller comparison, things get a unrealistic. When this comparison is made, it becomes clear that people are forgetting about how amazing Miller was in last season’s playoff run. The Indians lefty made ten appearances last October, with each of including more than three outs recorded. In that run, he allowed just three runs and struck out 30 batters with just five walks in 19 1⁄3 innings. Even better, in the first eight outings of that run the former Red Sox southpaw he tossed 15 scoreless innings with 27 strikeouts and four walks. In short, he was utterly dominant to an extent that we may not see for a long, long time.
With that in mind, if anyone is going in this Red Sox bullpen is going to go on a Miller-like run it will be Kimbrel. Even if Price pitches as well as he hope, Kimbrel is the most talented pitcher in this bullpen. He’s shown it all year and there’s little reason to expect anything to change in October. The big issue here is obviously that he rarely goes more than one inning, but managers always extend relievers’ roles in the postseason. You needn’t look any further than Aroldis Chapman from last fall to prove that point.
The more likely answer, though, is that nobody from the Red Sox bullpen is going to be Miller. The most likely answer is that nobody from any bullpen — including Andrew Miller — is going to be 2016 Miller. Boston’s bullpen has been a boon this year not because of any individual opponents (though Kimbrel’s been unbelievable and has certainly helped a great deal) but rather because everyone has performed a little better than anyone expected. If they are going to succeed moving forward, it will be a group effort rather than someone like Price stepping up.
In the end, I fully expect Price to be very good and a major part of this bullpen. Also, in the sense that he should be able to record six outs at a time, he can be Miller. However, beyond that those expectations are out of whack. The good news is the Red Sox don’t need Price to fill that kind of hero role. They just need him to be himself, and they need the rest of their bullpen to be themselves. If they can do that, they’ll be perfectly fine.