As far as front-line starters go, David Price is the premiere ace of the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting deck of cards. A powerful 6’6” left-hander that’s built off of baffling rhythm and an unconventional delivery. Over the years Price’s trademarks as a front-line pitcher have stood out in the most important aspects. Since 2014, no other major league starter has struck out more batters than Price (496). In addition, no other starter has gone deeper into his starts than Price has. Nine times this season he’s pitched into the 8th inning of a game.
Since being traded from Detroit to Toronto at the trade deadline in early August. Price has been everything the Blue Jays could ask for as they now approach October with an AL East division crown in-hand. Out of all the defining storylines that have shaped the Blue Jays into form the last two months, Price’s dominance must not be ignored.
Amid his 11 starts as a Blue Jay, Price has pulled off a 9-1 record, as well as boasting a 2.30 ERA through 74.1 innings pitched. The consistency in his starts is one reason why Toronto will undoubtedly lean on him next week, as he will soon be named their #1 starter. But most of all, Toronto inserting their all-around trust into Price is seemingly an astute, yet bold strategy in itself. Ultimately, the connection between Price’s regular season and postseason starts have been a detached enigma. Price’s playoff performances have been overshadowed in the short-term by his utter dominance in the regular season.
Price in his career is winless as a postseason starter. More so, the only time Price salvaged a win in the playoffs was in Game 2 of the 2008 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox when he was a member of Tampa Bay. Although, the considerable notion that’s missed was that Price made that appearance as a long reliever. The sample size of Price’s starts in the playoffs isn’t overwhelming, but it’s definitely a glaring concern. Dating back to his very first playoff start, when he pitched for the Rays during the 2010 ALDS against the Texas Rangers. Price gave up 4 earned runs in 6.2 innings. The performance from then on out reflects his lingering struggles. Overall, Price has started five games in October and through those starts he has an inflated ERA of 5.06. Moving forward, Price has gone 32.4 innings and has allowed 38 hits, 19 runs, and five home runs.
It was a manager’s decision, but Price will be officially shut down for the remainder of regular season until Game 1 of ALDS on October 8th. This move won’t necessarily damage Price’s rhythm heading into next week. But it could send a statement to Price that in order for Toronto to advance deep into October, possibly November, Price needs to be on his game. Remember, by reason of David Price being picked up by the Blue Jays in the middle of the season, nothing is certain that he remains on the team this upcoming winter. Price will be a free agent right after the season concludes, he will be in high demand from the most top-level markets. The chance that Toronto is able to invest $50 million for the course of two season so Price remains in Canada is unlikely.
Despite the regression that Price has experienced when it matters the most. The Blue Jays have devoted too much money for Price to not live up his esteemed expectations. The fact of the matter is that Price has shown promise even amidst the downfalls. First off, Price is a workhorse. He’s already pitched 220.1 innings in his 32 starts total, meaning that the postseason tole won’t affect him as it would for most starters at this time.
The biggest takeaway that can be interpreted from his starts as a Blue Jay is that he does a fantastic job of getting ahead of hitters, (67% of the time Price’s pitches have been strikes). This detail alone needs to be a focal point heading into next week that must be established early. For the most part, Price’s postseason starts have slightly improved as his career has worn on. But the home run ball continues to be a large weakness that he’s yet to conquer. The problem that’s in the Blue Jays’ way is that they’ll be forced to either face the Yankees, Rangers, or potentially the Astros in the division series. All of these teams are in the Top 5 in baseball in home runs. Houston with 227, New York with 212, and Texas with 167.
With the exception of Kauffman Stadium, the rest of the American League parks for the postseason are home run alleys, including Toronto’s very own Rogers Center. If Price can’t shake off the home run troubles, then pitching to contact may be his second best resort. Price in a lot of ways can be just as effective when he’s not striking guys out. For instance, this season he’s forced hitters to ground out 8 times and fly out an average of 7 times per game. What might not be an indicative statistic, forcing hitters to hit lazy fly balls in expense of a home run will work just fine in the short-term given the explosion of Toronto’s offense.
The offense that Price has behind him has been nurtured all season with MVP performances from Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. The Blue Jays are the first team in four decades to have three players drive in 100+ runs and hit 35+ HRs in a single season. If in doubt Price labors, the high-inclined offense is good enough to save him.
Nevertheless, in many ways, the Blue Jays franchise carries the perfect make-up of David Price. An organization that’s fought for everything they’ve had, through the rough patches of last place finishes and failed expectations. To finally witness a winner for the first time since Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series walk-off only hits the roots of team hard enough. Price, just like the Blue Jays, has gone through emotional set-backs, at times his performances never lived up to the hype. But yet, here they are both looking to seek out redemption that’s ridiculed within baseball’s most coveted spotlight.
Toronto has shifted all the pressure onto David Price’s shoulders. Because, really, that’s the only person that the Blue Jays have trusted from the start. Price, who up to his first start in Toronto knew in an instant that he was the man in charge. The numbers have backed up his leadership and mentorship to the city. But this time, now as a member for the Blue Jays, the time for Price to finally rise up to the occasion is now. From years of defeat when it mattered the most, there should be no more excuses about a bad bullpen to ruin his quality starts, no more lack of run support. The rotation Price will work with behind him isn’t devastating, but it’s reliable enough to make this postseason run memorable. Let’s face it, Toronto has been blessed with a once in a generation type offense that ostensibly won’t return all of it’s running parts next season. With no clue of where the market opens up for him next season, Price seemingly will have to pitch with an added dose of pride, an added measure of adrenaline. Because this time a franchise who has waited two decades for October baseball will support Price hand-in-hand through every pitch next Thursday.