Let’s just take a moment to bask in the following statement: David Price is today’s starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays! For many, this will still seem like some sort of dream. But, over the last week or so, we’ve seen this club make some very real moves designed to make some very real noise in the American League and push for some very real playoffs. While today’s outing won’t make or break the Blue Jays season, it does hold significance.
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Aside from one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching for your Toronto Blue Jays, they will be taking on the Minnesota Twins who are just one game ahead of them in the Wild Card spot. While there is lots of baseball still to play, a win here (and the series) would go along way to their playoff chances. So, what can we expect to see today?
Firstly, the Rogers Centre will be ROCKING! The Blue Jays have seen a massive increase in ticket sales since these deadline moves. And, after a playoff like atmosphere during the Royals series that got very heated yesterday, fans should be primed to bring the house down. A sold out crowd to watch David Price throw his first game as a Blue Jay and a fight for a playoff spot?! Are you kidding me? This is going to be fun!
Toronto Blue Jays
But, what about Price specifically? Let’s start with what you can expect to see him throw. According to Fangraphs.com Price is throwing a mix of fastball (57%), cutter (12%), curve (9.3%) and change (21.5%). Apparently, he hasn’t thrown a slider even 1% of the time since 2011. The first thing one might notice is that his off speed stuff has seen an increase in usage this year over last. In fact, this year, he is using his change up more than he ever has. Over the last few years, his fastball has held steady at 93 mph (with a slight uptick this year at 93.8 mph). While he is throwing his change up more, it also has the highest velocity (85.2 mph) than it ever has.
Looking at some more of the numbers, this year, Price has the highest line drive rate (24%) of his career. 37.7% of balls have been hit toward center and this year shows the highest percentage of hard hit balls (29.6%) of his career. None of these are positive trends, but we should not be alarmed. He has an outstanding defense behind him in the infield. The outfield defense is no slouch either. No, we shouldn’t be worried. Price comes with a +WPA (Win Advancement) of 11.55. While this is not a predictive stat, it does tell you why you should feel comfortable with him on the mound.
Against the Twins (according to BaseballReference.com), Price is 8-3 in 13 career starts. He does have a relief appearance against them. His ERA is a shiny 2.21. In 93,2 innings, he has 95 strike outs to just 23 walks. In total, he’s only allowed 23 runs. Lifetime. Over his career, the Twins has slashed .208/.257/.295 with 16 doubles and 4 home runs. Oh, and they’ve stolen a mere 2 bases against him. Now, this is for his entire career. Teams change, right? Things might be different this time around.
Well, they are. The numbers are better against the Twins this season. In 2015, Price has made 3 starts. The Twins are hitting .193/.236/.229 in 90 plate appearances. If you look at 3 starts, the minimum amount of plate appearances would be 81. So, he has averaged just 3 batters per game over the minimum! His 1.17 ERA is very encouraging, as is his 20 strike outs. In fact, that is the third highest K total against any team this year.
For the Twins, Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe have seen Price the most (according to MLB.com). Dozier is hitting .222 in 27 at bats while Plouffe has a .364 average in 22 at bats. Torii Hunter is also hitting .290 in 31 at bats. That said, you have to like the Blue Jays’ chances in this contest.
Not to exaggerate it, but today’s game is an important one. The Blue Jays have built some momentum after winning 3-4 against the Royals. They are sending David Price out for his first start as a Blue Jay in front of what should be a raucous crowd. And, they’re fighting for that Wild Card spot. Based on his success against the Twins thus far, things are looking good for today’s start.
So, whether you are fortunate enough to head down to Rogers Centre to watch in person or staying at home glued to your TV, you’d better buckle up. This is going to be fun!