Blue Jays and Price: Why Gibby Was Right

The talking (well, arguing) point of the week for Blue Jays fans: whether John Gibbons should have used David Price in Game 4.  There are sub-issues, like whether Gibby should have given R.A. Dickey one more batter, or whether Price should have been pulled after less than 50 pitches, but let’s focus on the big one.

Price is a brilliant pitcher.  He is one of the favourites to win the 2015 AL Cy Young, and without his contribution after the trade it is unlikely that the Jays would be where they are today.  However, he struggled in the first game of the ALDS, giving up 5 earned runs.  Price struggled with his command and control, uncharacteristically leaving several places over the centre of the plate (two of which were hit for home runs).  Some felt that his poor performance was due to nerves.  Other feel that the 11 games between starts left him rusty.  Still, others have speculated that Price may be tipping his pitches.  But however you look at it, David Price was not David Price.

 

Some might argue that game one was just a SSS (small sample size) aberration.  They would say that even the best pitchers have off days, and that very little should be read into one game.  If the only issue was Price giving up five runs, I would agree. But the more important point is *why* he gave up those runs.  His inability to execute is far more troubling than the five runs.

So Gibby had some difficult decisions to make.

The first was who would pitch game 5, if there was one.  Ordinarily, it would be a no-brainer: the Jays would give the ball to their fully rested ace.  But given Price’s struggles, and given Stroman’s strong performance in game 2, Gibby clearly made the decision that Stroman would start.

This brought up the second decision: what to do with Price.  Price is an integral part of the Jays’ lineup.  In order for them to advance beyond the ALDS, they need him to get past whatever issues were troubling him in game 1.  So sitting him through games 4 and 5 was problematic, but it was equally dangerous to use him in a high-leverage situation until it was clear that he was back to his excellent normal.

 

Bill James has speculated that Gibby made the decision, before the game, that he would start Dickey in game 4, and ride him until he showed the first signs of weakness.  This might be earlier than usual, given that the game was being played in an effective temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  He would then replace Dickey with Price, regardless of the score.  I suspect that this is not entirely true (though there is no way of knowing, and Gibby isn’t telling).  I suspect that if the score had been close, the Jays would have gone to one of their top relievers.  But as it turned out, that was not necessary.  The ideal outcome prevailed – a Jays lead large enough that the Jays had the luxury of giving Price the time to straighten himself out, even if it cost a few runs.

As it turned out, Price pitched three innings and 50 pitches, giving up three earned runs.  He continued to struggle, which is likely why Gibbons left him in that long – to give David every opportunity to recover his mojo.

The bottom line?  It is entirely possible that John Gibbons was thinking longer term in bringing in David Price in game 4.  He had two objectives: winning the game (which, at 7-1, was looking good) and finding a way to get David over the struggles he had been experiencing.  Did it help?  Talk to me (hopefully!) after game 2 of the ALCS.