Blue Jays 2015 Year in Review: David Price
By Shaun Doyle
The days leading up to the July 31st Trade Deadline changed everything for the Blue Jays in 2015. Not only did they bring in Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins, but they brought in David Price. For the first time in years, the Blue Jays had an ace. Instantly, the season took off and Price was a key reason why.
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He was good in Detroit, but he was even better in Toronto. Now, he sits waiting to hear if he will win the 2015 AL Cy Young Award. Despite his success, many criticize his performance in the postseason and use it to explain why he is not worth the mega deal he is seeking now in free agency.
Toronto Blue Jays
Price started the season with the Tigers and battled some consistency early on. In April, he saw his ERA at 3.48, which isn’t horrible. But, in comparison to how the rest of his season went, it was not good. In 31 innings to start the season, he’d give up 29 hits and 10 walks. However, as the season wore on, Price found his groove. Over the next two months, he saw his ERA dip lower and lower; all the way to 2.02 in June. In fact, as the season wore on, batters hit for a decreasing average.
The Blue Jays picked him up at the right time. He’d prove to be worth every prospect they’d given up. And they gave up a lot. Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt was quite a bit for the rental of Price for two plus months. But, his season high K% and WHIP made us forget all about the package the club gave up.
Then, it all turned to disappointment as Price appeared to struggle in the playoffs. It seemed outing after outing, folks became increasingly frustrated with the 30 yr old from Tennessee. His terrible playoff record became the narrative. The guy who was once thought of as one of the saviors of baseball in Toronto was suddenly a disappointment.
Price started to turn his season around in June. He would put together a month that saw him go 3-0 in 5 starts with a 2.02 ERA and a 12.33 SO/W ratio! His K/9 shot up to 9.3, which is a trend he’d continue right through to the playoffs. June was also the time when he saw his groundball rate jump up to 40.2% and his flyball rate decrease to 30.4%. He’d started to peak at the right time for the Tigers; the time when other teams would come calling for their ace.
Once the Tigers relented on the 2015 season and made Price available, the Blue Jays pounced. They needed a game changer. Price was it. His July numbers were consistent with his June, if not as good. His grounball rate was up to 48%, but his HR/FB rate was an anomalous 16.1%. His K/BB rate had also come back down to Earth at 4.75. Despite not being able to replicate his June success to the percentage point, he was still the top prize at the Trade Deadline.
And, when he came to the Blue Jays, he took his game to another level. He’d go 9-1 with a total of just 19 runs allowed the rest of the season in 74 innings. The confidence he gave his ball club when he took the mound was palpable. It is no coincidence that the Blue Jays took over the AL East the way they did. Price was a huge factor in that. His combination of excellent pitches was exactly what the doctor ordered. He’d end the season with weighted values on his offerings like so: wFB: 19.7, wCH: 10.5, wCB: 1.7, wCT: -0.6.
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As good as he was throughout the season, David Price will carry a stigma for yet another 11 months. He has developed a reputation for a guy who “can’t win in the playoffs”. This narrative was in full effect as some would say he struggled in the postseason. Given that this was the first postseason for the Blue Jays in 22 years, a lot was riding on his left arm.
He’d end up with a record of 1-2 in the 2015 playoffs. His win coming when he was put in to relieve R.A. Dickey in Texas with a big lead. Because Dickey didn’t go long enough to get the win, Price was credited with the victory. But, desperate to force a narrative, folks then switched the story to “Price can’t win as a starter in the postseason”. Even though a lot of factors go into whether a pitcher gets the win or not, many felt that Price was a disappointment.
And, let’s be honest. He didn’t dominate like we’d hoped. In the ALDS, against the Rangers, his ERA was 7.20. In 2 games, he’d given up 11 hits and 8 earned runs (2 HR). Now, the general picture doesn’t look good. It certainly did not improve in the ALCS against the Royals. There, his ERA was 5.40. In 13.1 innings, he’d give up another 11 hits, 8 earned runs and 2 HR. This time, though, he struck out 16.
In both of these series’, you could make the argument that Price wasn’t as bad as the numbers would indicate. In the ALDS, he was put in mid game to protect a lead in a “win or go home” contest. Price strikes me as a “groove” kind of pitcher in that he has to get into one to be successful. If you want to look to his rough(er) start to the season, you can see a guy who became better as the season went along and he rounded into shape. Putting him into that situation against the Rangers doesn’t allow for a groove, especially when you think about how many times he’d been up and down.
In the ALCS, Price didn’t throw too poorly. But, he couldn’t get out of trouble when his team botched a pop up. Instead, the floodgates opened and the Royals won 6-3. But, you might say, an “ace” is supposed to be able to control damage and plays like that shouldn’t rattle him. You may be right. Regardless, David Price did not perform how many hoped, expected, dreamed he would. And, he’ll have to carry the narrative with him through his next contract.
David Price will likely not be a Blue Jay in 2016. He’s not hit the open market. He’ll likely be looking for (and getting) a hefty payday in the area of 7yrs/$210M. He’s 30 yrs old and has the reputation as one of the better pitchers in baseball. But, some might shy away from his price tag (sorry for the pun). Some might look at his delivery and the snapback motion of his arm and think about potential injury as he ages. Of course, some might look at him and see him as a guy who will push their status into that of a contender.
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It only takes one team to sign him. Someone will be willing to pay top dollar for what Price brings to the table. Not only can he be dominant on the mound, he is widely known as a wonderful clubhouse presence. After buying scooters and bathrobes for his teammates in Toronto and being one of the best cheerleaders in the dugout, Price has established himself as the guy you want. The Blue Jays may not pay for his services, but someone will.