Trying to find reason in the David Price decision

In the fifth inning of a 7-1 game, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons went to the mound to retrieve starting pitcher R.A. Dickey with two outs and one baserunner aboard. After being staked to a big lead by his offensive mates, Dickey had set to shutting down the Texas Rangers, and had allowed only five hits, while walking none. Dickey had thrown only 78 pitches, and by virtue of the fact that his primary pitch is a 78 mile per hour flutterball, he probably could have thrown 40 more.

But alas, here came Gibbons. The Blue Jays, down two games to one in the series could ill afford to allow a big inning. The Houston Astros had just blown a 6-2 lead after having the governor of Texas celebrating prematurely. So, Gibbons came to take the ball from Dickey.

Who was coming in? None other than American League Cy Young candidate David Price.

Price got Shin-Soo Choo on one pitch, and the minor threat was neutralized. Instead of taking Price out after only one pitch, in order to preserve him for a potential Game 5, Gibbons ran Price back out for three more innings despite the fact that the Blue Jays lead would swell to 8-1 at one point. Price eventually gave up three runs, allowing the Rangers to make things interesting before leaving with two outs in the eighth.

That Price would eventually give up three runs should not cloud the analysis of the decision. The Blue Jays wasted the ace they mortgaged their future on in the fifth inning of a 7-1 game. Marcus Stroman will be starting Game 5, and Price will be unavailable after throwing 50 pitches.

I’m still left scratching my head as to why Price was the choice for Gibbons in the middle innings of a blowout game. With a big lead, Dickey should have been given the chance to work through at least the sixth inning. After a 14-inning game earlier in the series, using Price could have been seen as a way to save the bullpen while aligning the rotation for a potential ALCS appearance. If Stroman was the choice for Game 5 all along, then there can be some reason seen in the decision to use Price in Game 4, but not much.

This game is a perfect example of why the Blue Jays needed Mark Buehrle on their postseason roster. Instead of having a good, competent long reliever to clean up small messes in a blowout, Toronto had no better option than to burn Price a day early. Even though Price has had his share of postseason struggles, it’s hard to imagine not wanting him available for an all-hands-on-deck Game 5.

If the Blue Jays lose Game 5, and LaTroy Hawkins or Aaron Sanchez blows the game, this decision could go down as one of the worst in recent history. Gibbons should have done everything in his power to keep Price available for a pivotal Game 5. If he was managing Price to set him up for the ALCS, his decision-making process is even worse. You cannot be managing for a round you may not reach. If both Price and Stroman were forced to pitch long innings in Game 5, then neither would be available until the middle of the ALCS. It’s understandable, but not the correct decision. The Blue Jays must get through the Texas Rangers first and then begin worrying about the next round.

2 Responses

  1. Oliver

    Stop second guessing Gibbons! There is method to his madness! Genius is rarely understood! I believe in him and that we will win the World Series! Nuff Said!!

  2. lugger11

    These types of analyses make me think you haven’t been following the Jays closely. First off, Price’s last 3 appearances have not been good. His 2 starts were bad, and the 50 pitches out of the bullpen were mediocre. The fact of the matter is that right this moment, Stroman is their best starter.
    Next is that the Jays’ middle relief has either been awful or lucky all year. Lowe and Hawkins were only marginal upgrades. There was no one else reliable in the pen for a must-win game, and no lefties.
    Buehrle was a huge part of this team getting where they are, but he really is done. He gave the last of what he had left in September, and even then only barely made it through the season. As a fan, I offer him my deepest gratitude for the great play he’s given the Jays, and my warmest wishes for a long and healthy retirement. But he’s done. And that’s ok.
    While you may have a point that Dickey could have pitched out of it, we’ll never know. He was in a bit of trouble with the heart of the line-up coming up. That knucklball is all-or nothing, and it was starting to look like nothing. What they needed was a shut-em-down lefty to give them some innings and that’s what they got, albeit not really the ace-caliber we were looking for.
    Stroman is the man you want for today’s game, and taking Price out of the equation makes the choice easier.
    So what if you need middle relief in game 5? How about Estrada? Remember him? The only starter to post a win in post-season so far? Sure, it’d be nice to have a lefty, but you don’t. It’ll be ok.


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