Overall, David Price is having a good October. After having seemingly reinstated his reputation by pitching a six-inning gem in the clinching game of the ALCS, he came out this week against the Dodgers, and threw another solid performance in Game Two of the World Series. Price turned out another quality start (this one six innings of two-run ball), propelling Boston to a commanding 2-0 World Series lead.
Price served as a bit of the unsung hero in the second half of 2018. With Chris Sale nursing a shoulder injury that caused him to barely pitch at all from August 1st onward, Price took on the ‘ace’ role for a team that was thoroughly in command of the AL East. Without a real pennant race, Price kept doing what he is best at, and the Red Sox continued to distance themselves from the rest of the division. Through 68 second-half innings, Price held opposing hitters to a sub-.200 batting average and a measly .262 on-base percentage.
Price’s performance early in the playoffs was less-than-impressive, and the articles and commentary started up again about how he is ineffective in October. Price came out of the bullpen in Game Two of the LDS and gave up two home runs to the Yankees, in the only game New York salvaged in the series; an indication that against good offenses, in high-leverage situations, he was still homer-prone . He followed up that performance by giving up four runs in 4 ⅔ innings in Game Three of the ALCS against Houston, a game which the Red Sox ultimately won, no thanks to Price.
But this October baseball, the epitome of ‘what have you done for me lately’. And what Price has done lately, is position the Red Sox for their fourth World Series title in 14 years.
Before the World Series started, my esteemed colleague Dan Epstein (yes, the same Dan Epstein who won a trivia contest and is going to Game Four!) wrote an article previewing the Price matchup. Dan broke down pitch usage by handedness, and demonstrated that if any team would be successful against a lefty with Price’s repertoire, it would be the Dodgers.
With the Dodgers depth and roster flexibility, they unsurprisingly did not have a single left-handed plate appearance against Price. Even so, Los Angeles’ offense only got something going against Price in the two-run fourth inning. Despite not one extra base hit, LA put up two runs via three singles, a walk, and a sacrifice fly.
Interestingly, despite previously utilizing his cutter nearly one-third of the time against right-handed batters, Price basically shelved it in Game Two, instead choosing to rely on his fastballs (both a four-seamer and two-seamer/sink) and his changeup.
Overall, only six of his total 88 pitchers were classified as cutters per Brooks Baseball.
David Price’s WS Pitch Usage
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Price induced a swing-and-misses on over ¼ of each of these three pitch-types, which ultimately led to his five strikeouts. He danced around three walks, one of which was crucial to the Dodgers two-run, fourth-inning rally, but LA never really hit the ball hard against Price. With no extra-base hits, and only one sequence where LA strung together more than a single baserunner, the opportunities were limited.
The only baserunners in the first three innings were two-out walks in the first and third innings. Those runners were promptly erased when the following batter made the third out of the inning. Price sat LA hitters down 1-2-3 in the fifth and sixth innings, handed the ball to a bullpen that pitched perfectly through the next three innings, and so ended the Dodgers night — with zero runners on base past the fourth inning.
Although it seems that at this stage in baseball history, the role of the starting pitcher is diminishing, particularly in the playoffs, there will always be a necessity for innings eaters in order to cleanly win a short series. When ‘aces’ such as Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw get pulled in the fourth inning, performances like Price’s become increasingly more important to save bullets in the bullpen.
Price earned his stripes in Game Two of the World Series, providing little opportunity for the Dodgers to take the lead, and despite one rally in the fourth inning, never looking like he lost control of the game. Another World Series start or perhaps a relief appearance would really throw the monkey off Price’s back, although it’s possible the Red Sox don’t even need to call on him again. In any case, Price has done enormous work to restore his reputation as a go-to playoff a pitcher, and if Boston closes out the series against LA, he’ll be a major part of the story.
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano