There are only a select few people who know why David Price came into pitch in Game 4 of the ALDS for the Toronto Blue Jays against the Texas Rangers. Everyone has their own theory on why it happened, although most likely no one outside of that select circle will ever know for sure.
Now, it all worked out for the Blue Jays. They won Game 4. Then they won Game 5 in an epic battle. But the Game 4 moves remain an interesting debate and story that has kept me thinking. After trying to figure out all the different scenarios that made that decision make sense, I've come to the conclusion that John Gibbons didn't want to publicly choose Marcus Stroman over Price without having an acceptable reason to.
Before Game 4, Gibbons had to make a decision whether to pitch R.A Dickey or Price on three days rest. He chose Dickey. You can argue that decision, but only having 3 days rest is acceptable. Where this decision gets complicated is having Price available in the 2nd inning of a game and then bringing him on in the 5th inning up 6 runs. This takes the 3 days rest excuse off the table. Price's first start this post-season may have simply scared Gibbons. After that start it seems he would rather take the chance with Dickey and Stroman in Games 4 and 5. It's likely that Gibbons made this decision right after Stroman pitched Game 2.
Price came on in relief in Game 4 because it took the pressure off Gibbons and the Game 5 decision. If Gibbons truly felt more comfortable with Stroman, it would be very difficult to explain himself to the media as well as Price. What Gibbons did was protect Price from people who would start doubting him after this decision. It's not good for anyone to start saying that the organization believes that Price is not their best pitcher. One reason it's not good is because they are still trying to sign him for next year. Showing him that you don't believe he's your best pitcher is not a good start.
This has nothing to do with Gibbons thinking that Price isn't a reliable pitcher. He just may believe that Stroman is their best chance to win a deciding game. Whether that means he thinks Stroman is better, or he trusts him in the situation more, the point is Stroman was chosen as their guy over Price. It's hard to imagine that if the Chicago Cubs were in the same situation they would pitch Jake Arrieta in relief, up 6 runs, and burn him for Game 5. It wouldn't happen because he is unquestionably their best pitcher. Toronto doesn't have an unquestionably best pitcher; they have two very good starters, but one guy they trust more in a Game 5 situation.
I don't disagree with anything Gibbons did. He protected his star pitcher from getting negative attention from fans and media. What he also did was protect Price from losing confidence. If Gibbons had directly passed up on Price for Stroman, nothing good would have come from that. He protected his team, his star pitcher and himself, all things a good coach would do.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject as well, so please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Enjoy the next round!
Kevin Hussey - The Baseball Zone
Image courtesy of sportsnet.ca