David Price is as good as they come as far as top flight pitchers are concerned.
Since 2009, Price has shown to be durable — throwing 1,472.2 innings, the ninth most in that span — and valuable, posting a 31.8 fWAR which ranks sixth in baseball during that stretch.
He has also been prone to perceived postseason struggles (5.12 ERA (though he was solid last night in what was likely his final start with the Blue Jays)), which makes following how his resume is perceived in the free agent market interesting to follow. That’s especially true when considering the Cubs’ admitted need to bolster the team’s starting rotation.
So, what — if anything — is different when Price steps to the mound in the postseason?
For starters, some of the more valuable peripherals aren’t too far off from his regular season numbers. There isn’t much difference in Price’s strikeout rate (23.4% regular season, 22.4% postseason), walk rate (6.3% regular, 4.6% postseason), K/9 (8.57 regular, 8.38 postseason) or BB/9 (2.32 regular, 1.71 postseason).
And it’s not as if Price has allowed a significant amount of baserunners in the postseason as his 1.17 WHIP isn’t a major increase from his career number of 1.13.
After watching the Mets pitch their way into the World Series, there should be a newfound appreciation for the ability to miss bats and to keep from allowing free baserunners via walks.
The most visible variance in Price’s postseason and regular season numbers are in several categories, some of which might be outside his control.
Price has seen his home run rates jump significantly. His HR/9 in the postseason is 1.56, which is nearly double his regular season rate (0.81). His HR/FB% also takes a notable increase to 15.5 percent in the postseason, compared to a 9.0% mark in the regular season.
While the home run rates climb, Price’s strand rate has plummeted in the postseason. Price’s LOB% in the regular season is 75.1 percent. That’s pretty good, considering that 72.3% was league average in 2015 and hasn’t really varied from that over the last seven years. However, when Price gets into the postseason, his LOB% dips to 63.3.
Not only is that a significant hit, it also looks really flukey. And if Price’s history over a larger sample size of any indication, a progression to the mean is in order for his future postseason performance. In other words: there’s probably not really much of an issue here.
FanGraphs’ Eno Sarris also dove into some of the numbers in Friday’s piece highlighting some things that stand out with regard to Price’s postseason struggles. You should give it a read, as it allows for some insight beyond a bloated ERA and an ugly postseason record as a starter.