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October 23, 2015

Playoff Prospectus

PECOTA Odds and ALCS Game 6 Preview

by Chris Mosch

Marco Estrada tossed a gem and the Blue Jays blew Game Five open with a four-run sixth inning to move the ALCS back to Kansas City. Perhaps the most important implication of the margin by which the Blue Jays won was that manager John Gibbons didn’t feel obligated to use David Price in relief. Tonight, the left-hander will do his best to keep Toronto’s season alive.

Toronto Blue Jays (David Price) vs. Kansas City Royals (Yordano Ventura), 8:07 p.m. Eastern

PECOTA odds of winning: 58% Blue Jays, 42% Royals

Projected Starting Lineups

Royals vs. Price (L)

Blue Jays vs. Ventura (R)

Alcides Escobar (R) SS

Ben Revere (L) LF

Ben Zobrist (S) 2B

Josh Donaldson (R) 3B

Lorenzo Cain (R) CF

Jose Bautista (R) RF

Eric Hosmer (L) 1B

Edwin Encarnacion (R) DH

Kendrys Morales (S) DH

Chris Colabello (R) 1B

Mike Moustakas (L) 3B

Troy Tulowitzki (R) SS

Salvador Perez (R) C

Russell Martin (R) C

Alex Gordon (L) LF

Kevin Pillar (R) CF

Alex Rios (R) RF

Ryan Goins (L) 2B

Injuries/Availability: After missing Games Four and Five due to a personal matter, Aaron Loup is expected to be available out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays in Game Six. Brett Cecil’s calf injury during the ALDS knocked him out of the postseason, so Loup’s return to the team now gives John Gibbons a lefty option out of his bullpen to face the likes of Hosmer and Moustakas in a potential high-leverage situation.

With the exception of Dioner Navarro getting the start behind the plate during Marco Estrada’s starts, both lineups have remained fixted throughout the ALCS. We’ve reached the time of the year where nearly every player is banged up or playing though some pain. That being said, it would be refreshing to watch Salvador Perez go through a full game without having to be on the receiving end of a backswing or a foul tip to the mask. Man, that guy is tough.

Outlook: In his recap of Game Five, Sam Miller touched upon Gibbons’ curious use of Price this postseason and what it might imply about his preferences:

"We can mostly only say with certainty that he thinks Price is worse than Stroman, with some hesitation that he thinks Price is worse than Estrada, and with a bit of confidence that he sees extra value in having Price (as his Last Remaining Lefty Guy) pitching in relief, even for long periods of time, even in non-close games, even at the expense of his availability in close games to follow."

It’s a perplexing situation, one that is only exacerbated by Stroman not quite pitching up to the ridiculously high bar he set for himself in 2014. He hasn’t been bad by any means, and his stuff still looks sharp, but he’s also struck out just 28 batters in 46 1/3 innings since returning. He’s still very good and getting grounders by the boatload; he’s just not exactly lighting the world on fire.

Clearly, we’re not privy to all the information the Blue Jays have but it’s difficult to imagine the front office is onboard with how Price has been used this postseason. Certainly not after mortgaging the farm system to acquire him at the trade deadline.

It’s not a matter of a hidden injury; he wouldn’t be pitching in blowouts if that were the case. Against the Rangers, you could make the argument that Stroman matched up better. Electing to go with Estrada in Game One and then almost wasting Price in relief in Game Five is tougher to defend.

If there is a logical scenario where the front office approves of Price’s usage, it would be if there was evidence that his stuff had significantly diminished. If it is, it’s not clear from the velocity and movement on his pitches, and it certainly didn’t appear to be the case through the first six innings of Game Two. Price was absolutely dominating the Royals and appeared to be on his way to burying the “Can’t win in the postseason” narrative before it had a chance to get off the ground. Then the seventh inning happened, with the Royals singling him to death as part of a five-run rally and devastating comeback.

Just how much Gibbons trusts Price might not be clear, but PECOTA still thinks highly enough of the left-hander to give the Blue Jays nearly 3-to-2 odds—on the road, no less—to force a Game Seven.

Chris Mosch is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Chris's other articles. You can contact Chris by clicking here

Related Content:  ALCS,  Royals,  David Price,  Blue Jays

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Pitching Backward: How... (10/23)
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Playoff Prospectus: Th... (10/22)
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Playoff Prospectus: Ru... (10/24)
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Playoff Prospectus: Ru... (10/24)

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