In two starts, he struck out 14 batters without allowing a single walk against one of the most talented lineups in the Major Leagues. In fact, 25% of the at-bats against him ended up as a strikeout. Of all 156 fastballs he threw in the American League Divisional Series, 11% of them induced a swing and a miss. This comes after a regular season in which he went 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA and racked up 188 punchouts in 208.2 innings.
No, this is not Cliff Lee we are talking about. This is David Price.
Lost in Lee-Mania and tucked behind the Joe Maddon bashing is the performance of the Rays’ own left-handed ace David Price. On the surface his 0-2 record and 4.97 ERA in the ALDS doesn’t look like much; however, we know that Price did not get much help from his defense or offense – things out of the control of his left hand. In terms of things he could control, Price did pretty well for himself and the team.
Going back to 1903, there have been 69 postseason games in which a starting pitcher went at least six innings while striking out at least six batters and walking none. Those pitchers went a combined 51-18. Both David Price and Cliff Lee hit those marks twice in this series.
As mentioned above, Price “owns” two of these 18 losses in postseason history. This makes him the only repeat “loser” amongst the group. At the same time, he has the honor of being the third youngest member of the club – bumping Schoolboy Rowe of the 1935 Detroit Tigers into fourth place.
Since the divisional series was introduced, only four pitchers have had back-to-back games with at least six strikeouts without walking a batter in baseball’s first round. Again, we saw Lee and Price do it in this series. Greg Maddux did it back in the mid-nineties (although he did so over two postseasons). The other was Kevin Millwood for the Braves in 2003.
The non-Price starters went a combined 5-1 with a 2.19 ERA. Price, again, went 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA. That said, he is the only member of the group to pull off the feat in his first two postseason starts.
Those impressive numbers withstanding, Price was not Cliff Lee in this series. He allowed at least eight hits in each of the two starts and was popped for two home runs in game one – something that can’t be blamed on Carlos Pena’s flip or Kelly Shoppach’s arm. At times, he was a bit too predictable with his pitches against an aggressive swinging offense.
On the other hand, if the Rays’ defense been a little tighter and the offense a little looser, maybe we would be talking about Price as the toast of the baseball world. Of course, that didn’t happen and we respectfully tip our cap to Lee’s truly masterful performance.
There is no doubt that Cliff Lee was the star in the series; the lead singer. Nevertheless, as we we close the door on the 2010 ALDS, remember to give the drummer some love as well.