There are, of course, the physical similarities: Tall left-hander, throws hard, durable. Plus there's the fact that Price, like Bumgarner a season ago, will enter the playoffs pitching the best baseball of his life. In his final 10 regular-season starts in 2014, Bumgarner posted a 2.12 ERA with 76 strikeouts and seven walks in 72 1/3 innings. Price, after throwing seven scoreless innings in the Toronto Blue Jays' 4-2 win over the New York Yankees, is now 8-1 in 10 starts with the Jays with a 1.95 ERA and 81 strikeouts and 17 walks in 69 1/3 innings.
Like Bumgarner, he looks locked in, a man on a mission.
That mission nearly came to a catastrophic end with the first batter of the game when Jacoby Ellsbury drilled a ball right back at Price's head. Luckily, Price got his glove up and snared the liner, saving himself some expensive dental work.
The Yankees had one good scoring opportunity against Price. In the third inning, an error, base hit and walk loaded the bases with one out for Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod blooped a 3-2 fastball down the right-field line in no-man's land, but it landed just foul. Price then got Rodriguez swinging on a 93-mph cutter and got Brian McCann to fly out on a 96-mph fastball. Price retired the final 14 batters he faced, throwing 114 pitches, including a season-high 76.3 percent for strikes.
Another similarity that Price has with Bumgarner is that he likes to throw his fastball up in the zone. Bumgarner gets away throwing up there with deception more so than raw velocity; while Bumgarner's fastball averages around 92, Price has averaged 94.1 mph this year, so he's more of your traditional high-fastball pitcher who can crank it up to 95 and 96 when he needs to. You can see where he located his fastball against the Yankees on Monday:
It's interesting to note that in his 10 starts with the Blue Jays, Price has altered his approach a bit from how he worked with the Tigers.
With Blue Jays
He's cut his ERA from 2.53 with Detroit to that 1.95 mark with Toronto. His batting average allowed his dropped from .241 to .200, his strikeout rate has increased from 23.3 percent to 29.6 percent, while his home run rate has also dropped, with just three in his 69 1/3 innings with the Jays. That's what I mean when saying he's throwing the best baseball of his life.
This is just speculation, but I wonder if the increased use of the cutter is a result of working with Russell Martin. In Detroit, Price threw primarily to James McCann, a young catcher whose framing ability rates third worst in the majors this season by StatCorner.com. Martin has historically rated well as a pitch-framer (although just 3.2 runs above average this year). It makes sense perhaps that the veteran Martin would be willing to call more cutters and fewer fastballs. In fact, Price's walk rate has actually increased slightly with Toronto, perhaps a result of throwing more cutters. But the trade-off has been fewer hits and fewer home runs.
Of course, predicting the pitcher of the postseason isn't quite so easy. Last year, we all would have pointed to Clayton Kershaw after his dominant campaign, not Bumgarner. In 2013, Jon Lester had a monster postseason after posting a so-so 3.75 ERA in the regular season. But he had pitched his best baseball of the season in September. An unsung hero of the 2012 playoffs for the Giants was Ryan Vogelsong, who went 3-0 in four starts with a 1.09 ERA. He, however, had a 5.34 ERA in September (although he had allowed just one earned run over his final three starts). In 2011, Chris Carpenter carried the Cardinals with four wins in the postseason; he had posted a 1.13 ERA over his final five outings of the regular season. So maybe there is something to finishing strong and carrying that into October.
Anyway, maybe this is the year Kershaw goes all Kershaw on us. Maybe Zack Greinke continues his masterful season for five or six more postseason starts. Maybe Jake Arrieta matches Bumgarner by winning the NL wild card for the Cubs and then carrying them on his back all the way to a championship.
But I'm going with Price. No, he's never had that signature postseason game. In fact, he's 1-5 with a 4.50 ERA in the postseason, the one victory coming in relief back in 2008 as a rookie with the Rays. He's actually lost all five of his career playoff starts. That resume reminds me of another big left-hander: Randy Johnson. When he reached the playoffs with the Diamondbacks in 2001, he had gone winless in his previous seven postseason starts. He lost his first one that year but then won two games in the NLCS and three more in the World Series.
Like Johnson, I expect Price to toss aside that postseason history and have a big run. Maybe he ends up pitching in relief in Game 7 of the World Series -- like Bumgarner and like Johnson. Maybe he lifts that World Series trophy for the Blue Jays.
Then the Year of David Price will culminate with him signing as a free agent, for a whole bunch of money, with the ...