The 2010 Postseason has seen an impressive resurgence in the art of pitching. So far six shutouts have been recorded. Only twice in major league history has there been more in a postseason, the latest being in 2001 when seven were tossed.
MLB has a cumulative ERA of 3.35, the only team that seems to have escaped this pitching swoon are the New York Yankees, who’s team ERA pushed 5.00. The same New York Yankees who spent what some have called an obscene amount of money, $234.5 million, signing the likes of C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to multi-year contracts in 2009.
What may seem obscene to some, one could argue it helped buy/earn the Yankees their 27th World Series title last season. However that was then and this is now.
If you survey the landscapes of the teams in this postseason, the evidence of pitching depth becomes more and more prevalent, as does the time tested argument that pitching and defense wins championships.
The Yankees may have had the deepest of all rotations having the likes of Sabathia, Pettite, Hughes and the beleaguered Burnett, however of all the teams this post season, none had higher expectations then the reigning champs.
Unfortunately for the Bronx Bombers, their pitching depth didn’t translate into a World Series berth this time around. How sad.
As Major League Baseball slowly recovers from the “Steroid era”, a pitching renaissance has occurred the likes of which hearkens back to the mid sixties to early seventies.
In 1965 the Minnesota Twins were offensively what the Yankees are today and were shutout a mere three times that year. That was until Sandy Koufax shut them out twice in October alone – blanking the Twins on just two days rest in game seven of the 1965 Series.
In 1968, Bob Gibson’s Cardinals took on Mickey Lolich’s Detroit Tigers and in the series opener, Gibson tossed a five-hit shutout striking out seventeen. Unfortunately for Gibson, it was Lolich and his Tigers who bested the Cardinals in ’68.
Flash forward to 2010 and the Phillies Roy Halladay joined baseball immortality when he pitched just the second perfect game in Postseason history when he beat Cincinnati this past October 6th.
Philadelphia has employed the three-headed monster approach, with a formidable rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. While the Phillies shared in the Yankees postseason misfortunes this year – again so sad – it’s an approach that historically has yielded results The 1970 World Champion Baltimore Orioles had three twenty game winners in Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, and Mike Cuellar. Take the 1995 World Champion Braves whose rotation included future Hall of Famers, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
According to Greek mythology, Cerberus is the three headed beast which guards the gates to Hades. As a Met fan is it really a mystery that the gates to hell lead to downtown Philly and Atlanta?
The San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers have featured their own pitching triple-punches and may very well ride them to the gates of postseason heaven. Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis have led the charge for the Rangers past the reigning champion Yankees while Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez are San Francisco’s treats. The Rangers have a postseason team ERA of 2.76 and the Giants have sported an even more minuscule 2.47. Is it any wonder why these two teams have earned the right to play in the Fall Classic?
All of this has led me to reflect on the Mets pitching staff. The general consensus is that the Mets never really needed another front line pitcher. Understandably the Mets were offensively woeful partially because it’s star center-fielder missed the majority of the season and it’s newly acquired power bat in left field was anything but powerful, not to mention the time it’s star lead-off hitter spent on the disabled list. All valid reasons for their anemic offense. Not necessarily excuses – just facts.
The 2010 Mets lost 26 games by one run this season. In those 26 losses the Mets gave up an average of 4.5 runs per game and scored 3.69 runs in that span. Of the 26 games, 18 were started by someone other than Santana or Pelfrey.
Now, would the Mets have had a better chance of winning any of those 18 games if they had a front line arm at their disposal, more so than another bat? If they won 12 of those 18 games, the Mets would have won 91 games – the same total as the National League Wild Card Braves
Of course this is all moot and pie in the sky speculation. The Mets arguably could have prospered just as much if not more than from a potent hitting outfielder. And yes we all know by now all the reasons nothing was done to bring anyone in. Like I said it’s just idle speculation and if anything, it shows you just how important a one run loss in May can effect what you’re doing come October.