Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Value of Dominance in the Playoffs

As I've been harping on and haranging, you cannot overestimate the value of having a dominating pitcher on your team when in the playoffs. As I showed with my "Hey Neukom" series and various other posts previously, having a dominating pitcher can greatly help your chances of success in the playoffs and if you have two, like we do with Lincecum and Cain (and Sanchez could make three if he could consistently pitch like he did in mid-season 2008), you can really make hay.

Fangraphs recently had a post by one of their writers about dominating performances, inspired by Cole Hamels's performance in this year's playoffs. He found that while Hamels has had a great string of starts in the playoffs, Cole's performance isn't even the best stretch of starts during the 2000's.
  • Cole Hamels: In 2008's playoffs, he had five starts, pitched 35 innings, gave up 23 hits, 2 HR, and 9 walks, and struck out 30, for a 1.80 ERA, 3.33 K/BB, 0.91 WHIP, and a 2.92 FIP.
  • Curt Schilling: In 2001's playoffs, he had six starts, pitched 48.1 IP, gave up 25 H, 3 HR, and 6 BB, and struck out 56, for a 1.12 ERA, a 0.64 WHIP, a 9.33 K/BB, and a 1.98 FIP.
  • Randy Johnson: In 2001's playoffs, he had six appearances (5 starts), pitched 41.1 IP, gave up 25 H, 2 HR, and 8 BB, and struck out 47, for a 1.52 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 5.88 K/BB, and a 2.06 FIP.
  • Andy Pettitte: In 2003's playoffs, he had five starts for a 2.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3.09 K/BB, and 3.24 FIP. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Josh Beckett, as we see next, was even better and more dominating.
  • Josh Beckett: In 2003's playoffs, then a member of the series winning Marlins, he had five starts for a 2.11 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 3.92 K/BB, and 2.67 FIP in 42.2 innings.
  • Josh Beckett: In 2007's playoffs, he had 4 starts, pitched 30 IP, giving up 19 H, 1 HR, and 2 BB, and struck out 35 for a 1.20 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 17.50 K/BB, and 1.42 FIP.
As one can see, teams that had a pitcher who pitched outstandingly for them not only got to the World Series, but they usually won the World Series, with only Pettitte not winning, but he had the misfortune of meeting an even more dominating pitcher in Beckett that year.
That is six playoffs dominated in nine seasons during the 2000-2008 period.
Two Aces for Increased Playoff Success
As I have been advocating in previous posts and in my "Hey Neukom" series, having two aces are a key ingredient for maximizing our chances in the playoffs. As one can see above, just having one ace who can dominate throughout the playoffs just about guarantees a World Series championship. By having two aces, should one ace have an off playoff, you still have the other to try to drive the nails into the coffin for the other teams. And if both are dealing smoke, your team will be that much more likely to win the World Series Championship, like the D-backs did with Schilling and Johnson in 2001.
The Giants currently have two pitchers who can be those aces in Lincecum and Cain. Sanchez was also of their caliber for a long stretch of the season before it appears that his arm worn out from fatigue. That is why I have been saying that the Giants need to hold onto Lincecum and Cain, as teams are lucky to have one pitcher like either, let alone two, so we need to hold onto them and build from there because they are differentiators.
Trading one of the them to fill another need, particularly offensive need, just creates a bigger hole in the foundation of a successful playoff team. A trade would only help in getting to the playoffs, it won't necessarily help with winning it all. And I want to win it all or not at all, the playoffs is not enough anymore, though I won't ever get as bitter as the fans who were on usenet many years back.
I understand their humor, as I love black, gallows type of humor, but I soon learned that these people were seriously down on the team even though it was doing well. They couldn't appreciate the good times with the bad, they were still living in the 70's and 80's when the Giants were constantly mediocre. I would rather enjoy the good, even among the bad, as I did all those years.
Thus, enjoy Lincecum and Cain and hopefully the Giants will be able to construct a winning team around the two of them. Trading either of them is too large a compromise, as both can be dominating pitchers in short stretches, such as the playoffs. And pitchers, when they are dominating, can control games whereas even the best hitter ever, Bonds, could only do so much for his team even when he is absolutely zoned in on the pitches and hitting great in the playoffs. Pitchers, like they are, are rarer than any other players and just as coveted as Bonds, and more crucial to playoff success than most realize.

2 comments:

  1. I agree. But I would go a step futher and add a 3rd dominate starter to the mix. To me CC is the best use of our free agent dollars.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would rather not commit big money to another player, even one as good as CC Sabathia.

    At some point, you want to be able to afford to sign Lincecum and Cain to long term contracts. Zito's contract puts a bit of a strangle hold on future dollars, and with the economy going down as well as attendance, the payroll is probably not going up in the short term and perhaps longer. Adding CC would mean we have to trade one of them and hope to keep the other.

    I would rather risk trying to keep both of them long-term.

    I would be just happy to go with what the Giants got today and not add any high priced free agents or make any trade. I think we can be competitive without making any moves. We were competitive August and September with our current players, while Aurilia and Vizquel will be gone, Burriss should be able to duplicate Vizquel's production and Velez/Frandsen could fill an infield role and hit about as good as Aurilia for much less.

    The most pressing and realistic need, I think, is getting a better set-up reliever. A hitter is more pressing but not realistic that we can just pick one up easily. Teixiera wants a lot of money and I don't want to give it to him, plus the Orioles will probably make a big move to get him, he's a local boy too.

    Plus, again, signing him means Lincecum and Cain are not getting big contracts. That is the prime directive, in my mind.

    ReplyDelete

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