Does Good Pitching Win Championships? Part 2

Do good teams win championships? Part 2

The following charts show how the type of teams making the playoffs have not changed drastically when increasing the playoff allotment:

1969-1993 100 teams

Type Good P Avg P Bad P Good H Avg H Bad H
No 73 24 3 65 29 6

The following chart lays out the team type for the 96 teams that have made the playoffs since 1995.

Type Good P Avg P Bad P Good H Avg H Bad H
No 73 27 5 61 37 3

Since 1969 51 teams with so-called average pitching have made it to the playoffs. In the division series since 1995 teams with average pitching have gone 17-17 in total series. Of the 64 teams to make the World Series since 1969 15 are teams with so-called average pitching. Average pitching teams in their World Series/pennant winning years went 19-4 in series when matched up against good pitching teams. All but two of these 15 average pitching teams were great hitting teams, the exception is the ’87 Twins and ’06 Cards.

When a team gets into the playoffs they can cast aside the need to play bad teams. The 1993 Braves beat the Rockies in 13 of 13 chances unfortunately they didn’t get to play them in the playoffs. They had to play the Phillies, the Braves pitching was on par with that of the regular season, a team that won 103 games. In the 6 game playoff with the Phillies the Braves went 2-4. As we see, good pitching carries over into the playoffs in the Dodgers late 70s early 80s run and the recent Atlanta Braves run we see that their pitching very rarely let them down. In fact the pitching often outperformed the regular season stats. So, if pitching and fielding win Championships how does a 100 game winner give up less R/G and not win Championships.

The Lasorda led Dodgers were able to win 6 NL West titles in the years between 1974-1985. They were only able to win one World Series in that time. What happened to their great pitching? When they get to the big show they don’t get to play last place teams anymore. The 1974 Dodgers went 43-13 against the worst hitting teams in the NL and only 27-21 against the best pitching teams. This is a trend that continues to this day. If you look at playoff teams every year, they almost always play .500 ball against each other. When a good pitching playoff team plays bad teams they have astronomical W-L records. When an average team, like the 2006 Cards (even though they made the playoffs) they play .500 against the Mets and Padres but they also lose more games to the Pirates and Cubs. Having average pitching in the regular season turns a 95 or 100 win season into an 80 or 85 win season.
With perpetual All-Stars in Al Downing, Andy Messersmith, Don Sutton and Mike Marshall the Dodgers shut down the Pirates 3-1 in the 1974 NLCS holding the Pirates to a .194 batting average and allowing 10 R in 4 games. Going into the World Series vs the A’s the Dodger Staff kept the A’s to a .211 team average and allowed only 16 R in 5 games. Great eh? But wait the SoCalers lost in 5 games. Pitching set them up to win the series, how could a team with great pitching lose when the pitching steps up in playoffs. Easy, in the playoffs, there are no bad teams to beat up on, the 1974 Dodgers could not beat the A’s like they could beat the Padres and Giants in the Regular season. In every year that the Dodger made the playoffs they had a lead leading R/G and ERA.

Dodgers playoff pitching stats 1974-1985

x Reg season ERA NLCS ERA/oppOPS WS ERA/oppOPS
1974 2.97 2.00/.523 2.79/.622
1977 3.22 2.25/.586 4.09/.698
1978 3.12 3.41/.700 5.47/.734
1981 3.01 1.84/.479 3.29/.735
1983 3.10 3.79/.744 x
1985 2.96 3.86/.754 x

They went a reasonable 5-5 in playoff series in this time. Four of the five teams they beat had an average pitching staff but the Dodgers were also the best hitting team in 5 of those 6 years. Also, every team they lost to had a good pitching staff as well, could be second or third in the NL or a great team in the AL. Still, makes the best pitching team only .500 in the playoffs.

In the Part 3, we’ll take a look at the Atlanta Braves playoff pitching stats. After this we’ll tie a few more things together and give you the final word on playoff pitching success, or failure.

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