Does Good Pitching Win Championships? Part 1
Do teams with good pitching win Championships? The answer is yes. Does the team with the best pitching win Championships; the answer is yes, but not as often as believed. Since 1969 when the playoff format was expanded to 4 teams and even more so since 1996 when it was expanded to 8 teams hitting has been more important a factor in determining a World Series Champion.
Many times a teams pitching staff will improve while in the playoffs, sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose. However, there is no example I can find of a team where the pitching staff met the expectation set from the regular season and the offense outperformed itself lost a series. If a team wins 100 games in the regular season with a 3.25 ERA should they not expect to win 60% of their games in the playoffs if they maintain that pace? If a team shrinks that average to 2.25 should they not expect to win 80% of the games.
The answer is they can expect to win but the batters still have to score runs. The only way to win a game is score more runs, the pitcher and defense have never scored a run in the history of baseball so how can pitching win you championships?
Before 1969, the team with the best pitching usually won the pennant. This was the case throughout most of the 1960s; the best pitching team was winning. Then in October the best pitching team in the AL would meet the best pitching team in the NL. To win a pennant there was usually a need to have good hitting. So pre-1969 pennant winners were almost always in the top 2 or 3 in batting and pitching. Between 1969-1993 the best pitching team usually made the playoffs but was hung up now and again in the LCS. Since 1995 we have seen more average teams seeking into the playoffs and even into the final and winning the World Series. This trumps the typical assumption that â€œgreat pitching and fielding wins Championshipsâ€.
Upper echelon teams usually play .500 ball against other top teams regardless of their team type. When good pitching teams collapse in the playoffs it is not so much that they collapse as it is a result of the pitching or batting failing them it is having to win 11 games against 3 teams that they roughly had a .500 record against.
The strength of a teams pitching is graded on the regular season. Good pitching keeps a team competitive in the regular season pre-division format as well as now. This is for the reason that the best pitching team will rarely lose to bad hitting teams. In each league there are 3-5 bad hitting teams. This means that a good pitching team should be able to beat the bad hitting teams almost every night.
In part two weâ€™ll look at specific numerical data showing the surprising frequency of teams losing in the playoffs, even though they give up few R/G in the regular season.