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Pitchless Playoffs

Monday, October 11, 2004

Following the final day of the regular season, when all 8 playoff spots had been settled, I evaluated the teams that made it to the post-season and I thought to myself... where is the pitching?

Due to Oakland, and Chicago missing the playoffs, it seemed like baseball was missing some of its premier pitchers in October. No Hudson, no Zito, no Mulder. No Maddux for the first time in 12 years. No Wood, Prior, or Zambrano. No Johnson, and no Schmidt.

But, despite the absence of some big names on the mound, I wondered if this year's playoff pitching staffs were truly weaker than in years past.

I began by compiling data for the past ten years of playoffs. Not only is the 10 year mark a nice even number, it also includes all playoffs since the introduction of the wild-card and central divisions.

In those 10 years, eighty teams have made the playoffs, and only 12 (15%) of those teams have had an ERA above their league average.

  • 2004 New York Yankees 4.69 ERA (4.63 AL Avg.)
  • 2001 Cleveland Indians 4.64 ERA (4.47 AL Avg.)
  • 2001 Houston Astros 4.37 ERA (4.35 NL Avg.)
  • 1999 Texas Rangers 5.07 ERA (4.86 AL Avg.)
  • 1999 Indians 4.90 ERA (4.86 AL Avg.)
  • 1998 Rangers 5.00 ERA (AL Avg. was 4.65)
  • 1998 Chicago Cubs 4.50 ERA (4.24 NL Avg.)
  • 1997 Seattle Mariners 4.79 ERA (4.57 AL Avg.)
  • 1997 Indians 4.73 ERA (4.57 AL Avg.)
  • 1997 San Fransisco Giants 4.41 ERA (4.21 NL Avg.)
  • 1996 Baltimore Orioles 5.15 ERA (5.00 AL Avg.)
  • 1995 Colorado Rockies 4.97 ERA (4.18 NL Avg.)

Of these 12 teams, none of them won the World Series (during that year... although the Yanks might change that), and 3 of them were Wild Card entrants.

The best team ERA in comparison to its league's average was the 1997 Braves who finished with a 3.18 ERA, compared to a 4.21 league ERA. (A 1.03 difference. The lowest team ERA belongs to the 2002 Braves with a 3.13 ERA)

The worst team ERA in comparison to its league's average was, not suprisingly, the 1995 Colorado Rockies. They finished .79 ER per 9 greater than the league average of 4.18.

OK, back to the original point of this post. How do this year's postseason pitching rotations stack up? To determine this, I calculated the cumulative difference between each staff's ERA and the league avg ERA for all 8 teams in the postseason, and then divided by 8. This gave me the average ERA below the League Average for each set of 8 playoff teams.

Example:Teams A, B, C, and D are AL teams with ERA's of 1.5, 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5. The AL Average was 3.5. Teams E, F, G, and H are NL teams with ERA's of 1, 2, 3, and 4. The NL average was 3.

AL: (1.5 + 2.5 + 3.5 + 4.5) = 12 - (3.5 x 4) = 12 - 14 = -2.
NL: (1 + 2 + 3 + 4) = 10 - (3 x 4) = 10 - 12 = -2.
-2 from AL + -2 From NL = -4 / 8 teams = -.5 ERA from League Average.

The Results are listed in two tables below. The first table is ordered chronologically, and the second table is ordered by rank.

2004 -0.335 -0.413 -0.374 7
2003 -0.395 -0.355 -0.375 6
2002 -0.620 -0.528 -0.574 1
2001 -0.523 -0.410 -0.466 3
2000 -0.285 -0.430 -0.358 8
1999 -0.335 -0.683 -0.509 2
1998 -0.285 -0.520 -0.403 5
1997 -0.253 -0.438 -0.345 9
1996 -0.297 -0.538 -0.418 4
1995 -0.390 -0.155 -0.273 10


2002 -0.620 -0.528 -0.574 1
1999 -0.335 -0.683 -0.509 2
2001 -0.523 -0.410 -0.466 3
1996 -0.297 -0.538 -0.418 4
1998 -0.285 -0.520 -0.403 5
2003 -0.395 -0.355 -0.375 6
2004 -0.335 -0.413 -0.374 7
2000 -0.285 -0.430 -0.358 8
1997 -0.253 -0.438 -0.345 9
1995 -0.390 -0.155 -0.273 10

So, as you can see. I wasn't entirely wrong to say that the pitching is weak this year (7th out of the 10 year sample). However, the impression that last year's playoffs (6th out of 10) featured significantly better pitching is bunk.

Playoff Update:

The Red Sox and Yankees exposed the fact that I don't know anything about the AL... (I got the team names right.) The Red Sox swept the Angels in 3, and the Yanks polished off the Twinkies in 4. With the two set to square off for the second straight year in the ALCS, get ready for the national media to forget about the NL... especially if the Astros win tonight.

The NL results might indicate a little bit more knowledge on my behalf. I correctly predicted the Cardinals in 4 over the Dodgers, and if the Astros win tonight against the Braves, I'll have been correct on my NL predictions.

Posted by Byron at October 11, 2004 2:50 PM | Bookmark and Share | BallHype: hype it up!
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