Playoff Baseball is Not All About the Pitching

One of the reasons I really like having InstaGraphs is that it gives us a more natural place to link out to other good stuff around the web. It’s more natural to have a link in a blog designed for several hundred word posts than it is to have one where we’ve trained you to expect 1,000 words. And often times, the article I’m linking to doesn’t really need supporting commentary.

Like this one, for instance. Ben Lindbergh tackles the question of the advantage of having elite starting pitching in the postseason. These kinds of studies have been done before, and the conclusion isn’t revolutionary, but there are still a lot of people who think that you can dramatically skew the odds in October by loading up on high quality pitching, but the data keeps pushing back against that idea.

The home run paragraph of Ben’s piece:

So why doesn’t the quality of a team’s top three starters or its ace register as significant? For one thing, the differences between teams are compressed in the playoffs, relative to the regular season: Teams with terrible staffs don’t make it to October, so the gulf between the best- and worst-pitching playoff teams isn’t as stark as we’re used to seeing during the season’s first six months. Perhaps more importantly, there’s more than one way to win baseball games, and even under an expanded playoff format, teams don’t get to October without doing something well. A team with an inferior pitching staff often makes up for its weakness on the mound by being better on offense.

Read the whole thing, and keep the takeaway in mind, because you’re going to be inundated with “pitching wins championships” cliches for the next few months, even though the reality is that good baseball teams win championships.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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