Friday, October 14, 2011

Top Starters Falter During MLB Playoffs

The Major League Baseball playoffs began with an opportunity for 9 of the top 14 starting pitchers during the regular season (using pitcher's WAR from Baseball-Reference as the basis) to lead their teams to the World Series. How have they fared as of yesterday's games? See the table below:

Ironically, the Phillies starters (Halladay, Lee and Hamels) as a whole fared well yet were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardindals in the divisional series. The performance of the rest of the group ranges from mediocre to awful during this postseason.

The information tells us that performance during the regular season is not a precurser for performance during the postseason. Moreover, it may not be just this postseason. Verlander has a career postseason ERA of 5.57 in 42 innings pitched.  Sabathia has a career ERA of 4.81 in 86 innings pitched.  These are two of the top pitchers in the game!

Added pressure is certainly a plausible reason for a dip in performance. Pitchers who have been successful during the regular season have predominately thrown more innings and more pitches as well. Perhaps they enter the playoffs worn down. A third and in my mind the most legitimate reason for a downturn is the competition. Pitchers are not facing watered down lineups during the postseason as often as they do during the regular season.  Combine all three and the difficulty of success in the postseason is apparant.

Fans get excited when their team makes the playoffs and most feel that the better the starting pitching the further their team go in the playoffs.  Unfortunately, at least for 2011, that has not been entirely the case. Not all players are able to transcend their performance from the regular season into the postseason.