Can Sox get to World Series with #1 offense and weak pitching?
Baseball season, “The Summer Game,” is a 162-game marathon that allows enough time for the law of averages to play out and sort the teams into an order by talent and a touch of luck. Although, even with luck, Branch Rickey was right: “Luck is the residue of design.”
Then, the game shifts gears and it abruptly becomes a 100-yard dash, where luck plays a much larger role in who wins and moves on to the World Series. Now we have the “one-and-done” Wild Card game, where luck, or one bad umpiring call, can outbalance talent and send a team with fewer “regular season” wins into the World Series mix.
If pitching is 80% of the game, the casual fan might expect that the team with the best pitching staff would win the World Series. But, there’s the catch: while a pitching staff will win more regular season games, the short series gives a huge advantage to the team with the best pair of starters. Managers can run their #1 and #2 pitchers out there twice in a 5 game series; consider an off day for rest and using the #3 starter to fill in, if needed.
Today the Red Sox are rated* the 3rd best rotation in the AL behind the Tigers and the Rays; the Pirates are rated #1 in MLB. These ratings are for the “regular season;” so, how would the ratings come out for the Post-season?
FanGraphs has the stats to suggest an answer and the likely WS teams and winner.
Here are the top seven contender rotations in strikeout percentage:
Here are the top seven contender rotations in walk percentage:
Here are the top seven contender rotations in ground-ball percentage:
Here are the top seven contender rotations in FIP
* Fielding Independent Pitching [Ks, Ws, HRs]
“THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE…”
Listing each team by the areas it dominates, FanGraphs suggests:
Yes, the chart gives the Red Sox long odds to make it to the World Series, but, it only represents the Pitching part of the analysis; the Red Sox lead MLB in virtually every offensive category.
Yet, some teams WON the World Series with weak pitching [based on ERA]:
2006 Cards [Chris Carpenter, Jeff Suppan and Jason Isringhausen, then who?]
1987 Twins [Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven and Jeff Reardon, then who?]
1976 Reds [Gary Nolan, Pat Zachry, Fred Norman, Jack Billingham, Santo Alcala, Don Gullett, and Rawly Eastwick] Not a bad roster, but their ERA put them at #3
2008 Phillies [Moyer, Hammels and Brad Lidge, then who?]
1982 Cardinals [Joaquín Andújar, Bob Forsch and Bobby Shantz, then who?]
Q: If Pitching is 80% of the game and the top two starters are more important in Post-season games, can the Red Sox mount enough offense to offset it?
"A: Based on pitching stats alone, the FanGraphs charts suggest– NO."
"Pirates/Tigers World Series with Detroit the winner."
But, could the powerful Sox offense generate enough runs to overcome weak starters in a short series?