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]


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

Dishonorable mention:

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?