Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"It's all about Pitching."

"It's all about pitching. Pitching, pitching, pitching, [...] Pitching is the key to the kingdom, which is why you try to collect as much of it as you can."

Brian Cashman said these words in his first post-season press conference yesterday and no matter what you think about the Yankees or Mr. Cashman, these words could not be more true when it comes to consistent success in the Major Leagues. Wanna know how true? Here are the regular-season starting rotations for each of the World Series teams for the last 10 years along with their ERA and FIP for that season. 

Year: 2001 
World Champion: Arizona Diamondbacks (4-3) 
Runner-Up: New York Yankees 

Diamondbacks Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Curt Schilling - 2.98/3.11
Randy Johnson (L) - 2.49/2.13
Brian Anderson (L) - 5.20/5.36
Robert Ellis - 5.77/5.09
Albie Lopez - 4.00/3.84 

Yankees Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Mike Mussina - 3.15/2.92
Roger Clemens - 3.51/3.29
Andy Pettite (L) - 3.99/3.02
Ted Lilly (L) - 5.37/4.79
Orlando Hernandez - 4.85/5.52

One odd stat from this series, Randy Johnson won 3 of the 7 games, the last as a reliever in Game 7. This series certainly had it's share of clunkers, but when you have Schilling and Johnson pitching as well as they were and on the same team, you've got a good chance no matter how good the other guys are...and the Yankees had a fearsome bunch of their own. The Diamondbacks won this series because of Johnson and Schilling, no doubt about it.
Year: 2002 
World Champion: Anaheim Angels (4-3) 
Runner-Up: San Francisco Giants 

Angels Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Ramon Ortiz - 3.77/4.87
Jarrod Washburn (L) - 3.15/3.71
Kevin Appier - 3.92/4.28
Aaron Sele - 4.89/4.69
John Lackey - 3.66/3.91 

Giants Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Livan Hernandez - 4.38/3.91
Russ Ortiz - 3.61/3.97
Kirk Rueter (L) - 3.23/4.43
Jason Schmidt - 3.45/3.11
Ryan Jensen - 4.51/4.57

This 7-game series was not particularly well-pitched. Angels pitchers had a 5.75 team-ERA in the series and the Giants had a 5.55 team-ERA. When you look at how these two teams got to the World Series though, you see good pitching on both sides.
Year: 2003 
World Champions: Florida Marlins (4-2) 
Runner-Up: New York Yankees 

Marlins Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Carl Pavano - 4.30/3.77
Brad Penny - 4.13/3.92
Mark Redman (L) - 3.59/3.58
Dontrelle Willis (L) - 3.30/3.45
Josh Beckett -3.04/2.94 

Yankees Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Mike Mussina - 3.40/3.09
David Wells (L) - 4.14/3.94
Roger Clemens - 3.91/3.60
Andy Pettite (L) - 4.02/3.35
Jeff Weaver - 5.99/4.26

This series went 6 games, but it's obvious how good these teams were just by looking at their pitching staffs. Every single Marlins starter had an FIP below 4.00. The Marlins were able to win a World Series because they hoarded pitching talent for a few years until it all came together, their line-up was full of up-and-coming youngsters (Miguel Cabrera was a 20-year-old utility man) with a couple of veteran leaders sprinkled in (Derek Lee & Mike Lowell). Beckett was the series MVP and overall, it was a fairly low scoring series.
Year: 2004 
World Champion: Boston Red Sox (4-0) 
Runner-Up: St. Louis Cardinals 

Red Sox Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Curt Schilling - 3.26/3.11
Pedro Martinez - 3.90/3.58
Tim Wakefield - 4.87/5.08
Derek Lowe - 5.42/4.26
Bronson Arroyo - 4.03/3.82 

Cardinals Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Matt Morris - 4.72/4.93
Jason Marquis - 3.71/4.55
Woody Williams - 4.18/4.10
Jeff Suppan - 4.16/4.77
Chris Carpenter - 3.41/3.85

Looking at the numbers, is it a surprise this series was a 4-game sweep? One thing that really stuck out to me was that there were zero left-handed starting pitchers, for either team, that can't have happened many times in modern baseball history. Again we see that 1-2 punch (Schilling and Martinez in this case) spelling victory...
Year: 2005 
World Champion: Chicago White Sox (4-0) 
Runner-Up: Houston Astros 

White Sox Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Mark Buerhle (L) - 3.12/3.42
Freddy Garcia - 3.87/4.05
Jon Garland - 3.50/4.24
Jose Contreras - 3.61/4.21
Orlando Hernandez - 5.12/4.87 

Astros Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Roy Oswalt - 2.94/3.16
Andy Pettite (L) - 2.39/3.06
Roger Clemens - 1.87/2.87
Brandon Backe (L) - 4.76/4.80
Wandy Rodriguez - 5.53/5.12

This 4-0 sweep in this one was is a little hard to understand considering the arms (and experience) the Astros had, but again, I'm trying to highlight here that pitching gets you to the World Series. Both of these teams were stocked with pitchers who are efficient (White Sox had 4 pitchers with 200+ innings in the regular season) and who could bring it.
Year: 2006 
World Champion: St. Louis Cardinals (4-1) 
Runner-Up: Detroit Tigers 

Cardinals Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Chris Carpenter - 3.09/3.44
Jason Marquis - 6.02/5.90
Jeff Suppan - 4.12/4.70
Anthony Reyes - 5.06/5.49
Adam Wainwright - 3.12/3.31 

Tigers Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Jeremy Bonderman - 4.08/3.29
Nate Robertson (L) - 3.84/4.72
Kenny Rogers (L) - 3.84/4.69
Justin Verlander - 3.63/4.35
Zack Miner - 4.84/4.45

Again, a surprising result (4-1) given that teams appeared even on paper. The bigger story was probably the Detroit offense which only scored 11 runs in the series, but again, that's a testament to the St. Louis pitchers as well. More fun facts: David Eckstein was the WS MVP...
Year: 2007
World Champion: Boston Red Sox (4-0)
Runner-Up: Colorado Rockies 

Red Sox Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Daisuke Matsuzaka - 4.40/4.23
Josh Beckett - 3.27/3.08
Tim Wakefield - 4.76/4.67
Curt Schilling - 3.87/4.21
Jon Lester (L) - 4.57/5.24 

Rockies Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Jeff Francis (L) - 4.22/4.19
Aaron Cook - 4.12/4.58
Josh Fogg - 4.94/5.21
Jason Hirsch - 4.81/5.32
Ubaldo Jimenez - 4.28/4.74

The Rockies had one of the most magical late-season stretches in baseball history to get into the playoffs and continued their red-hot play to get to the World Series,...then they had a few days off before the start of the World Series and everything fell apart. The Red Sox superior pitching took advantage as they held the Rockies to 10 runs in the series en route to a sweep.
Year: 2008 
World Champion: Philadelphia Phillies (4-1) 
Runner-Up: Tampa Bay Rays 

Phillies Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Cole Hamels (L) - 3.09/3.72
Jamie Moyer (L) - 3.71/4.32
Brett Myers - 4.55/4.52
Kyle Kendrick - 5.49/5.55
Joe Blanton - 4.20/5.03 

Rays Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
James Shields - 3.56/3.82
Andy Sonnanstein - 4.38/3.91
Matt Garza - 3.70/4.14
Edwin Jackson - 4.42/4.88
Scott Kazmir (L) - 3.49/4.37

This series probably could had gone either way, but as it was, it went quickly and to the Phillies in 5 games. The Rays followed the Marlins blue-print and managed to assemble some nice young talent, but that talent fell short when it mattered. Getting back to the point though, the pitching for both teams was good and a big reason they got to the World Series.

Year: 2009
World Champions: New York Yankees (4-2)
Runner-Up: Philadelphia Phillies 

Yankees Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
CC Sabathia (L) - 3.37/3.39
AJ Burnett - 4.04/4.33
Andy Pettite (L) - 4.16/4.15
Joba Chamberlain - 4.75/4.82 

Phillies Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Joe Blanton - 4.05/4.55
Cole Hamels (L) - 4.32/3.72
J.A. Happ - 2.93/4.33
Jamie Moyer (L) - 4.94/5.08
Cliff Lee (L) - 3.39/2.83

Not a particularly well-pitched World Series, lots of scoring, but to my point again, it's not a stretch to see why these two teams were here. They both had the offense, of course, but it was the pitching that ultimately brought them to the pinnacle.
Year: 2010
World Champion: San Francisco Giants (4-1)
Runner-Up: Texas Rangers 

Giants Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Tim Lincecum - 3.43/3.15
Matt Cain - 3.14/.365
Madison Bumgarner (L) - 3.00/3.66
Jonathan Sanchez (L) - 3.07/4.00
Barry Zito - 4.15/4.25 

Rangers Starting Rotation (ERA/FIP):
Cliff Lee (L) - 3.98/2.99
CJ Wilson (L) - 3.35/3.56
Colby Lewis - 3.72/3.55
Tommy Hunter - 3.73/4.99
Scott Feldman - 5.48/4.73

The Giants went 11-3 in the playoffs and while some of that success can be chalked up to an uncharacteristically good offense, the pitching was also very good and a big reason why the Giants were able to rise to the top in a hotly contested NL West and eventually win the world series. The Rangers featured quite a rotation themselves but their main man, Cliff Lee, fell apart a little in the World Series which ultimately lead to their demise.

So now we've looked at the regular season starting rotations of the last 10 World Champions and the same chorus rings true for most, if not all of those teams. They had a dominant starter (or two), and good enough 3 and 4 guys which propelled them to post-season success. If we looked even deeper I would wager that many of those teams also had good bullpens and a dominant closer in most cases. Good pitchers truly are the "key to the kingdom" as Brian Cashman put it, and that's why the Twins need to do what they can to bolster their rotation with another reliable starter. I don't know that Greinke is realistic, but there are others out there, chronicled here, that would do a fine job. Adding another pitcher wouldn't guarantee anything, obviously, but having pieces of the puzzle at least gives you a chance. Cashman knows this and that's why he's going after Cliff Lee. The Twins should follow suit.

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