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Archive for November 2nd, 2010

If 2010 was the new “Year of the Pitcher”, than the outcome of the World Series was a fitting tribute. With a 3.36 ERA (121 ERA+), the Giants owned baseball’s best pitching staff in the regular season, yet still managed to shave off almost an entire run during October. If good pitching beats good hitting, just imagine what great pitching can do?

Most Games Allowing Fewer than 3 Runs in One Postseason, Since 1995

Team Year Total Games Matching Games Pct. W L
Braves 1996 16 13 81% 9 4
Cardinals 2006 16 12 75% 9 3
Yankees 2003 17 12 71% 8 4
Yankees 2001 17 12 71% 10 2
Diamondbacks 2001 17 12 71% 10 2
Giants 2010 15 11 73% 9 2
Yankees 1999 12 10 83% 10 0
Tigers 2006 13 10 77% 7 3
Indians 1995 15 10 67% 7 3
White Sox 2005 12 10 83% 9 1
Red Sox 2007 14 10 71% 10 0

Source: Baseball-reference.com

The 2010 Giants exhibited one of the better postseason pitching displays in recent memory, but was it really the best ever in divisional play as some have suggested? Not according to the chart above. Although the Giants’ staff did have more than its fair share of dominant games (defined as three or fewer runs allowed), five other teams actually had a higher percentage, and many of those games were played in a much higher offensive environment. So, from at least one perspective, the 2010 Giants do not stand out from the pack.

Postseason ERA, 1995-2010

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Based on overall ERA, the Giants’ pitching staff once again ranks among the top-10, but comes up well short of the 1996 Braves’ sterling 1.89 ERA. Ironically, despite posting what was by far the lowest team ERA in the division series era, the 1996 Braves actually lost the World Series to Joe Torre’s then underdog Yankees.

Top-10 Postseason ERAs By Team, 1995-2010

Year Team G IP W L ERA
1996 Braves 16 143 9 7 1.89
1999 Yankees 12 109 11 1 2.39
1995 Indians 15 139 9 6 2.40
2001 D’Backs 17 154 11 6 2.40
1998 Yankees 13 119 11 2 2.42
2010 Giants 15 135 11 4 2.47
2005 White Sox 12 113 11 1 2.55
2006 Cardinals 16 141 11 5 2.68
1995 Braves 14 130 11 3 2.70
2003 Yankees 17 155 9 8 2.73

Source: Baseball-reference.com

After factoring in context (graph and chart below), the 2010 Giants’ rank falls to seventh, albeit amid a tight pack of 12. Four teams, however, do emerge from the field. Once again, the 1996 Braves stand head and shoulders above the rest. Led by the likes of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and Greg Maddux, that staff outperformed all the others by a whopping 135%. Among teams that won the World Series, the 1999 Yankees pitched 89% better than the postseason field, while the 2005 White Sox were 66% stingier. Finally, joining the 1996 Braves as a dominant pitching staff that failed to win the World Series, the 1995 Indians had an ERA that was 79% lower than the competition. That season, the Indians lost to the Braves, who ranked just behind them on the list.

One thing evident from the list below (and probably self evident), is that in order to win the World Series you usually need to pitch. Ten of the 16 champions since 1995 have had an ERA at least 35% lower than the remaining playoff field, and only three teams that have accomplished that threshold failed to win the World Series. Furthermore, only two teams (the 1997 and 2003 Florida Marlins) managed to win the World Series while pitching to an ERA below the postseason average, and only five such teams were able to win the pennant. As a result, when a team wins a ring, it usually goes without saying that their pitching staff did very well.

World Series Participants’ ERA Compared to Total ERA*, 1995-2010 


*Postseason ERA excludes contribution of team being used in each comparison.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Year Team IP ERA PS ERA* Ratio
1996 Braves 143    1.89 4.43 235%
1999 Yankees 109    2.39 4.54 189%
1995 Indians 139    2.40 4.29 179%
2005 White Sox 113    2.55 4.23 166%
1995 Braves 130    2.70 4.16 154%
1998 Yankees 119    2.42 3.58 148%
2010 Giants 135    2.47 3.62 147%
2007 Red Sox 126    3.29 4.76 145%
2006 Cardinals 141    2.68 3.86 144%
2001 D’Backs 154    2.40 3.34 139%
2003 Yankees 155    2.73 3.80 139%
2008 Phillies 123    3.07 4.15 135%
2009 Yankees 140 2/3 3.26 4.40 135%
1999 Braves 134 1/3 3.35 4.36 130%
2000 Mets 131 2/3 3.21 4.04 126%
2006 Tigers 113    2.95 3.70 126%
2000 Yankees 144    3.44 3.99 116%
2007 Rockies 99    4.00 4.49 112%
2004 Cardinals 132 1/3 4.42 4.92 111%
2004 Red Sox 133    4.47 4.91 110%
2002 Giants 149    4.59 4.92 107%
2009 Phillies 132    3.95 4.15 105%
2005 Astros 136 1/3 3.76 3.93 104%
2008 Rays 141 2/3 3.81 3.95 104%
1996 Yankees 141    3.70 3.84 104%
2002 Angels 140    4.82 4.84 100%
1998 Padres 124 1/3 3.33 3.32 100%
1997 Indians 165 2/3 3.97 3.81 96%
1997 Marlins 144    4.25 3.73 88%
2010 Rangers 141    3.70 3.23 87%
2001 Yankees 153 1/3 3.52 2.97 85%
2003 Marlins 159    4.30 3.35 78%

Note: World Series winners in italics.
*Postseason ERA excludes contribution of team being used in each comparison
Source: Baseball-reference.com

All things considered, the 1996 Braves remain as the most accomplished pitching staff in the division series era, even though they failed to accomplish the ultimate goal. Of course, this year’s Giants probably aren’t going to lose any sleep over taking a back seat to that Atlanta team. After all, the 1996 Braves would gladly trade the honor for a shiny new ring.

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New York fans get a bad rap around the country for being unruly (I am talking to you Mr. Greenberg), and sometimes the criticism is justified. Some spitting, a few thrown objects and even a fight or two have been known to breakout in the stands, but the one thing you’ve never seen is a riot. For some reason, sports championships have become justification for obscene civil disobedience in cities around the world, but not in the Big Apple. The rest of the world can have its bonfires and rock throwing; New Yorkers use tickertape.

The shameful behavior seen in the video below is really not an indictment of San Francisco, but a sad part of our nation’s sports culture. Maybe one day the rest of the country will follow New York’s lead and celebrate their sports’ championships with civility?

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