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Most important thing in BASEBALL playoff series

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by suburbia, Feb 23, 2008.


What is the most important thing for a BASEBALL team to have in a playoff series?

  1. Strong starting pitching

    28 vote(s)
  2. Strong bullpen

    2 vote(s)
  3. Manager who is a great tactician

    0 vote(s)
  4. Strong lineup

    3 vote(s)
  1. suburbia

    suburbia Active Member

    Hockeybeat's poll below led me to pose this question to all of you.

    Obviously, luck (which includes health) is going to play at least something of a factor in any playoff series in any sport. So I guess the better question is what does a baseball team need to best position itself for good breaks in a playoff series, or to overcome the bad ones?

    For the longest time, the easy answer was starting pitching, and many still feel that way. But since starters rarely throw complete games anymore (especially in the playoffs), relief pitching has become far more important. In a short series, a late-inning meltdown by a Byung-Hyun Kim or an Armando Benitez or Mitch Williams or Jose Mesa is far more difficult to overcome.

    And what about managers? Would Terry Francona have pulled Pedro before or much earlier in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, unlike Grady Little? Would the '88 and '90 Oakland As have lost to seemingly inferior opponents in the World Series if a manager other than Tony LaRussa was in charge? Would the Yankees have avoided their historic collapse against the Red Sox in '04 if Joe Torre had been more aggresive on the bases with Varitek catching Wakefield? Did the Angels beat the Giants in '02 because Mike Scoscia outmanaged Dusty Baker? Again, in a short series, a few tactical decisions and adjustments can make the difference.

    What do you think?
  2. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    Bullpen. Bullpen. Bullpen. Or have we all forgotten what the 2004 Red Sox did in the ALCS?
  3. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    I was thinking more what the White Sox did the next year in the World Series. I don't even know if their bullpen warmed up.
  4. suburbia

    suburbia Active Member

    You're probably thinking of the '05 ALCS, when the Sox bullpen pitched only two outs (the last ones of Game 1) in the entire series.

    The flip side, of course, was that the Astros lost two games on late-inning runs given up by the post-Pujols Brad Lidge.
  5. jakewriter82

    jakewriter82 Active Member

    The answer is still the starting rotation.

    The proof is in Josh Beckett's right arm.
    He carried the Red Sox to the WS and cooled off a hot Colorado squad once they got there.
    He had help, but his mojo outweighed the Colorado lineup's mojo.
    The 2005 White Sox come to mind, too.
  6. Michael Lewis says it's on-base percentage.
  7. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    Thanks. For some reason, I was thinking it was the World Series. Probably because of the sweep. But now that I think about it, I do recall Game 4 going 14 innings or something like that.
  8. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Contrary to popular opinion, the Braves' rotation was pretty good in the playoffs throughout the 1990s. Despite their W-L records both being under .500, Maddux's career postseason ERA is 3.34, Glavine's is 3.42. Smoltz's prowess (2.65 ERA), of course, is well-known.

    It wasn't starting pitching that did them in. It was, most often, lack of timely hitting. They never could come up with the big hits (or, in at least one case, run the bases when they did get that hit.)

    Thus, I will be the only vote for "strong lineup" (although that's not quite the same thing, but it's closest.) Can't win without good pitching, of course. But I think you can win with keep-you-in-the-game pitching and timely hitting more than you can win with dominant pitching and average hitting.
  9. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    Agreed. Dominant starting pitching can take away the need for a dominant bullpen. Don't forget what Beckett did to the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, either.

    suburbia mentioned Byung-Hyun Kim's meltdown in 2001 against the Yankees. That is the perfect illustration of the importance of the starting rotation over the bullpen. Kim was awful, but the Diamondbacks won anyway due to the dominance of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson.
  10. Martin_Lane

    Martin_Lane Member

    I think Bill James has written that pitching (probably starting, but I don't remember for sure) and power grow in relative importance in the playoffs. He says it's tough to put together those single-single-walk-single-steal-single innings, as opposed to walk-single-homer. The teams, and their pitching, are better in October, so it's tougher to string an offense together.

    With the extra off-days in October, you can pull a few stunts with a bullpen that you wouldn't do in the regular season. Papelbon pitched a lot, relatively speaking, last October, even coming in during the eighth inning.
  11. suburbia

    suburbia Active Member

    It only can if your rotation is REALLY dominant, the way Schilling and Johnson (and even Batista to an extent) were in that '01 postseason. And even then they had to beat Rivera in the bottom of the 9th of game 7 (helped by Rivera throwing the ball into center field).

    If your rotation is only good or even very good, you can lose a series because of your bullpen. Just ask the '97 Orioles, whose bullpen blew all four of their losses in that series, two of which were absolutely brilliant starts by Mussina. Or the '93 Phillies, who lost the World Series because Mitch Williams blew Games 4 & 6. Or the '89 Cubs, whose bullpen blew Games 3-5 against the Giants.
  12. outofplace

    outofplace Well-Known Member

    And starting pitching can't blow a series for you? Take the Yankees last year. They can whine about the bugs or whatever else. Their starting pitching was awful in three of the four games, including two putrid starts by their "ace" Chien-Ming Wang. That was the killer.
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