I think we have to accept that baseball is much more dependent on luck than we would like to believe. Otherwise the 2001 Ms would have won the series easily. I'd take the phillies rotation nine series out of ten. One reason I try to enjoy the physical beauty of the game and it's entertainment value rather than get too caught up in results.
Is that what makes baseball fun to watch? Who would have guessed when the Phillies signed Lee that they would get a longer vacation? Maybe go on a short getaway with the Yankees? It makes it fun to wonder what player will go from a Baldwin into Boardwalk, especially when you know many will go the other route.
.....Dr. D has always pushed the big rotations in October, but I've got to admit that the 2011 season was a beanball. Under the earflap, that is.
Bill James, maestro of the 30,000-foot historical view, once said "Baseball history is woven on the tapestry of Hall of Fame starters," or somesuch. Give me a GM job, and a challenge to win the playoffs, and I pile my Stars & Scrubs money into a huge 1-2-3 rotation. Guarantee you.
I don't say that a Stars & Scrubs team always beats a Civics team, of course. I maintain only that Stars & Scrubs teams have a big advantage in the postseason, in part because the play gets consolidated into your 5-6 best pitchers.
(And, of course, Stars & Scrubs positions you -- over the course of several seasons -- to create a better roster in the long term. But that's another subject.)
There is probably no more vivid, colorful way to illustrate the difference between SSI, and Fangraphs, than to watch a Mega-Rotation take on a team of no-names in October.
Their WAR/$ theory maintains that a WAR is a WAR is a WAR, and that 25 players who add up to 60 WAR are equal (even in an O.K. Corral matchup, with the bright lights on and the advance scouting piled 10' high) to any other team with 60 WAR. Whether or not that "other team" has Lee, Hamels, and Halladay.
We had several mega-rotations bring their Imperial Walker stomp into the O.K. Corral's final eight, and in this particular playoff round, the Imperial Walkers did not laser as many Clantons (much less Ewoks) as they'd hoped.
Lee, Hamels, Oswalt and Halladay were argued as possibly the best rotation ever. St. Louis beat them fair and square, with Kyle Lohse (?), Jaime Garcia, the rent-a-pitcher Jackson and a snakebit Chris Carpenter. Not a single St. Louis SP had an ERA+ over 107. Every blinkin' one of 'em had a perfectly league-mediocre ERA this year. Win, Cardinals.
October Mega-Rotation Theory Grade: F.
Admittedly, this wasn't the Yankees' best rotation, but CC Sabathia started 2 of 5 games, and Nova-Garcia-Burnett had led the Yankees to a 119 ERA+ this season. Whew.
After seeing some internet buzz that Justin Verlander was overhyped, I was pleased to see him, Scherzer and Fister carry the day against the Yankees. I fully expect Verlander to pull a Bob Gibson from here on out...
Big games from Verlander, Fister, and Scherzer -- against the Yankees, now -- pushed the Tigers through. October Mega-Rotation Grade: B+ or A-.
The DRays brought a deep, talented 5-man rotation up against the Rangers' even better 5-man rotation (118 team ERA+). Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison, perhaps the Rangers #4-5 starters, won the close games for Texas. Price was valiant, but Shields and Hellickson couldn't hold Texas down. Maybe Taro was right all along and the Rangers have a juggernaut. :- )
Two excellent rotations that do not, however, feature $20M aces. Grade Incomplete.
The DBacks and Brewers brought relatively normal team ERA+ to the party, but Milwaukee did have the edge in star power. Greinke won the Cy two years ago, Gallardo racks up a 200/60 control in 200 innings, and Marcum and Narveson are both stealth roto sleepers. It's as close as a small-market team is usually going to get to a Mega-Rotation.
A big performance from Gallardo to make Game 5's victory possible, but in terms of series flow, it was not a series for the aces. Grade N/A for the rotation scorecard.
=== Dr's Diagnosis ===
As far as the dominance of any one baseball weapon -- ace, bullpen, HR, baserunning, defense -- this particular playoff round saw a nice balance of power.
Especially, I was a bit surprised to see as many 5+ run offensive games as there were. Earlier in 2011 there was hand-wringing about pitching taking over the game, and the playoffs were loaded with star pitching, and then you saw lots of runs in cold weather.
Baseball's fun to watch. And this is a better postseason than most I've seen.
Go Detroit :- )
One time after a Sox loss in the playoffs -- when he was leaning heavily towards luck -- James told us that he estimated the ratio to be 40% who has the best team, 20% who has the roster configuration for a short series (5 great pitchers etc), 30% luck, and 10% unknown. If I remember his numbers right.
I can't help but think within the next few years we are going to have a rotation of King Felix, Prince Pineda, General Paxton, The Incredible Hultzen and Walker Texas Ranger!
Five young maturing pitchers all competing for the AL Cy Young!!
Imagine the consequences !!! :)
Luck or long season or whatever. This season throw some of the odds away and enjoy. Kind of nice! Nicer when we see current Mariners rather than ex-Mariners!
I love the upsets!
Like the 5-man poster concept amigo ...
Terry probably remembers times in the 1970's when the L.A. Dodgers piled 4, even 5 starting pitchers into the top 10 on the stats boards.
Like in 1973, the top 10 NL for WHIP included Messersmith, Tommy John, HOF'er Don Sutton, and Al Downing. The #5 starter was Claude Osteen, 16-11, 3.31 that year and a 196-game winner for his career.
Just a year or two later, the Dodgers added Burt Hooton (18-7, 2.82) and Doug Rau (15-9, 3.11) and a year later, Rick Rhoden (12-3, 2.98) ...
Bob Welch and Dave Stewart were the year after that. Ten (10x) All-Star starting pitchers (except Rau) through the clubhouse door in just a few years.
M's fans have never seen anything like that in Seattle, but there is no rule against developing five or six terrific pitchers at once.
There's nothing that says that in 2013, the M's entire 5-man rotation couldn't all be All-Stars, or worthy of it.
Nice job bringing up the 70's Dodgers' staffs.
A question for you: How much do you think their ability to bring in starting stud after stud was due to the fact that they had almost no need to ever worry about playing with the infield positions?
L-R, Cey, Russell, Lopes and Garvey teed it up nearly every day for the better part of that decade.
Add Yeager behind the plate and they were 5/8 set.
They had a rotating door of OF's through those years. Crawford had the longest run, but they had Baker, Buckner, Smith, Wynn, Monday, etc, in the OF. They plugged in available guys.
They had the luxury of seeking pitchers first, because they didn't have to look for IF's, as they had all those young guys who nearly came up together.
Ackley, Seager, Smoak, Liddi (?), Franklin (?) has that same kind of ring to it.
That's one of the reasons I just go with the kids now. Let them grow up together and then we address other needs. Carp is certainly part of that kiddy corps, too...and Wells, I think. That's a hell of a start. Pencil them in and watch for a year. Most of those guys are set to explode.
Find your young Yeager, via trade and then plug and play all those young arms we have, until you find the stars.
I am very optismistic about where the M's go from here. I think we have a bunch of young bats who will churn out 100-130 OPS+ seasons like clockwork and they are scattered all over the field, too. There is little redundancy. We have young arms up the wazoo, which allows for the judicious trade to find our your Yeager (if we don't have him).
Things are nice. The living is good. Are we going to win it all in '12? No....but we're going to soon be challenging and will do so for a long time. I know some are worried that we have to do it now to capitalize on Felix. They're wrong. Felix, if needs be, just rolls over into a bevy of young players, ala Lee and Fister, except more so.
I wonder if some of the (younger) naysayers have just never seen a contender build through the minor's, like the M's have. Minus Ichiro , Olivo, Ryan and Guti all of our principal players came up through the ranks. Well, I suppose Smoak is a bit different, but we sent him back down for more AAA time. I discount Figgin's chances, of course, and it is entirely possible that Ryan and Guti will not be starters next year. In fact, Guti may well be gone.
This is a team made up in the manner of the 70's Dodgers. In many ways, this is the type of team you would have seem before Curt Flood and Andy Messersmith changed the world.
In an IPhone world, the M's sort of have the look of a weird green rotary dialer.
And it may soon payoff.
Geez, Doc, are you trying to imply that I'm OLD? Very harsh, man.
In fact, it's even worse - I remember rotations from the 1950s, which I think makes me approximately 110 in the shade. The Dodgers have always had pitching. It's deep in the roots of the organization. The `59 Dodgers rotation average age was 25. They were good for a decade. Tampa is the modern version and, yeah, it would be great to see the M's on the same path.
If an infield CAN lock down four set players who play together for five years, they can enjoy an advantage where they work together in a way that magnifies their skills and minimizes their weaknesses. Their knowledge of each other allows them to do so. Whatever situation they encounter on a play, they have done it together many, many times and there are few surprises.
There's a lot to be said for the comparison to the '73 Dodgers infield. All except well-rounded Ron Cey at third base were bat-first players, especially the converted former outfielder Bill Russell (Mr. 30-plus Errors) at shortstop and converted third baseman Steve Garvey at first base. Garvey worked hard and earned a reputation as a fine fielder at first base, although you got down on your knees and prayed every time he had to throw the ball to second or home. Lopes was the late-bloomer of the group, taking over at second base at the age of 28.
Not one of them was the best in the league at their position, and when you compared them to their nemeses the Reds they mostly compared unfavorably. Garvey was overshadowed by Tony Perez who was simply an RBI machine. Lopes had some power and speed, but was not the hitter Joe Morgan was, neither could he match Morgan in power and speed, and Morgan was a superior fielder, which was hardly a description of Lopes. Comparing Russell to Concepcion at shortstop was like comparing Kool-Aid to fine wine. And once the Reds shifted Pete Rose to third base for the last half of the decade, even Cey, though much better defensively, was not the same kind of force as Peter Rose in his prime.
Collectively, though, the were the rock that held together a team that managed to go toe-to-toe with the Big Red Machine from 1974-1978 and get their share of wins, eclipsing them in 1974, 77, and 78 while being eclipsed in 75 and 76.
The Reds with a better lineup simply could not match the depth of the Dodgers' pitching, even though they had some fine staffs of their own.
But I find the notion interesting that locking down a whole section of your team with formidable talent, in this case the infield, for five years or more gives you a distinct architectural advantage as a GM. There does appear to be the potential for the M's to mimic those Dodgers teams in both the infield and the starting rotation. The key to that, though, is for Smoak, Seager and Liddi to actually produce like Garvey, Russell and Cey did, something that is far from certain at this point. Let them show it first at least for a year or two, then I can begin to believe the scenario.