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|
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.
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
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
Note: World Series winners in italics.
*Postseason ERA excludes contribution of team being used in each comparison
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.