A Closer Look at Post Season Pitching

Yesterday I came across a baseball-reference blog entry which highlighted every pitcher

7 days until Pitchers & Catchers report

who registered a game score, another one of Bill James’ great creations, of 65 or higher at least 4 times in their career. Most of the names high on this list come from the modern era, simply because they had more chances to pitch better games than players in past eras(pre-division series and pre-championship series.) I decided to take 25 names off of this list of 54 pitchers and see how often they pitched to a game score of 65 or better in comparison to how many starts they actually got in the post season.

As can be seen in the table below Christy Mathewson, who pitched in an era in which the World Series was the only form of post season play, had a game score of 65 or higher in 9 out of his 11 career World Series starts. It is also should be noted that 4 out of the top 5 players on this list(Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Sandy Koufax, and Bob Gibson) pitched in pitching dominated eras.

As we can see Andy Pettitte ranks near the bottom of my list with only 24 percent of his total post season starts being of this high caliber variety. This may be more of an indication that although Andy was always very good when October rolled around he is simply not in the top tier of post season pitchers, despite holding the all time post season wins record with 19 wins. Seven of those 19 wins came in Division Series games, a round that did not even exist until 1995. He was good, he was consistent but he was not what we would call dominant. If there is one this that will put Pettitte over the hump for the Hall of Fame it is his post season performances, but as we can see when diving a little deeper than the numbers we see on the surface, that may even not be enough either.

After taking a closer look at these numbers my vote for best post season pitcher may have to go to Curt Schilling. With 13(out of 19 total) starts with a game score above 65 coupled with his 11-2 playoff record and a 2.23 post season ERA in a hitter era(unlike Mathewson, Koufax, Alexander and Gibson) shows how elevated his game became on the big stage.

To understand the game score calculation and what the numbers of games in which a game score of 65 or higher look like, check out the links in the first paragraph.

Player GmSc 65+ Games Started Percentage
Mathewson 9 11 0.82
Alexander 4 5 0.80
Koufax 5 7 0.71
Schilling 13 19 0.68
Gibson 6 9 0.67
Valenzuela 5 8 0.63
Cliff 6 10 0.60
Beckett 7 13 0.54
Guidry 5 10 0.50
Seaver 4 8 0.50
Hershiser 8 18 0.44
Big Unit 7 16 0.44
El Duque 6 14 0.43
Ford 9 22 0.41
Palmer 6 15 0.40
Smoltz 10 27 0.37
Hunter 7 19 0.37
Mussina 7 21 0.33
Stewart 6 18 0.33
Glavine 11 35 0.31
Morris 4 13 0.31
Clemens 10 34 0.29
Wells 5 17 0.29
Pettitte 10 42 0.24
Maddux 7 30 0.23
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About jacarfagno

Live, Breathe, and Bleed Baseball
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