LCS will feature great starting pitching, but not the best ever
Coming off a Division Series that featured a no-hitter by
As baseball fans, savoring the moment is fine, but there's always that urge to measure greatness. We know that the four teams that reached the League Championship Series have great starting pitching, but that's not enough. How great are they, relative to the teams that came before? Are we seeing the best collection of final-four pitchers since 1969? Do the Phillies and Giants have claim to the most pitching-heavy NLCS ever?
To measure the quality of LCS rotations, I calculated the SNLVAR for the first three starters in every LCS dating to 1969. Using the first three gets around the problem of differing rotation sizes, and even with a difficult pennant race or a Division Series ahead of the LCS, most teams can get their best three starters to the mound in the first three games. In best-of-seven LCSs (since 1985), the first three starters are the ones slotted to make multiple starts. With all due respect to likely Game 4 starters such as
This method was effective for all but a handful of years. The most notable special cases are 1978, when the Yankees'
As much pitching as will be on display over the next two weeks, the collection doesn't rank among the top 20 pools of LCS starters in history. That list:
That 1973 postseason featured three Hall of Fame starters --
Of course, while the Rangers-Yankees matchup is interesting, that's not the one with the real studs. It's the Phillies and the Giants who have everyone in a tizzy. How does that series, on its own, compare to all of the LCSs that have been played?
Now we're getting somewhere. The 2010 NLCS looks to be the eighth-best collection of pitching in the 42 seasons of LCS play. The 1973 season shows up again, and you can see the '85 and '86 NLCSs just below the Phillies. The 2005 numbers are bolstered by what may have been the greatest front three in baseball history: Clemens,
Sprinkled in there you see four consecutive years for the NL, from 1995-98. Let's see what that's really about:
The '05 Astros had the best LCS rotation ever. The 2010 Phillies crack the top ten. Four of the other eight slots in the top ten are occupied by the
In looking at these lists, you can understand the excitement. We haven't seen pitching like this in the postseason since 2005, and just once since 2001. After the tremendous stretch by the Braves in the 1990s, dominant postseason rotations have been few and far between. Fans are ready for the Phillies and Giants to show off the kind of pitching that keeps us all on the edge of our seats deep into October.