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Monday, August 05, 2019

Astros formidable, but great rotations can still fall short

Yes, the Houston Astros can still be beat, even after assembling baseball’s newest super rotation.

The Astros acquired six-time All-Star Zack Greinke from Arizona just before Wednesday’s trade deadline, adding him to a pitching staff that already included Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Then, as if to show off, Houston threw a combined no-hitter Saturday night against Seattle — with Aaron Sanchez, another new acquisition, tossing six innings.

Still, recent history tells us that in baseball’s fickle postseason, even a trio of aces often isn’t enough. Here’s a look at some of the best rotations of the wild-card era — and how those teams ultimately fared.

Atlanta Braves (1995-99): The Atlanta trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz actually joined forces before the wild-card era and stayed together into the new century, but the peak was probably the mid-to-late 1990s, when the Braves won three pennants and a World series in a five-year span. Maddux won the Cy Young Award in 1995, Smoltz in 1996 and Glavine in 1998.

I’ll take “Things We Already Knew” for $80, Art.

QLE Posted: August 05, 2019 at 03:35 AM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, pitching, rotation

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   1. TomH Posted: August 05, 2019 at 07:53 AM (#5868299)
HOW MANY TIMES is the analogy of the Braves rotation and lack-of-trophies going to be dragged out despite its obvious flaws??

Just using the years this author did (95-99),the FACTS are that the Atlanta Braves played in 13 post-season series, and won 9 of them. That is about a .700 winning percentage, against other very good teams. And of their series losses (96 and 97), they really outplayed the opponents, but lost games on some poor clutch timing, close plays, stuff that could have gone either way, etc.

If we get 100 years of a three-tiered playoff system, it will eventually be common knowledge that it is HARD to win trophies consistently. But a super- top-3 rotation will be shown to be a great boon, altho no guarantee, of success.

P.S. I am NOT A Braves fan; quite tired of the Tomahawk, I was, in the 90s. Just a fan of truth.
   2. Rally Posted: August 05, 2019 at 09:06 AM (#5868303)
If you have two pitchers who are insanely dominant you can ride them to a championship. Like Schilling and Johnson in 2001. Johnson that year struck out 419 batters combining the regular season and postseason.

In 2002 the Diamondbacks were slightly better in the regular season, Schilling and Johnson were just as good. And they got swept in the first round.
   3. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2019 at 09:11 AM (#5868307)
If we get 100 years of a three-tiered playoff system, it will eventually be common knowledge that it is HARD to win trophies consistently. But a super- top-3 rotation will be shown to be a great boon, altho no guarantee, of success.


I think a 100-win team is a 100-win team is a 100-win team. Doesn't matter where the wins come from.
   4. Rally Posted: August 05, 2019 at 09:27 AM (#5868310)
I'd take a 100 win team that has 3 starters combining for a 60-20 record and 2 others at 15-30 over a team that has 5 15-10 starters.

But in a short series, who knows. Maybe the top heavy team has a 53% win expectation.
   5. rconn23 Posted: August 05, 2019 at 10:15 AM (#5868327)
Yeah, no team is guaranteed anything in the postseason, but I'll place my bets with the team that has three No. 1s in its rotation over the teams that don't.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2019 at 10:40 AM (#5868334)
I'd take a 100 win team that has 3 starters combining for a 60-20 record and 2 others at 15-30 over a team that has 5 15-10 starters.

Given what we know today about times through the order penalties, would you rather have the 20-10 guy pitching 7 innings, or two 15-10 guys pitching 3-4 innings each? I'm guessing the latter will be more effective, on average.

Once you break free of traditional pitching usage, a very good 4th or 5th SP is no longer wasted in the playoffs. They should be at least as valuable as an elite set up guy.
   7. Ithaca2323 Posted: August 05, 2019 at 10:44 AM (#5868337)
#1-

We're in an era where fans are increasingly conditioned that what matters is championships, period. And they don't like to admit, as you point out, that a series can be swung by dumb luck or misfortune (like the cavalcade of things that cost the Braves G4 and G5 of the WS)
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2019 at 10:47 AM (#5868339)
And they don't like to admit, as you point out, that a series can be swung by dumb luck or misfortune

Which is pretty silly, since when you put two fairly evenly matched teams against each other, you'd expect luck to play a huge role.
   9. shoelesjoe Posted: August 05, 2019 at 10:56 AM (#5868343)
The 2014 Tigers went into the playoffs with a rotation led by healthy Verlander, Scherzer, and Price and got swept by a team that was missing their All Star 3rd baseman, All Star 1st baseman, and All Star catcher. In the clincher David Price was outpitched by the immortal Bud Norris.

It happens.
   10. Ithaca2323 Posted: August 05, 2019 at 11:02 AM (#5868349)
Which is pretty silly, since when you put two fairly evenly matched teams against each other, you'd expect luck to play a huge role.


I agree with you, but lots of people don't
   11. Ben Broussard Ramjet Posted: August 05, 2019 at 11:19 AM (#5868365)
EDIT: RTFA. Oakland seems like a better example of the 'super rotation' not being some kind of magic wand, given only one playoff series victory from 2000-2006.
   12. drdr Posted: August 05, 2019 at 11:27 AM (#5868371)
So, let's see the rotations that won '96-'99:

'96: Cone, Pettite, Key, Rogers
'97: Brown, Leiter, Livan Hernandez, Saunders
'98: Cone, Pettite, Wells, Orlando Hernandez
'99: Clemens, Cone, Pettite, Orlando Hernandez

Not Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, but I only see one guy here who should be convincingly outpitched by the trio.
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 05, 2019 at 11:29 AM (#5868372)
Given what we know today about times through the order penalties, would you rather have the 20-10 guy pitching 7 innings, or two 15-10 guys pitching 3-4 innings each? I'm guessing the latter will be more effective, on average.
Given what we know today, I'm not going to be making that decision based on win-loss records :).
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2019 at 11:29 AM (#5868373)
Yankees had a lot of great pitching in the 2001-07 period, even though their surface stats didn't show it, b/c the defense was utter crap.
   15. Blastin Posted: August 05, 2019 at 11:49 AM (#5868389)
The Astros are clearly the most talented team in the AL (I'd argue in baseball; for some reason I am just not feeling the Dodgers, outside of Bellinger, are terrifying).

I think it's just far too overblown for everyone to have said they're basically impenetrable after Wednesday. You know who looked unbeatable? The Indians team that won 21 in a row in 2017, had the Cy winner and two other great SPs, etc. And was up 2-0. And then...

Astros will be favored in every series, but I would say "favorite" can't be more than 60-40 at the outset of any series.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2019 at 11:55 AM (#5868393)
Astros will be favored in every series, but I would say "favorite" can't be more than 60-40 at the outset of any series.

Against another 100-win team (like the Yankees or Dodgers) it's probably no more than 52:48.
   17. DL from MN Posted: August 05, 2019 at 12:03 PM (#5868400)
Which is pretty silly, since when you put two fairly evenly matched teams against each other, you'd expect luck to play a huge role.


Isn't the narrative from the announcers always that the winning team had better focus, more grit and wanted to win more than the losing team? I've always found that to be bullshit but people lap it up as an explanation.
   18. Blastin Posted: August 05, 2019 at 12:03 PM (#5868401)
Against another 100-win team (like the Yankees or Dodgers) it's probably no more than 52:48.


I am creating an extreme underdog narrative in my head so it's more fun when THE SOCKMAN homers off Verlander.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2019 at 12:11 PM (#5868405)
THE SOCKMAN

????
   20. Blastin Posted: August 05, 2019 at 12:18 PM (#5868410)
Tauchman! The Sockman!
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2019 at 12:24 PM (#5868413)
Tauchman! The Sockman!

That's the worst nickname ever.
   22. base ball chick Posted: August 05, 2019 at 01:16 PM (#5868434)
in mah not so umble opinion, you need 4 great pitchers for the playoffs/series

i do remember the unbeatable trio of clemens, pettitte and oswalt in the 05 series. when the best starting pitcher was actually brandon backe.

i ALSO remember how the astros refused to go out and get a top starter after pettitte got hurt in July of 04 and there was clemens and oswalt and a whole lot of #5 guys and it is beyond amazing that they got to game 7 of the LCS - well, i guess thank to mo ensberg and lance berkman. but ah digress
   23. Rally Posted: August 05, 2019 at 01:59 PM (#5868447)
i ALSO remember how the astros refused to go out and get a top starter after pettitte got hurt in July of 04 and there was clemens and oswalt and a whole lot of #5 guys and it is beyond amazing that they got to game 7 of the LCS - well, i guess thank to mo ensberg and lance berkman. but ah digress


It's not like they didn't improve that team at the deadline. I don't think any pitching acquisition would have helped them more in that series than what Carlos Beltran did.
   24. Ithaca2323 Posted: August 05, 2019 at 02:05 PM (#5868451)
'96: Cone, Pettite, Key, Rogers
'97: Brown, Leiter, Livan Hernandez, Saunders
'98: Cone, Pettite, Wells, Orlando Hernandez
'99: Clemens, Cone, Pettite, Orlando Hernandez

Not Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, but I only see one guy here who should be convincingly outpitched by the trio.


Yeah. The Yankees of that era specialized in the Very Good SPer. No HOFers (except Clemens in '99) but no weak spots either.
   25. Rusty Priske Posted: August 05, 2019 at 02:11 PM (#5868457)
"Sure they are good, but they still might not win!"

Uh, yeah. No kidding.
   26. Blastin Posted: August 05, 2019 at 02:43 PM (#5868473)
That's the worst nickname ever.


Actually the worst Sterling call is "Gio Urshela the most happy fella." (Why don't you just say "happiest" you boob)

you need 4 great pitchers for the playoffs/series


Please tell me how many teams have won the WS with 4 great pitchers and how many haven't.

Let's look.

2009: No
2010: No
2011: The Phillies had 4! They lost in the first round. Cardinals... no.
2012: No
2013: No
2014: Bumgarner arguably equal to 4.
2015: No
2016: No
2017: Maybe 3, maybe.
2018: No.

Now what you DO have is 2-3 people giving great performances. But not even always.



   27. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 05, 2019 at 03:55 PM (#5868490)
There was a musical called The Most Happy Fella.
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 05, 2019 at 04:31 PM (#5868504)
Yanks vs. Astros: Gotta favor Houston for obvious reasons, but if the Yanks get the HFA it might not be so certain: Beginning with the 2017 LCS, the Yanks are 8-2 against the Astros at the Stadium.
   29. Rally Posted: August 05, 2019 at 04:52 PM (#5868511)
Blastin,

Not sure where you’re drawing the line for great pitcher, but looks pretty high. Other than the Phillies for a very brief time, I think the only team that had 4 great starters in the last 3 decades was a few of the Braves teams, but mostly they had 3.
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2019 at 04:56 PM (#5868514)
Yanks vs. Astros: Gotta favor Houston for obvious reasons, but if the Yanks get the HFA it might not be so certain: Beginning with the 2017 LCS, the Yanks are 8-2 against the Astros at the Stadium.

Worry about it when we get there. There's 60-70% it doesn't happen.
   31. RickG Posted: August 06, 2019 at 06:06 AM (#5868654)
The '05 White Sox were as dominant in the postseason as it gets and seem like a good comp for the "three 20 win Ps v "4 15 win P's" question.

So the answer is clearly 4 15-game winners (so long as your opponent is also the '05 Astros bats, and as BBC alluded, your opponent has one of its aces get hurt).
   32. Blastin Posted: August 06, 2019 at 09:04 AM (#5868668)
Not sure where you’re drawing the line for great pitcher, but looks pretty high. Other than the Phillies for a very brief time, I think the only team that had 4 great starters in the last 3 decades was a few of the Braves teams, but mostly they had 3.


I mean, yeah, it seems bbc is saying you need 4 of the, say, top 30 pitchers (figure that's a good bar for "great") in the league to have a great shot. And I think that that is clearly not so.

(Someone please run this search by either bWAR or fWAR (I prefer bWAR for pitchers and fWAR for hitters myself, but it's up to you) on the past ten WS winners..)
   33. Rally Posted: August 06, 2019 at 01:36 PM (#5868818)
You're right, just because teams having that many great pitchers is extremely rare.

In terms of WAR, looks like top 30 would be above 3.5, last year Kyle Hendricks had 3.5 and was #30 in MLB.

I did a search for teams with 4 starters (GS>15) and 4+ WAR. Very few qualified, and the 2011 Phillies did not as Oswalt missed some time and was only at 2.1. That's a case where you can stretch the definition a bit, since Roy certainly had the track record and was 6 WAR the previous year, and the other 3 Phillie aces were over 6. Still lost in the first round, as the Phillie dynasty went out in a moment with Ryan Howard's achilles*.

*One of the most clearly defined end of an era I've ever seen. Before the AB they were down a single run, there was reason to hope the biggest power bat on the team could tie things up and the Phillies could win in extra. Had they done so they would have been favored over Milwaukee given that rotation. They had an old team but were seemingly set up well for October success.

After the AB there was just a sense of doom. Sure, they still had great pitching. We didn't know that was the last time Halladay would be a great pitcher. Lee and Hamels were still good for 2 more years, and many more years respectively. But the position players were old, and Howard was not only out his crazy extension was just about to start. It was fairly obvious right then that we'd seen the last bit of greatness from that Phillie group.
   34. Rally Posted: August 06, 2019 at 01:43 PM (#5868821)
6 teams post 1990 had 4 starters with 3.5 or more WAR

2018 Indians - lost first round
2013 Tigers - lost ALCS
2005 White Sox - Won WS
2002 A's - lost first round
1997 Braves - Eric Gregged
1991 Braves - Jack Morrised

Going back to 1961, there are 6 more team with 4 such pitchers, none won the WS. Plus the 1966 Indians who had 5 pitchers like that and still only finished .500
   35. Ithaca2323 Posted: August 06, 2019 at 01:51 PM (#5868825)
The 2009 Yankees won the WS with a three man rotation that had 6.2, 4.5, and 3.4
   36. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 06, 2019 at 02:23 PM (#5868842)
6 teams post 1990 had 4 starters with 3.5 or more WAR

2018 Indians - lost first round
2013 Tigers - lost ALCS
2005 White Sox - Won WS
2002 A's - lost first round
1997 Braves - Eric Gregged
1991 Braves - Jack Morrised

Going back to 1961, there are 6 more team with 4 such pitchers, none won the WS. Plus the 1966 Indians who had 5 pitchers like that and still only finished .500

I would have assumed that the early Earl Weaver staffs would be among those teams, but they never had more than 2 pitchers in any given year with WAR 3.5. Sometimes Palmer-Cuellar, or Palmer-McNally, or McNally-Cuellar
   37. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 06, 2019 at 02:33 PM (#5868849)
The Sockman!


He holds his fief in socage of his liege lord?
   38. TomH Posted: August 06, 2019 at 02:36 PM (#5868851)
That's because most of the O's pitching was in fact defense. And some park effects, and some great run support.
The 1971 four-20-game winner team was really a team of 8 really good position players, and 4 healthy starting pitchers. And as I have noted before, the 1972 O's had the same 4 SPs, whose ERAs were collectively even better, who pitched as often; but the team wasn't nearly as good, with only Palmer winning 20.
   39. base ball chick Posted: August 06, 2019 at 03:24 PM (#5868884)
i didn't mean yuo have to have 4 ace pitchers to win the playoffs. i mean you have to have 4 pitchers who are at least 3 WAR quality pitchers to win. because having, say, oswalt, clemens, backe and um, whoever just don't do the job. you can't get through all those rounds using only 3 really good starters and a bunch of relievers (and don't point to 2017 because the "relievers" for the most part were starters)
   40. Swoboda is freedom Posted: August 06, 2019 at 03:43 PM (#5868892)
Yankees had a lot of great pitching in the 2001-07 period, even though their surface stats didn't show it, b/c the defense was utter crap.


Hey, you are talking about 4 time Gold Glover Bernie Williams, and 5 time GGer Derek Jeter here.

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