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Friday, October 16, 2020

Debate: Is Kershaw a playoff ‘choker’?

Meyers: The bullpen definitely did him no favors tonight (allowing the inherited runner to score), which has definitely hurt him in the past. So you think there is no chance he can ever redeem his reputation? Barry Bonds did it in 2002 after a career of playoff failures.

Castrovince: Nah, it’s too much of A Thing at this point. It’s not going away. And to be clear, he’s done his share to influence that. Twenty-seven home runs is, you know, a lot of home runs.

Petriello: I agree with Castrovince, much as I hate to admit it. His October story is going to be his story, no matter what, and much of that is on him.

Meyers: His overall line this October is actually pretty good! He has 23 K’s, two walks in 19 innings pitched (3.32 ERA).

Castrovince: Try telling that to the wolves! The Kershaw October story is one with a lot of nuance, a lot of explanation, a lot of, “Yeah, but ...” None of that makes its way to the masses, I’m afraid. If people want to call Kershaw a choker, they have ammunition, unfortunately.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 16, 2020 at 10:14 AM | 115 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: clayton kershaw

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   101. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 19, 2020 at 12:23 PM (#5983908)

Needless to say, if Kershaw pitches 17 excellent innings in this world series like Johnson did in 2001, he will shed the label.

Right. I think there's also a difference between a guy who has a 3.71 ERA in 60.2 innings (Johnson going into 2001) and a guy who has a 4.31 ERA in 177.1 innings (Kershaw right now). The worse the performance and the greater number of innings make it less likely that it's just a small sample size issue, although that is still a possibility.
   102. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: October 19, 2020 at 12:29 PM (#5983910)
He’s not a big game pitcher. Those post-season stats are terrible for someone of his caliber. It’s hard to believe it’s bad luck at this point. When I heard he was starting game 4, I knew the Braves would win this series.
This did not age well.
   103. Mefisto Posted: October 19, 2020 at 12:34 PM (#5983913)
Correction: I misread the table and got the Cleveland team ERA wrong for 1954 (that was their regular season ERA). In the series it was 4.84.

I also decided to check Cobb's WS performance. In 1908 he had an OPS of .821 against a legendary Cubs team which had a WS ERA of 2.60 and a season ERA of 2.14 (!). That .821 may not be what we'd expect from TY COBB, but I'd say it's pretty good in that context. In 1909 Cobb was exactly average for the Tigers with an OPS of .656, and better than Pittsburgh (.624). Pirates' pitchers had a WS ERA of 3.10 on top of a seasonal 2.07 (!). So while Cobb had a reputation as doing poorly in the Series, I think the context shows him better than average (if not at a superstar level).
   104. BDC Posted: October 19, 2020 at 12:47 PM (#5983919)
Thinking more about that article that Bhaakon posted:

Over the two decades {1997-2016}, playoff teams scored an average of 4.94 runs per game in the regular season. In the postseason, that average dropped to 4.17, which is a 16% reduction

Fewer runs are scored in the postseason, so Howie's conjecture that one side of the offense/defense balance might change more in the postseason seems correct. All the teams do worse in winning percentage, on aggregate, but part of that is that their offenses suffer disproportionately.

As TFA and several folks have noted, one factor is that you see more of the better pitchers in the postseason. Although: there are playoff teams that come into the postseason with a better RA/9 than 4.17. And to think about individual performance, we'd want to know what the RA/G of the pitchers actually used was. Pedro Martinez, for instance, had about a quarter-of-a-run worse RA/9 in the post than the regular season (3.46 to 3.20). 3.46 is still fine; quite a bit better than 4.17 let alone 4.94; but Pedro himself was not getting better (at face value, unadjusted for competition, which is the whole point) in the postseason.

It does remain that there are examples of pitchers like Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, and Stephen Strasburg who were great to begin with and then did significantly better in the postseason than their regular greatness. Is there a batter like that? Lou Brock, I suppose (.753 to 1.079 OPS), though he was not as good a hitter as Schilling or Smoltz were pitchers. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig both hit better in the World Series than the regular season (oddly, they have identical WS OPSs of 1.214). But they were at 1.163 and 1.080 to start with. I suspect there are more individual pitchers who actually improve, and improve more (again, at face value) than there are batters.
   105. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 19, 2020 at 01:19 PM (#5983926)
#104 although Carlos Beltran is more famous for a postseason strikeout, he has a career playoff OPS of 1.021 compared to .837 in the regular season. That's in 256 PA. He was an absolute monster in the 2004 playoffs, but his team lost in the NLCS.

Molitor (1.050 vs. .817) and Brett (1.023 vs. .857) were both great in the posteason, but in relatively small sample sizes.

A bunch of guys were excellent in the postseason, and had some very timely big hits, although it doesn't necessarily show up as a massive OPS differential. Reggie Jackson and David Ortiz are two obvious ones.
   106. Mefisto Posted: October 19, 2020 at 01:45 PM (#5983929)
If you want a real extreme case (which I noticed in looking at the 1954 Series), try Dusty Rhodes: .773 career OPS but 2.381 (!!) in his one WS. Of course, it was just 7 PAs.
   107. BDC Posted: October 19, 2020 at 02:12 PM (#5983937)
Thanks, Dave, Mefisto - those are good examples. Obviously as always sample size counts ... But Beltran is a very strong example, lots of PAs as you say and a great hitter to start with.
   108. Mefisto Posted: October 19, 2020 at 03:14 PM (#5983950)
I think that a lot of the discussion about the post season could and should also apply to the All Star game. It's major league competition, after all.
   109. DFA Posted: October 19, 2020 at 04:02 PM (#5983956)
although Carlos Beltran is more famous for a postseason strikeout, he has a career playoff OPS of 1.021 compared to .837 in the regular season. That's in 256 PA. He was an absolute monster in the 2004 playoffs, but his team lost in the NLCS.

Such a banger!
   110. Greg Pope Posted: October 19, 2020 at 04:04 PM (#5983957)
He’s not a big game pitcher. Those post-season stats are terrible for someone of his caliber. It’s hard to believe it’s bad luck at this point. When I heard he was starting game 4, I knew the Braves would win this series.

This did not age well.

I was watching the pregame for game 7 of Astros-Rays. Pedro was going on and on about the experience of the Astros, how no hitters on the Rays had been there before, how the Astros players with their experience would be able to make in-game changes, etc. I didn't see anything after the game, so I don't know what his justification was. But there is always an after-the-fact explanation of why a team won that has nothing to do with just actually playing better that game.
   111. baxter Posted: October 19, 2020 at 07:37 PM (#5983978)
110 But, the most important player for the Rays was Morton, who had won a couple of game 7's in post season; surprising he has less value in his career than Kershaw has had in one season.

The Johnson discussion made me think of David Price, who despite a couple of decent post season games, had generally performed horribly, until the ALCS & WS for Bosox, where he was great.

Agree, Kershaw can with a couple of good games break that characterization. That said, I was rooting for LA (more than for Atl) last night and hoping that I would not see Kershaw or Jansen in that game (Freddie Freeman is a bit better hitter than Matt Adams, who HR'd off Kershaw a few years ago for Stl in the playoffs). Great to see Urias accomplish something (despite off-field issues).

Hope it's a good series; good luck to both teams.
   112. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: October 19, 2020 at 09:31 PM (#5983985)
I saw a really interesting interview with Molitor about hitting in the playoffs. Molitor was obviously a really good hitter but he was also very self-aware. He talked about if he did not have to worry about a really good fastball he knew he would be able to adjust to any pitch and get a good swing most of the time. That and growing up in Minnesota and playing baseball in cold spring months made playing in October no issue.
   113. BDC Posted: October 21, 2020 at 09:18 AM (#5984214)
So I guess Kershaw isn't currently a playoff choker, as of this morning anyway. But if he loses his next WS start we will certainly be informed that the pressure in a Game Four or Five or Seven is a different animal from the Pressure of Game One :)
   114. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:48 AM (#5984241)
Glad to see Kershaw have a big game last night.
   115. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:27 PM (#5984270)
[113] See the 2017 WS. Kershaw pitched great in game 1, got roasted in game 5. Had he even pitched a mediocre 3 runs in 5 innings kind of game, the Dodgers would have won it easily.
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