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Friday, October 29, 2021

Is the postseason game too different from the regular season?

It’s easier to manipulate pitching plans in the postseason with the extra off days and breaks between series. Since the end of the campaign, the Astros have had 12 days off and played 13 games. The Braves have played 12 games and had 13 days off. That rest allows for much different pitching plans and more innings to be concentrated with fewer - and often better - arms….

The heavier reliance on relievers in the playoffs means hitters are seeing increased velocity over the regular season.

Average fastball velocity in the regular season has increased nearly every year since pitch tracking was put in place in all MLB stadiums in 2008. The average fastball velocity reached a record of 93.7 mph this year. But in the playoffs, that velocity is even greater, as relievers - who generally throw harder than starters - take on more work. The postseason average velocity of 95 mph in the last two years is a record.

The velocity increase translates to slightly more strikeouts in the playoffs compared to the regular season.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 29, 2021 at 11:29 AM | 23 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: post-season

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   1. salvomania Posted: October 29, 2021 at 12:57 PM (#6049889)
This has always bugged me.

The current system rewards teams with a top-heavy rotation (a stud ace or two) and penalizes teams with a rotation more balanced 1-through-5 that may have been a large reason for that team's regular-season success.

In 2005, the Cardinals, winners of 100 games, had five starters who won at least 14 games with an ERA+ of over 100, but only one real "stud" (Chris Carpenter). The Astros, winners of 89 games, whom they met in the NLCS, had three studs (Clemens, Pettitte, Oswalt, all with ERA+ over 140) but their rotation was filled out by the underwhelming Brandon Backe (ERA+ of 89), Wandy Rodriguez (77), and Ezequiel Astacio (75).

In the NLCS the Astros only had to give one start to someone outside their Big Three, and beat the Cardinals 4 games to 2. (The fact that Backe pitched well in his start doesn't negate my point.)
   2. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: October 29, 2021 at 01:22 PM (#6049895)
The only fair thing to do is put all 30 teams into one division and give the championship to whoever finishes first.
   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 29, 2021 at 01:43 PM (#6049904)
This has always bugged me.

The current system rewards teams with a top-heavy rotation (a stud ace or two) and penalizes teams with a rotation more balanced 1-through-5 that may have been a large reason for that team's regular-season success.


ummm..yes this has been mentioned for decades. You may recall Whitey Herzog bitching about the Twins beating him in 1987 with essentially 2 starters. Bill James' reaction to that in his last abstract was essentially "tough titties, Whitey; in the postseason, depth don't matter"
   4. Rally Posted: October 29, 2021 at 01:49 PM (#6049906)
I think the example cited above for the 2005 playoffs is a bit outdated. These days even the ace starters are often gone before the 5th inning. To succeed in the playoffs, you need about 6 or 7 dominant pitchers. Doesn’t matter if they were starters or relievers in the regular season. You have a few more off days and can push your top relievers a bit harder than in the regular season. And your starters might be balancing short starts with some relief work, like Scherzer did, and all the Red Sox starters did in 2018.

Looking at the Braves in the NLCS, innings pitched:

Fried (S) 10.2
Anderson (S) 7
Minter (R) 6
Matzek (R) 6
Morton (S) 5
Smith (R) 4

That’s a very different distribution than the regular season where the top starter had 3X as many innings as any reliever.

In 2001 the Diamondbacks won mostly thanks to 2 pitchers. Going back further in time, Hershiser, Gibson, and Koufax did most of the work by themselves. Those days are gone.
   5. Rally Posted: October 29, 2021 at 01:59 PM (#6049908)
Of the 66 starts in this postseason, only 28 lasted at least 5 innings. A few were planned bullpen days, but even adjusting, probably only half go 5.

12 went 6+, and only 4 went at least 7. Two of those were Logan Webb against the Dodgers, a shame he didn’t get to pitch more. Scherzer had one 7 inning game, and Framber Valdez was the only one to complete 8.
   6. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 29, 2021 at 02:00 PM (#6049909)
This is true of most sports, though - in basektball (college and pro), the post-season causes teas to regularly "shorten their bench". It is talked about openly and regularly. This definitely advantages teams with a strong top 6 or 7, compared to teams with that go 9 or 10-players deep. Hockey is the same thing - teams will shorten their back-end lines, distributing more minutes to their two best lines.

Football is probably the least impacted by the change of schedule due to the post-season. You pretty much have to play one game every week, every playoff game is do-or-die, and the most critical position in sports (the quarterback) is always in the game, unless you suck, in which case, as they say, "If you have two starting quarterbacks, it means you have no starting quarterbacks".
   7. Walt Davis Posted: October 29, 2021 at 04:15 PM (#6049943)
Yeah, with the change in pitcher usage, pitching depth seems more important not less. The Astros lost McCullers. That obviously hurts but what was he going to get in his 2 starts -- 10 innings at most?

In the ALCS, the Astros threw 53 innings. The leader was Valdez at 10.2 thanks to the 8-inning start. Next highest total was 6.2 (in 2 starts). In 6 starts, the Astros got 20.1 innings -- not a typo. Now, except that one game by Valdez, their starters stank it up but still, less than 3 innings a start outside of that one start.

The Red Sox were better but it was still just 28.2 innings over 6 starts (out of 52 total). The Braves got 22.2 IP in 5 starts (plus they had a bullpen game) out of 52 total; the Dodgers 17 in 4 starts out of 52 total with 2 bullpen games.

And while when and how much certain relievers are used shifts, the Braves still used 12 pitchers; Dodgers, Red Sox, Astros all used 13. For the Red Sox, Ottavino and Perez were both used 4 times but just 3 IP total for each; Whitlock got 4 IP in just 2 games. Dusty did trot out Stanek in 5 of 6 games for 4.1 IP, 14 BF. That's not quite Fingers pitching 13.2 IP in the 73 series or even Rivera throwing 8 innings in 4 games of the 2003 ALCS. IF there's an issue here, it's the one identified in the article -- 5 Ryne Staneks are as good/better than the 6th-7th innings of a Pettitte start followed by 2 innings of Mo.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 29, 2021 at 05:15 PM (#6049953)
dele
   9. Tony S Posted: October 29, 2021 at 06:28 PM (#6049963)
ummm..yes this has been mentioned for decades. You may recall Whitey Herzog ######## about the Twins beating him in 1987 with essentially 2 starters. Bill James' reaction to that in his last abstract was essentially "tough titties, Whitey; in the postseason, depth don't matter"


Herzog was quite the complainer. I was watching the youtube of Game 7 of that series a month or so ago, and in the post-game interview he *still* couldn't let go of l'affaire Denkinger two years before.

I liked James' comment that "the Twins didn't have a number-three starter, but so what? The Cardinals didn't have a number-five hitter."



   10. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 29, 2021 at 07:46 PM (#6049976)
Of the 66 starts in this postseason, only 28 lasted at least 5 innings. A few were planned bullpen days, but even adjusting, probably only half go 5.

Thing is, this is less different from the regular season than I'd like it to be. The average regular season start this year lasted 5.02 innings. I don't have more granular data available, but I'd guess that we're a more-available Dodgers rotation away from the regular season and postseason starting splits being pretty similar.
   11. Jose Canusee Posted: October 29, 2021 at 09:18 PM (#6049986)
Much as we see starters shine in relief (Bumgarner, Johnson) as much as in their starts it's easy to think of previous decades as starters going 6-7 and a pair of relievers trying to hold the lead. I remember the 1972 A's-Reds series and didn't recall the A's brought in their top two starters (Hunter and Holtzman) who each threw 16 CG in the regular season, in relief in game 7. After Holtzman gave up a Joe Morgan double in the 8th, Rollie Fingers came in for a two inning save.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: October 29, 2021 at 10:10 PM (#6049993)
MLB: fewer innings from great pitchers
NBA: fewer games/minutes played by great players
NFL: fewer exciting long passing attempts/completions
NHL: fewer goals scored by.... anybody
PGA: fewer strategic decisions on the tee at a par-5

nobody's going broke, but I still wonder if this is the way to maximize revenue/fan interest
   13. Walt Davis Posted: October 29, 2021 at 10:25 PM (#6049994)
#10: That average is deflated somewhat by the use of openers. I doubt if makes a big difference but every opener start of 1 inning pulls back 4 starts of 6 innings.

If I did my stathead search correctly (don't count on it), that might be a bit on the decline actually. For most of the 2000s, there would be 25 to 45 starts of 1 inning or less. Presumably nearly all of those were injuries, suckitude or maybe one or two emergency starts when the starter pulled up lame. Then in 2018, there were 95; in 2019 there were 147; in 2020 there were 52 ... so about 130 over a full season; in 2021, it was down to 114. The trend looks fairly similar if we use 2 or fewer innings.

Anyway, it's not a big deal -- about 2.5 to 3% of all starts are <=1 IP; a bit more than twice that are <=2 IP. Pretend they all would have been 5 inning starts otherwise and you still only push the average out by maybe 1/3 of an inning. Still, ideally we'd have a way of flagging thos starts and, when you do see somebody like Ryan Yarbrough then enter the game, treat him as the starter for these purposes. Surely this is all only going to get messier in the coming years. The Rays this year had 753 starter IP and 703 reliever IP. I think that was the most extreme but for MLB as a whole, the ratio is just 4/3 (or 5/4 obviously with adjustments for no b9, extras, shortened games, etc.).
   14. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 29, 2021 at 11:50 PM (#6050023)
#10: That average is deflated somewhat by the use of openers. I doubt if makes a big difference but every opener start of 1 inning pulls back 4 starts of 6 innings.

I mean, that's true, but there have also been openers used in the playoffs. Collin McHugh opened for the Rays in G4 of the LDS, Corey Knebel twice and Joe Kelly once for the Dodgers, Jesse Chavez once for the Braves. Both sets of numbers are affected.
   15. dejarouehg Posted: October 30, 2021 at 07:01 AM (#6050032)
MLB: fewer innings from great pitchers
NBA: fewer games/minutes played by great players
NFL: fewer exciting long passing attempts/completions
NHL: fewer goals scored by.... anybody




This is why I appreciate that I got to see much of what I believe was the best era in sports. Though I assume most people probably feel this way. Seaver/Jenkins - though I missed out on much of Mays/Mantle, MJ & Clyde, Bradshaw/Jerry Rice, Gretzky/Lemieux/Islanders - this was a great time to be younger and love sports.

Those days are gone.
   16. McCoy Posted: October 30, 2021 at 07:35 AM (#6050034)
Having 3 studs generally leads to a lot of wins during the regular season as well. So what happened to the Astros in 2005? Well, they went 15-17 when Clemens started. Helped by not scoring a run 4 times and only scoring 1 run once. They didn't have a very good offense that year.
   17. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 30, 2021 at 10:50 AM (#6050046)
Much as we see starters shine in relief (Bumgarner, Johnson) as much as in their starts it's easy to think of previous decades as starters going 6-7 and a pair of relievers trying to hold the lead. I remember the 1972 A's-Reds series and didn't recall the A's brought in their top two starters (Hunter and Holtzman) who each threw 16 CG in the regular season, in relief in game 7. After Holtzman gave up a Joe Morgan double in the 8th, Rollie Fingers came in for a two inning save.

The A's third starter that year was Vida Blue, and after having been the starter in 23 of his 25 regular season appearances, when the postseason came along he was used in relief 8 times before finally getting (and losing) a start in game 6 of the World Series. His relief stints ranged from facing just one batter in game 1 of the LCS to a clutch 4 inning save in Oakland's 3-2 win in the deciding 5th game of that series.
   18. Space Force fan Posted: October 30, 2021 at 03:52 PM (#6050099)
This has always bugged me.

The current system rewards teams with a top-heavy rotation (a stud ace or two) and penalizes teams with a rotation more balanced 1-through-5 that may have been a large reason for that team's regular-season success.


This is why I can't get behind the obsession some people have with stacking the playoff rules to help the "best" regular season team and punish the wild card teams. The wild card team might be much better designed to win in the post season than the division winners. If you don't want WC teams to win the WS, don't put them in the playoffs. Don't unduly handicap them to help the regular season best teams which might be weaker playoff teams. It comes across as a pure money grab. I will artificially keep you from winning, but I want all the money associated with more playoff teams.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: October 30, 2021 at 05:07 PM (#6050122)
#14: Agreed. I wasn't trying to address/dispute that the usage is similar in postseason, just addressing the question of how many innings "starters" pitch per start.

On starters in relief in the postseason: if anything, it seems to me this was more common in the old days. Of course without relief specialists or maybe 1-2 firemen per team, it was more obvious. Nobody was the least bit confused as to whether you were better off with Vida Blue instead of Bob Locker (a fine reliever) in the game.

Huh, Locker must be one of the earliest relief specialists -- 576 games, zero starts, debuted in 1965. He was a starter in the minors of course, threw over 220 innings in his two seasons there -- the world has changed.
   20. nick swisher hygiene Posted: October 30, 2021 at 05:35 PM (#6050126)
18–I’d agree with you if the regular season and the playoffs were separate entities with equal value. But if the playoffs are meant to determine the year’s best team, it’s entirely coherent to make playoff baseball as similar to regular season baseball as possible.

I’d love to see stuff like, oh, first round of the playoffs is a 4-game series at the park of the team with the better record, who also advances with a split. An outcome where the worse regular season team wins only 15-20% of playoff series wouldn’t hurt the game a bi
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: October 31, 2021 at 06:26 PM (#6050391)
I get Salvo's point in the first post, but I just don't really agree with it. I also don't disagree with it, but I like to think that the post season difference, should reflect top heavy teams. At least three deep. I think that in other sports the champion puts their best players on the field in the post season, baseball doesn't do that... and I kinda want to see the best of the best win it all, but since pitchers do probably contribute more to a team victory than any other position in any other sport, I'm fine with saying "three deep" for the rotation. I generally don't want to see a number four or five starter if I'm tuning into a game (with notable exceptions such as Braves of the past and Dodgers of current) And I do think that the post season should be about the best of the best.
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: October 31, 2021 at 06:31 PM (#6050393)
Of the 66 starts in this postseason, only 28 lasted at least 5 innings. A few were planned bullpen days, but even adjusting, probably only half go 5.


I can't talk about this post season, but generally speaking if a team pulls comfortably ahead in the post season with a stud pitcher, teams are more comfortable pulling him to hopefully save him for anything they might need earlier. It's a strategy that is used, but not enough to move those numbers, but yes, if the Cardinals are winning 8-2 in the fourth inning with Flaherty/Waino pitching, I fully expect them to be pulled (unless it's a game six or seven) soon no matter how smoothly he's pitching. At the same time, in the post season teams generally only rely on their proven relievers and have every intention of riding them until they drop (knowing that there is never going to be more than 3 consecutive games.) So they are probably a bit more aggressive in replacing their pitchers.
   23. Walt Davis Posted: November 01, 2021 at 04:37 PM (#6050558)
CFB -- but in fact we don't often see top starters pulled early with big leads, even in the playoffs. Maybe after 7 but rarely (ever?) before they've qualified for the win.

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