Postseason of the Starting Pitcher

Since playoffs were expanded to include the wild card round in 1995, there have been 103 starting pitcher performances that have resulted in a game score of 75 or more. That’s an average of 5.42 per year. This year’s total of 11 is more than twice the average, and is equaled only by the 11 such outings in 2010.

We’ll take a look at 2013’s 11 performances after the jump.

Rk Player Date Series Gm# Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc WPA
1 Michael Wacha 2013-10-18 NLCS 6 STL LAD W 9-0 GS-7 ,W 7.0 2 0 0 1 5 0 95 63 77 0.207
2 Justin Verlander 2013-10-15 ALCS 3 DET BOS L 0-1 GS-8 ,L 8.0 4 1 1 1 10 1 120 85 79 0.277
3 Max Scherzer 2013-10-13 ALCS 2 DET BOS L 5-6 GS-7 7.0 2 1 1 2 13 0 108 69 80 0.331
4 Anibal Sanchez 2013-10-12 ALCS 1 DET BOS W 1-0 GS-6 ,W 6.0 0 0 0 6 12 0 116 66 78 0.366
5 Zack Greinke 2013-10-11 NLCS 1 LAD STL L 2-3 GS-8 8.0 4 2 2 1 10 0 104 68 75 0.268
6 Justin Verlander 2013-10-10 ALDS 5 DET OAK W 3-0 GS-8 ,W 8.0 2 0 0 1 10 0 111 76 87 0.416
7 Michael Wacha 2013-10-07 NLDS 4 STL PIT W 2-1 GS-8 ,W 7.1 1 1 1 2 9 1 96 60 79 0.249
8 Justin Verlander 2013-10-05 ALDS 2 DET OAK L 0-1 GS-7 7.0 4 0 0 1 11 0 117 73 79 0.427
9 Sonny Gray 2013-10-05 ALDS 2 OAK DET W 1-0 GS-8 8.0 4 0 0 2 9 0 111 65 81 0.529
10 Clayton Kershaw 2013-10-03 NLDS 1 LAD ATL W 6-1 GS-7 ,W 7.0 3 1 1 3 12 0 124 77 76 0.194
11 Adam Wainwright 2013-10-03 NLDS 1 STL PIT W 9-1 GS-7 ,W 7.0 3 1 1 0 9 1 105 71 76 0.160
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/23/2013.

Choosing 75 as the cutoff might seem arbitrary, but it’s not. At 75, 102 of the 103 games since 1995 were outings of seven innings or more, with Anibal Sanchez’s 12-strikeout, no-hit performance in this year’s ALCS being the exception. Reducing the cutoff to 74 would result in four out of 122 games of less than seven innings, including John Lackey’s ALCS game 3.

A few comments about this year’s list:

  • The starting pitcher’s team actually lost four of the 11 games, with Detroit on the wrong end of three of them, including two of the three pitched by Justin Verlander.
  • St. Louis can claim three such performances, two by rookie Michael Wacha and one by Adam Wainwright, while their World Series opponent is the only LCS participant with no pitchers on the list.
  • In both of Wacha’s performances, he threw less than 100 pitches in 7+ innings. It’s doubtful he’ll be able to be as efficient against Boston, so he’ll likely have to run up a higher pitch count in order to get through seven innings.
  • Verlander’s ALDS-clinching performance (8 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 10 SO, 0 R) is still the gold standard of this postseason.

Of course, there’s still the World Series to be played, so there’s a chance 2013 will separate itself from 2010 by this measure of starting pitcher performance. In fact, there’s been at least one such performance in each of the last four World Series (2012 – Madison Bumgarner; 2011 – Derek Holland, Jaime Garcia; 2010 – Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner; 2009 – Cliff Lee).

It would seem obvious to say Wainwright–who also recorded a 78 game score in 2009’s NLDS–and Wacha are the most likely pitchers to add to this total, although Red Sox starters Jon Lester and John Lackey–who accomplished the feat 11 years ago in the ALCS–are strong candidates as well.

Anything else to add? What starting pitchers do you think have the best chance of posting a game score of 75 or more in this year’s World Series?

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John Autin
Editor
8 years ago

I doubt that any Boston starter will notch a 75 Game Score in this series. They’ve had just one of 70+ in this postseason, a 74 by Lackey in ALCS game 3, and just one start of 7+ innings. The Cards had the NL’s 2nd-lowest batter K rate, and strikeouts are a big component of Game Score. Boston’s deep bullpen makes it more unlikely that a SP will go long enough for a 75. As for Wacha, I wonder about his stamina. He’s now logged 171 IP this year, counting minors and playoffs, after just 21 last year, his first… Read more »

James Smyth
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

76 Game Score for Lester tonight

John Autin
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

“John’s hobbies include being proven wrong as quickly as possible.”

… as Lester departs with a 76 Game Score.

Bryan O'Connor
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

While we’re proving John wrong, or in this case suggesting he might be, is Boston’s bullpen “deep”? Uehara and Breslow are dominant and Tazawa has pitched well in the postseason, but Farrell’s been appropriately bashful about using anyone else in the pen. It seems to me that Boston’s success in the World Series hinges on getting 6+ innings from as many of their starters as possible. In contrast, the Cardinals have six reliable arms in the pen and can survive with a shorter outing from a starter. Of those six, all but Carlos Martinez had a regular season ERA better… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  Bryan O'Connor

Bryan — I do think Boston’s bullpen is “deep” in the sense that Farrell could comfortably expect to get 4 quality innings in any given game. Uehara, Tazawa, Breslow and Workman all have shown the ability to get 4+ outs in the postseason. I’m not comparing them to the Cardinals’ bullpen, merely saying that Farrell need not rely on getting 6+ IP from every starter, as Jim Leyland pretty much had to do. ALDS Game 2 — Lackey pulled after 5.1 IP (95 pitches), not allowed to face the tying run. ALDS Game 4 — Peavy pulled after 5.2 IP… Read more »

Doug
Doug
8 years ago

Verlander and Mike Mussina are the only pitchers with two post-season starts with game score of 75+ in a team loss.

There are 28 pitchers with one such start, including game 1 starter Adam Wainwright.

Doug
Doug
8 years ago

I mentioned this on David Hruska’s WS preview post, but there is very little precedence for a pitcher with a rookie season like Wacha’s to also start in that season’s World Series. But, the few comparable pitchers have done pretty well. – Duster Mails, 1920 – Had a 1.85 ERA in 63.1 IP. Pitched 6.2 shutout innings of relief in game 3, then got the start in game 6 with Cleveland down 3-2 in the series and pitched a 1-0 shutout over the Dodgers, allowing only 3 hits, good for an 83 game score. – Al Brazle, 1943 – Had… Read more »