Monday, November 30, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are better off than some of the other teams whose victories we've reviewed - but not overwhelmingly so, having never reached the World Series and only winning 16 postseason games to date in their 39-year history. In fact, it took nearly 20 years for them to reach the playoffs for the first time, and by that point, the possibility existed that the team would be moved out of Seattle.

Any Mariner fan reading this already knows what came next - and the result is Seattle's entry here. 1995 ALDS Game 5: Mariners 6, Yankees 5 (11). The pitching matchup features David Cone for the second straight entry here; this time, the itinerant ace took the mound for the Yankees, facing off with Andy Benes, whose two-month stint with the Mariners completely escaped my attention (probably because it was rather forgettable; his ERA was over 5).

Friday, November 20, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have two major advantages on their former Canadian brethren. First, they've won two World Series titles, and made the playoffs a few more times (including this year).

Second, they still exist. So they have that going for them, which is nice.

The more famous of Toronto's back-to-back world titles is 1993, which featured both the highest-scoring game in World Series history and a come-from-behind Series-ending walkoff homer. So naturally, WPL is bypassing both of those games in favor of the best entry from the previous year.

1992 World Series Game 6: Blue Jays 4, Braves 3 (11). The pitching matchup was David Cone, who at 29 had been traded for the first time in midseason, thereby putting him on the wandering ace path that would define the latter part of his excellent career, against Steve Avery, a 22-year-old lefty coming off of back-to-back 35-start, 115 ERA+ seasons, who fit in nicely with the other two young aces on the Atlanta staff (for now).

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Montreal Expos

The best postseason win for the Expos was, of course, the seventh game of the 1994 World Series, in which the greatest Expo team of all time, led by star outfielders Larry Walker and Moises Alou, plus a pitching staff including ace Ken Hill, emergent Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, and stud closer John Wetteland, beat the Yankees in a 15-inning thriller. It was, in fact, the greatest game that was never played.

But since we're constrained by the need to describe actual events, we'll go with the best of a limited set of options - 1981 NLDS Game 1: Expos 3, Phillies 1. Montreal started the best pitcher in team history, Steve Rogers, whose nickname obviously would have been Captain America if he'd played for almost any other team. Despite Rogers' excellence, they were still at a disadvantage against Philly's Steve Carlton, a Hall of Famer whose third-place finish in the '81 Cy Young voting was sandwiched between a pair of wins.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals have now existed for eleven years. In those eleven years, they have made the playoffs twice, and in both of those appearances, they have lost their first series.

So we're not drowning in a sea of options here. Fortunately, one of the team's three postseason wins is pretty good - 2012 NLDS Game 1: Nationals 3, Cardinals 2. The game matched up (maybe) the best pitchers on each team - Adam Wainwright, who had missed 2011 due to Tommy John surgery and spent 2012 still showing the effects, and Gio Gonzalez, who I believe became the first starter ever to win 20 games without throwing 200 innings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Washington Senators

The Washington Senators were one of the original American League franchises in 1901, and relocated to Minnesota in 1961. (They were replaced by another iteration of the Senators that year; that team would relocate to Texas a decade later and become the Rangers. The second Senators did not make a single postseason appearance, so this is the only mention they'll get in this series.)

In their 60 years of existence, the original Senators won the AL pennant a total of three times. They weren't quite the St. Louis Browns, but they still very much earned the line: "First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League." They were so bad, in fact, that even the presence of arguably the greatest pitcher in baseball history wasn't enough to pull them entirely out of the doldrums; in the first 17 years of Walter Johnson's career (1907-1923), they had fewer winning records (6) than bottom-two finishes (7), only twice finished within 10 games of first, and won no pennants.

Until 1924, that is. The 36-year-old Johnson was still effective that year, and finally had a quality team built around him, with future Hall of Famers Goose Goslin and Sam Rice in the outfield, future AL MVP Roger Peckinpaugh at shortstop, and a solid group of pitchers, including Firpo Marberry, regarded as one of the first relief aces. (He had almost as many starts - 14 - as saves - 15 - in 1924. Suffice it to say that the "relief ace" standards have changed a little in the intervening 90 years.)

That team finally claimed Washington's first pennant, setting up a World Series against the New York Giants, who had won their fourth NL flag in a row. The Series itself was a really good one, and culminated in one of the most famous games in baseball history.

Game 7, 1924 World Series: Senators 4, Giants 3 (12).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Minnesota Twins

The two best postseason games the Twins have ever won are probably the two you would expect: Game 6 and Game 7 of the astounding 1991 World Series. Both games check all of the boxes you could hope for in a best postseason win - hugely important, team won the World Series, legendary plays, heroic individual performances (or sports-heroic, at least).

So naturally, I am picking... neither of them. Instead, I'm going to cheat just slightly and pick a game that's not technically from the postseason - but it may as well have been, and in terms of in-game excitement, it easily surpasses both of the 1991 contests.

It's the 2009 AL Central one-game playoff: Twins 6, Tigers 5 (12). Both teams had to play all-out through the scheduled end of the regular season, so neither necessarily had the starter it wanted available for this game; however, the Twins were still able to use Scott Baker, who was roughly as good as ostensible ace Nick Blackburn, while the Tigers had a much larger dropoff from Justin Verlander to Rick Porcello.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Best Postseason Win: Kansas City Royals

Game 1, 2015 World Series: Royals 5, Mets 4 (14). In 2013, Matt Harvey was a phenom, posting a 2.27 ERA in 178.1 innings; meanwhile, Edinson Volquez put up a 5.71 figure spread across two NL West teams, both of whom play in pitcher's parks.

In 2014, their fortunes were sharply reversed. Volquez cut his ERA nearly in half, going for a 3.04 mark in Pittsburgh, while Harvey missed the entire year after Tommy John surgery.

And in 2015, both pitchers were very good (13-8, 2.71 for Harvey; 13-9, 3.55 for Volquez), and they faced off in Game 1 of the World Series.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

2015 MLB Postseason: The statistical view

With baseball season having wrapped up, it's time to return to one of my favorite topics: postseason statistics, We'll look at the MVPs and LVPs in both pitching and hitting, then introduce a series that will carry me through the rest of this year.