As with defense in football, there's a maxim about pitching winning championships in baseball. After watching this postseason, it'd be hard to argue with the merits of that sentiment.
The Tigers breezed through the (supposedly) Brobdingnagian bats of the New York Yankees on the strength of their impeccable pitching, holding them to only six runs in a four-game sweep. Whether the Yankees were culpable in their own demise is debatable, but it hardly matters: Detroit made them look like the Astros and now have an AL pennant to show for it.
But they aren't the only ones throwing heat this October. Let's take a look at the five most dominant pitchers this postseason.
Stats: 3-0, 24.1 IP, 0.74 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 25 K
No surprises at the top.
Those who don't get to see Verlander pitch during the regular season have learned, unequivocally, that he is worth the hype. The gangly right-hander leads the postseason in innings, strikeouts, WHIP (for those with 7-plus innings), ERA (for those with 7-plus innings) and visceral dominance.
Stats: 2-0, 18.1 IP, 1.96 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 13 K
The Cardinals' surprise ace has continued his breakout 2012 campaign in October, leading the National League in innings and posting a sub-2.00 ERA.
Normally lauded for his middling consistency more than his dominance, Lohse has emerged as one of the league's best pitchers this year, despite his not-so-tender age of 33. Whether or not 2012 is a trend or an outlier remains to be seen, but for now, it appears the Cardinals might be able to ride Kyle Lohse to a World Series.
Never thought I'd be saying that one.
Stats: 1-0, 11.0 IP, 0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 18 K
Scherzer's dazzling performance in Game 4 of the ALCS was an appropriate coda to the Tigers' dominant run through the ALCS.
The capricious righty brought his A-game to Comerica, bringing a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and wreaking general havoc through the Yankees' overwhelmed lineup.
With 18 strikeouts in only 11 innings, Scherzer boasts an exorbitant 14.72 K/9––a fitting numerical reflection of just how dominant his stuff can be.
Stats: 1-0, 12.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9 K
On the whole, San Francisco has looked overmatched against St. Louis in the NLCS, but Ryan Vogelsong has stood his own personal ground.
The righty went seven strong in a Game 2 victory––the Giants' only one of the series thus far––allowing only one run and four hits.
On the heels of a similarly impressive performance against the Reds earlier this postseason, that start is enough to make Vogelsong one of October's highest performing pitchers.
Stats: 1-1, 13.1 IP, 1.35 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 10 K
If the Tigers were to make the World Series, people assumed it would be on the strength of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and their dominant offense. In fact, they were supposed to have a good year in spite of their pitching and defense.
Well, so much for that.
Anibal Sanchez's dominant postseason gives Detroit three of the five highest achievers in the league this October. What's more: Doug Fister, the Tigers' other starter, could have easily made the list as well. If this were a list of six, he'd probably be the next addition.
A trade deadline acquisition from Miami, Sanchez has infused Detroit with exactly what they needed: consistent middle-of-the-rotation talent. If he, and the rest of the rotation, keeps it up, the Giants or Cardinals would be hard-pressed to upend the Tigers.