Which MLB Rotation Is Built Best to Dominate a Short Playoff Series?

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Which MLB Rotation Is Built Best to Dominate a Short Playoff Series?
Jason Miller/Getty Images
It's scary to think that Max Scherzer might not even start Game 1 of a playoff series for the Detroit Tigers' crazy-good rotation.

Pitching in the MLB postseason is a different animal.

It's one thing to have a strong rotation during the regular season, when teams are grinding through 162 games, and simply having dependable starters who can take the ball every fifth day is almost as important as them actually pitching well.

Dominating in October against the best lineups in the game? Totally different thing.

There is no shortage of great pitching in baseball this year, but to really determine what rotations are ready to get it done in the playoffs, there are some key factors to dissect.

In other words, having the best rotation ERA to this point in 2013, as the Los Angeles Dodgers do, is great, but besting top competition in a short series requires some deeper, underlying performance factors.

Like these.

For each of the following metrics, we're going to highlight the top half of the 15 current contenders—any team that is within 10 games of a playoff spot and owns a .500 record. Sorry, Washington Nationals, but having a 56-60 record outweighs being eight games out of the second NL wild-card spot.

All statistics through August 9

 

Strikeout Stuff

The more strikeouts a rotation generates with swing-and-miss stuff, the more likely those hurlers are to dominate in the postseason.

Here are the top seven contender rotations in strikeout percentage:

 

Walk This Way

Walks aren't necessarily an indication of owning the opposition, but keeping runners off the basepaths makes it much easier to avoid big innings and pitch really well.

Here are the top seven contender rotations in walk percentage:

 

Stay Grounded

Getting ground balls, much like preventing walks, isn't as sexy as stockpiling strikeouts. Still, grounders typically result in fewer extra-base hits, and at last check, no worm-burner has ever gone over a fence.

Here are the top seven contender rotations in ground-ball percentage:

 

FIP It Good

One of the better overarching pitching metrics is Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which is scaled to look like ERA and essentially measures the aspects of pitching that the hurler has most control over—namely strikeouts, walks and homers.

Here are the top seven contender rotations in FIP: 

 

The Top Contender

To this point, we've not only examined four different key component stats that indicate a rotation has what it takes to dominate a postseason series, we've also highlighted the top seven contenders in each category.

Here's the final tally:

There you have it, folks. The Detroit Tigers' rotation—Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister (with Rick Porcello as the "if-needed" option)—is the only one to place in the top seven among contenders in each of the four metrics.

And in case you didn't notice, the Tigers also ranked No. 1 in all of MLB in strikeout percentage and FIP, while checking in at fourth overall in ground-ball percentage and sixth overall in walk percentage.

That adds up to a mean staff—one that is capable of owning October.

 

All statistics come from FanGraphs and are valid through August 9

 

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