Watching home runs and clutch hits is always exciting in baseball, but a dominant pitcher can completely shut down any batting order in the MLB playoffs and bring his team one step closer to the World Series.
The division series round is now underway after the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays were able to advance after winning their respective wild-card games. Now, both teams will have to depend on great pitching to stop their opponents' dangerous offenses.
Some of the most dominant pitchers over the past few seasons are in this year's postseason, from guys with sizzling fastballs to others with incredible command. There are so many to talk about, but here are the most exciting ones to watch over the next week.
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
It's been a wild few days for the Rays, winning two consecutive sudden-death games against the Texas Rangers and then the Cleveland Indians. Now, they will be taking on the Boston Red Sox, and David Price is going to be called upon to cool down their red-hot bats.
Price was the deciding factor in the Rays' 5-2 win over the Rangers. He allowed two earned runs and seven hits while striking out four batters in a complete-game victory, throwing 118 pitches.
This has been another great year for Price, as he went 10-8 with an ERA of 3.33 and 151 strikeouts. That ERA was up from 2.56 in 2012, but his WHIP stayed the same at 1.10.
What makes Price so deadly is his pinpoint command, which is arguably the best in baseball. He finds the strike zone with ease, walking only 27 batters in 186.2 inning pitched.
Since his return from the DL with a triceps injury he suffered in May, Price has looked like his dominant old self. The Rays are going to use their workhorse in this series, but it's going to be no easy task going against the likes of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
After so much talk and hype surrounding Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer has somehow found a way to be an even more dominant pitcher than the former Cy Young and AL MVP award winner.
A 21-3 season with a 2.90 ERA has Scherzer as the front-runner for this season's AL Cy Young award. He's had a WHIP of just under one at 0.97, and opposing batters are hitting just .198 against him.
Scherzer's fastball is just plain nasty. It doesn't have the same velocity of Verlander's, but the movement on it is just not fair to opposing hitters. His changeup and slider throw off hitters' bat speed and make that fastball even more deadly, leading to batters looking foolish.
According to FanGraphs.com, his average velocity for his fastball was 93.3 miles per hour, while his changeup was at 84.6 mph.
The former first-round pick will be taking on a solid batting order with the Oakland Athletics in Game 1, but that won't stop this guy from keeping up the pace and shutting their whole lineup down.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
When it comes to pitchers, there's not a better starter in the majors right now than Clayton Kershaw.
There's no question who the ace is on this deep pitching staff. Kershaw has been the go-to guy all year for the Dodgers, tossing 236 innings this season. In those innings, he's been incredible, with an ERA of just 1.83, a WHIP of 0.92, 232 strikeouts and just 11 home runs given up.
How does Kershaw do it all? Those three nearly unhittable pitches in his repertoire will do it.
We start with the fastball, which has some unbelievable late movement. Baseball Prospectus has the pitch leading the majors with a 12.18 vertical movement according to their Pitch f/x.
The slider is one of the best in game, with a slider pitch value of 5.3 according to FanGraphs.com. But above all, the curveball from Kershaw is the best in the league. Opposing batters simply can't make contact with it, and he does a great job using it at just the right times to throw his opponents off.
If this series drags out to Game 4 or 5, there's a good chance we see Kershaw twice in this series. He's logged so many innings over the past three seasons, yet he's never been on the DL for any reason.
It's safe to say that there aren't any worries about Kershaw's arm right now, and that means more than a couple of appearances from Kershaw this postseason, especially if the Dodgers can get past the Atlanta Braves.
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