20 Must-Know Facts, Stats of the 2013 League Championship Series
After six months of regular-season baseball, two wild-card games and four Division Series across the sport, four teams remain alive in the quest for the 2013 World Series championship.
Starting this weekend, the American and National League Championship Series will begin in Boston and St. Louis, respectively.
Here are 20 must-know facts and stats about the 2013 League Championship Series.
All facts and stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com or MLB PR, unless otherwise noted.
1. The St. Louis Cardinals Have Been an LCS Fixture Since 2000
As Will Leitch pointed out on Twitter, the St. Louis Cardinals have taken up permanent residence in late October.
Since the 2000 season, the upcoming NLCS will mark St. Louis' eighth trip to this round of the postseason in 14 years.
If you're a young fan who remembers baseball in the aftermath of the Yankees' dynasty of the late '90s, St. Louis is likely the team that resonates when the word "winning" comes to mind.
2. 2013 Is the Year of the Rookie Pitcher in the Postseason
When Sonny Gray threw the first pitch of Thursday night's Game 5 of the LDS between Oakland and Detroit, it marked the eighth rookie pitcher to start a postseason game already in 2013.
By the time St. Louis' Michael Wacha and Los Angeles' Hyun-Jin Ryu toe the rubber in the LCS, and then again for one of them in the World Series, the number will have grown.
Prior to the season, the record was six. By the end of this October, more than 10 postseason games may have been started by rookie pitchers.
3. Los Angeles and St. Louis Have Combined for 38 Pennants and 17 World Series
Outside of the New York Yankees, few teams can tout their rich, storied history like the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Expect Fox to rehash the history and great players in the respective pasts of each franchise yet incorporate the current superstars into the fabric of this classic National League rivalry.
4. Carlos Beltran Is 1 of the Greatest Postseason Hitters in History
Carlos Beltran isn't just a good postseason performer, he's a legendary hitter when the calender flips to October. After two home runs in the Division Series against Pittsburgh, Beltran now has 16 career playoff home runs in just 142 at-bats.
That comes out to a home run once every 8.8 at-bats.
To put that number into perspective, Mark McGwire hit a home run once every 7.2 at-bats during his 70-home run season of 1998. When the stakes are highest, Beltran's power is nearly on par with one of the great power-hitting seasons in the history of the sport.
5. St. Louis Was the Best Team with RISP Since 1974
According to STATS LLC (via MLB.com), in 2013, the St. Louis Cardinals posted the highest team batting average with RISP (runners in scoring position) since 1974, the first year of reliable statistics on the number.
In other words, by posting a composite .330 batting average in those situations, St. Louis can call itself the best clutch-hitting team in the recorded history of the sport.
6. Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw Dominate with RISP
When trying to slow down the juggernaut Cardinals with runners on base, the Dodgers can take solace when their aces, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, are on the mound.
During the season, hitters batted just .202 off Greinke with RISP. Against Kershaw that number dipped to .180. Both figures were among the best in baseball and counteract what St. Louis does best.
7. Ricky Nolasco Stumbled Through September
During Ricky Nolasco's first 12 starts in a Dodgers uniform, his performance was one of the major reasons for the resurgence in Los Angeles. After arriving in an early July deal from Miami, Nolasco posted a 2.07 ERA for the NL West champions between July 9 and September 9.
Since then? The dominance has disappeared. Part of the reason why Dodgers manager Don Mattingly skipped Nolasco's turn in the LDS rotation? An 11.77 ERA down the stretch during September, including three straight starts of at least five earned runs allowed.
Unless Greinke and Kershaw can pitch on little to no rest, Nolasco is going to have to toe the rubber against St. Louis at some point during the NLCS.
8. Cardinals-Dodgers LCS History
Considering the long, storied history of the Dodgers and Cardinals, it would be natural to think that the two teams have faced off many times in the National League postseason. Yet, the upcoming NLCS will mark just the fourth time the two franchises have played in October.
The others: 1985, 2004 and 2009.
While the last two meetings were in the LDS, the 1985 battle was for the right to represent the National League in the World Series.
As fate would have it, an Ozzie Smith home run in Game 5 would prompt Cardinals announcer Jack Buck to utter this famous call: "Go crazy, folks! Go crazy! It's a home run, and the Cardinals have won the game, by the score of 3 to 2, on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!"
9. Los Angeles Has Been Prepping for St. Louis
As Mark Saxson of ESPN Los Angeles pointed out recently, the Dodgers have been prepping for this potential NLCS since mid-September.
While all teams have advanced scouts on the road to file reports on upcoming opponents, the Dodgers took their work a step further by laying the ground work for reports on St. Louis' players a month before a potential series could begin.
Kershaw's ERA Best Since Pedro, Maddux
Clayton Kershaw isn't just great, he's head and shoulders above his current peers. In fact, the only way to put the season of the soon-to-be Cy Young winner into perspective is to compare his ERA (1.83) to the two most recent pitchers to post a similar totals.
Kershaw's ERA was the best in baseball since Pedro Martinez's 1.74 in 2000. It was tops in the National League since Greg Maddux's 1.63 in 1995.
Holding an ERA under 2.00 for a season is an accomplishment by itself, but even more remarkable when considering how great Martinez and Maddux were and how no one has done it since.
Boston and Detroit Have Never Played in the Postseason
Despite both being residents of the American League since 1908, the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers have never, ever played in the postseason.
Before you remind me that they couldn't have before the LCS format came to be in 1968 and/or they both were in the same half of the American League until 1995, it's still a quirky fact.
Two old, historic American League franchises have never met. Until now.
Miguel Cabrera Owns Jon Lester
Since debuting in 2006, Jon Lester has been one of the best, most durable starting pitchers in baseball. Over 1,376.1 innings pitched, the Red Sox left-hander has pitched to a 3.76 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .205/.320/.383 line.
Of course, there are always exceptions.
For Lester, a glaring one has been Tigers right-handed slugger Miguel Cabrera. In 24 plate appearances, the 2012 AL MVP has tattooed Lester to the tune of a .296/.406/.593 line with two home runs. Despite the prowess of Lester as one of the best pitchers in the sport, Cabrera has hit him like any other arm.
13. Daniel Nava Exhausts Pitchers
The 2013 Red Sox offense has been described as relentless and overwhelming during the TBS coverage of the ALDS. Part of the reason for their ability to make life difficult on opposing pitchers: Daniel Nava.
Pegged here as a possible unsung hero in the postseason, Nava brought his patience to the table during ALDS plate appearances. In seven trips to the plate, Nava saw 43 pitches.
He may not always be the one doing the damage, but Nava's ability to wear out the opposition can change ensuing at-bats for other Red Sox hitters.
14. Quintin Berry Has Never Been Caught Stealing
Red Sox outfielder Quintin Berry, ironically acquired in a midseason trade with the Detroit Tigers, won't be in the starting lineup for the Red Sox offense during the ALCS, but don't discount his ability to play a major role in these games.
After swiping three bags during the ALDS, Berry is now 27-for-27 in his career when stealing bases. He's never, ever been caught at the major league level.
If Berry is needed in a big spot, we could be reminded of what Dave Roberts did for the Red Sox in 2004.
15. Detroit Was Mediocre Down the Stretch
Despite capturing a third consecutive American League Central crown, the Tigers did not play great baseball over the final third of the regular season.
Heading into October, Detroit was 25-24 in its final 49 games. After ousting Oakland in a five-game ALDS, that figure is still just 28-26 over a 54-game sample.
It doesn't mean Detroit can't find a way to win four games against Boston, but don't expect the term "hot" and "Tigers" to be used together during the ensuing broadcasts.
16. Joaquin Benoit Has Struggled in Fenway Park
Long-term contracts for relievers in their 30s tend to be poor business decisions, but the Tigers' move to bring in veteran right-hander Joaquin Benoit before the 2011 season has worked out very, very well. Of course, that's as long as he's not pitching in Fenway Park.
Since arriving in Detroit, Benoit has posted a 2.89 ERA and saved 28 games. His ability to take over the closer spot in Jim Leyland's bullpen solidified a group that was struggling to assign roles and find consistency early in the season.
Benoit is good, but his career numbers in Fenway Park aren't.
In 15 career games in Boston, Benoit has posted a 5.18 ERA in 33 innings pitched. If he gets in a jam during any of the games in Boston during the ALCS, expect to hear about his struggles in the park.
17. Craig Breslow Isn't Just a LOOGY
Due to the specialization of bullpens and variety of hard-throwing options for each manager late in close games, it's easy to just assume a pitcher like Red Sox lefty Craig Breslow is nothing but a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy).
The problem for opposing managers: He's more than that.
During the ALDS, right-handed hitters went just 2-for-10 off Breslow. During the regular season, opposing righties hit .205 off him.
When John Farrell summons Breslow into a tight game during the LCS, it won't just be to retire Prince Fielder. He'll likely stay in to face tough right-handed hitters as well.
18. Boston's Game 1 ALDS Performance Best Since 1936 Yankees
During Boston's Game 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series, the team accomplished something not done since the 1936 Yankees accomplished it: Every starter in the lineup hit safely and scored at least one run.
The best offense in baseball isn't just good for 2013, it's accomplishing things not done since before World War II.
19. Boston's OBP Was Light-Years Ahead of League Average
As a team, the Boston Red Sox posted a .349 on-base percentage. That figure was .032 points above the major league average of .317.
Not only is that a stark contrast between Boston's ability to get on base compared to every other team in baseball, it's the biggest difference in years.
Dating back to 2000, no team has had a bigger gap between the top spot in team OBP and league average. Not the 2011 Cardinals, 2009 Yankees, 2007 Phillies, 2004 Red Sox or any other high-octane offense in 14 years.
20. Detroit Is Very Familiar with the ALCS Terrain
As Boston returns to the ALCS for the first time since October 2008, the Tigers will welcome their opponents to a place they are very familiar with.
This will mark the third consecutive season in which the Tigers will play in the American League Championship Series. After being ousted by the Texas Rangers in 2011, Detroit defeated the New York Yankees last October to reach the World Series.