MLB Playoffs 2013: Most Exciting Pitchers to Watch in Championship Series
As exciting as big-time hits can be in the MLB playoffs, some of the best pitchers in all of baseball are still standing in the AL and NL Championship Series, and the performances we will see from them will be just as thrilling.
There were some very impressive pitching performances in the Division Series. We saw Sonny Gray toss eight shutout innings for the Oakland Athletics in Game 2 of the ALDS, striking out nine batters in the process. We also saw Michael Wacha bring a no-hitter into the eighth inning before getting blasted for a home run.
With just four teams remaining, let's take a look at the biggest pitchers left in the playoffs, followed by a breakdown of what has made them so good.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
When it comes to dominant pitchers, there might not be a better one than Clayton Kershaw.
A 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 232 strikeouts and 236 innings pitched in the regular season makes Kershaw the clear front-runner for the NL Cy Young Award. He's been even more dominant in his two playoff starts, pitching 13 innings while allowing just six hits and one earned run.
Kershaw has three absolutely deadly pitches with his four-seam fastball, slider and curveball. According to Pitch f/x data from Baseball Prospectus, Kershaw's four-seamer has more vertical movement than any other starting pitcher in the majors.
The curve for Kershaw is one of the best in baseball. According to FanGraphs.com, his curveball has a pitch value of 11.6, the fourth-highest in the majors behind A.J. Burnett, Adam Wainwright and Stephen Strasburg.
We will see Kershaw pitch again in Game 2 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals will bring out their own star pitcher in Game 3 of the series.
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
While Kershaw has the NL Cy Young locked up for the 2013 season, Adam Wainwright still had an absolutely fantastic season in the National League.
Which NL team will advance to the World Series?
Wainwright finished the regular season with a 19-9 record, posting a 2.94 ERA and striking out 219 batters in 241.2 innings. He pitched in five complete games during the season, including two shutouts.
His two outings against the Pittsburgh Pirates were quite impressive in the NLDS. He pitched seven innings and allowed just one earned run in a 9-1 victory during Game 1, then finished the series in Game 5 with a complete game, allowing one run and striking out six in the series-clinching win.
The curveball is Wainwright's best pitch, much like Kershaw's. Based off of those pitch value numbers from FanGraphs.com, Wainwright's curve was the second-best in the majors with a value of 17.1.
Combined with a four-seam fastball, sinker and cutter, Wainwright has a great repertoire to take down any opposing batting order.
Like I said earlier, we will see Wainwright in Game 3 of the NLCS, although everyone would agree that it would be amazing to see both Kershaw and Wainwright pitch in the same game.
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
As crazy as it would have sounded at the beginning of the season, Justin Verlander was not the best pitcher on the Tigers in 2013. That title was instead given to Max Scherzer, who simply lit it up this season, and should be the AL Cy Young Award winner.
In 32 starts this past season, Scherzer was terrific. He had an ERA of just 2.90, held opposing batters to just a .198 average, struck out 240 batters and boasted a 21-3 record.
Scherzer only started one game against the Athletics, but it was a good one. He pitched seven innings, allowing two runs and three hits while striking out 11 batters in the win. He then came on in relief in Game 4, pitching two innings and allowing just one run to take another win.
The Tigers' pitcher throws a simply filthy fastball, with some of the best movement you'll see anywhere. He'll usually throw that fastball at around 94 miles per hour, while also throwing a nice sinker, changeup, slider and curveball. According to Brooks Baseball, hitters only had a .199 average against Scherzer's slider.
Scherzer will be starting Game 2 in the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, but it will be no easy task. With sluggers like David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in the lineup, Scherzer will have to be very careful in how he pitches to this stacked batting order.
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