MLB Playoff Predictions: Roy Halladay and the 20 Best Pitchers of October
As so dubbed by fans and critics across the country, the 2010 Major League Baseball season has been the Year of the Pitcher. This title is well deserved, as perfect games were thrown by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay and no-hitters were twirled by Ubaldo Jimenez, Edwin Jackson, and Matt Garza. And no one will forget the rather infamous 28-out perfect game that Armando Galaraga gave us.
With all the masterful performances given to us by the mound masters throughout the season, it is safe to assume that one of the most important components of this October will be the pitching, and so far, it has been. Therefore, a list ranking the top 20 pitchers of this postseason would be an valuable tool. Oh look, I happen to have a list of the top 20 right here!
Granted, due to the fact that there have been games played, this list has changed from its preliminary form. No pitcher has gained or lost more than three spots, but there has been several minor shakeups. So, enough talk, lets take a look at the list.
20. Phil Hughes
W/L: 18/8 ERA: 4.19 SO: 146 WHIP: 1.25 IP: 176.1 OPP AVG: .244
At the beginning of the season, one of the main discussions around the Yankee team was who was going to assume a starting role out of the bullpen: Phil Hughes or Jaba Chamberlain. Chamberlain was the prized rook, carefully managed and groomed for this role. But Phil Hughes had a phenomenal 2009 campaign out of the pen, providing a fairly reliable bridge to Mariano Rivera. Therefore, Hughes was given the job and has left very little doubt or regret.
As you can see, the numbers aren't dominant, or even impressive, but when it comes down to it, he is pitching for the Yankees. And just look at the record the accompanies the statistics. He has done everything needed of him. He has been a reliable third starter, kept his team in games, and is an 18 game winner, let me repeat, an 18 game winner. If he can continue his consistency through the playoffs, especially with the Yankee offense, they will be very hard to beat.
19. Matt Garza
W/L: 15/10 ERA: 3.91 SO: 150 WHIP: 1.25 IP: 204.2 OPP AVG: .248
The fact that a man with a no-hitter this year is this far down on the list is both a testament to the talented crop of pitchers this year and the horrible stretch run Garza had to end the year. When the Rays were at the peak of their year, early in the season, Garza was an integral part of their dominant staff. He was beginning to look human until his no-hitter, when people began to proclaim that all was well with Matt Garza after a pretty miserable June and July.
What followed was a superb August and then a horrendous September. Many fans, critics, and athletes alike will tell you the importance of entering the playoffs hot, and Matt Garza has done the complete opposite. While many would tell you that Garza would deserve a top 10 spot on this list after August, his September merits worse; therefore, he will stay at 19.
18. Johnny Cueto
W/L: 12/7 ERA: 3.64 SO: 138 WHIP: 1.28 IP: 185.2 OPP AVG: .257
Johnny Cueto is the wild card for the Cincinnati Reds, plain and simple. At times, he is masterful, controlling offenses with ease. And at other times, he just gets blown up. Cueto has always had the potential to be an ace, and for this staff, he is. However, in order for the Reds to establish themselves as a pereniall playoff team in this day and age, Cueto will have to pitch to his fullest potential.
In order to pitch to his potential, Cueto will also have to maintain his health, which has been in jeopardy in the last couple of years. However, if the Reds can turn the tide in their division matchup with the Phillies, Cueto will need to be fantastic.
17. Carl Pavano
W/L: 17/11 ERA: 3.75 SO: 117 WHIP: 1.19 IP: 221.0 OPP AVG: .266
Carl Pavano has to be one of the top 10 most consistent pitchers in the Major Leagues this year. He pounds the zone, has control of all his pitches, and managed to throw 221 innings, a solid number for any starter. However, he is the wrong pitcher to have to rely on at the top of the rotation come postseason time.
Once the postseason comes around, scouting reports have been developed, and the offenses have gotten much better. The two most discouraging statistics on this line are hiding conspicuously in the strikeouts and opponent average columns.
Unfortunately, the only reliable way to record outs in the postseason is the strikeout, as there have already been several costly errors made. Similarly, the whole league is batting .266 against him, and the offenses only get better. When facing the likes of the Yankees, Rays, and Phillies, .266 can quickly turn into .300, and all of a sudden your postseason ERA is 6.00 and your team is down 2-0. And so Mr. Consistency remains down here at 17.
16. Bronson Arroyo
W/L: 17/10 ERA: 3.88 SO: 121 WHIP: 1.15 IP: 215.2 OPP AVG: .234
If it weren't for a pathetic showing by a good bullpen and an even more pathetic showing by a good defense, Bronson Arroyo would have thrown a monkey wrench in the Phillies' plan for a third World Series appearance. Now, they just look as invincible as ever.
Bronson Arroyo has been the one pitcher on the Reds staff who has shown consistency. His newly developed sinker has turned him into an entirely new pitcher. His funky delivery is now accompanied by some funky movement, and that makes him, well, double funky. And with the Reds power offense, his consistency gives his team a chance to win many games, just look at his record.
If Bronson Arroyo can maintain his level of consistency and work on developing his sinker and continue to mix his pitches well, he might hold down a very important start at the top of the Reds rotation for years to come, helping them earn postseason births into the future.
15. Tommy Hanson
W/L: 10/11 ERA: 3.33 SO: 173 WHIP: 1.17 IP: 202.2 OPP AVG: .239
Finishing third in Rookie of The Year voting last year, Tommy Hanson is definitely one of the most exciting young pitching prospects, especially at the young age of 24. Although he started slow, Hanson had one of the most dominant September of any pitcher, posting a 2.04 ERA. It is important to note that six potential Hanson wins were blown by his bullpen, and his runs of support were consistently minimal.
However, yesterday was exactly the opposite, as both his bullpen and his offense bailed him out after a miserable showing against the Giants. If the Braves are going to maintain their newly garnered momentum and try and steal a series or two, Hanson will have to regain his September form, which he is more than capable of doing.
14. Francisco Liriano
W/L: 14/10 ERA: 3.62 SO: 201 WHIP: 1.26 IP: 191.2 OPP AVG: .252
Francisco Liriano began the season looking like he had finally found his true form. He was a dominating hitter, posting huge strikeout numbers and looking like a true ace. He maintained this dominance throughout most of the season. However, a less than stellar August and a mediocre September left many doubts about his value going into the postseason.
And those doubts were well founded, giving up four runs in 5.2 innings against the Yankees. It looks like the Yankees are going to maintain their dominance over the Twins after all, but if the Twins want to continue their dominance over the AL central and contend for future World Series titles, Francisco Liriano is going to have to find his inner ace.
13. Derek Lowe
W/L: 16/12 ERA: 4.00 SO: 136 WHIP: 1.37 IP: 193.2 OPP AVG: .273
Looking at the statistics, it looks like Derek Lowe had another mediocre season after such high expectations. And once again, he came out and looked like the Derek Lowe who was a serious component of the Red Sox historic playoff run. His sinker had movement that is unheard of in the modern age, and the integration of his slider had hitters baffled. It became impossible to tell if his pitches would fall off the plate or move back towards it.
If it weren't for the weakest defensive infield in the playoffs and a blown call, Derek Lowe would have matched the dominant Tim Lincecum basically step for step, and game one might still be going on. If Derek Lowe can continue to spin postseason magic, the Braves might be the true sleeper team in the National League.
12. Andy Pettitte
W/L: 11/3 ERA: 3.28 SO: 101 WHIP: 1.27 IP: 129.0 OPP AVG: .257
Let's face it, Andy Pettitte is one of the greatest postseason pitchers of this generation, and maybe in history. He owns the record for postseason wins at 19, and for series-clinching wins, at six. With age comes craftiness, and Pettitte has shown no huge signs of aging. However, the man still is 38 years of age, and coming off of an injury.
Now, he did have a very solid first outing in this postseason, and once again, he does have the advantage of pitching for the Yankees. The age and the injury issues are the only thing holding me back from putting this future Hall of Famer in the top 10. The two statistical issues that come up are the WHIP and the opponents average, which are both high. Against the like of the Rangers, Rays, and Phillies, those numbers are going to inflate, and not much is standing in the way of a blowout.
Still, nothing can replace experience, and there is no man on the planet that has more experience than Andy Pettitte.
11. CJ Wilson
W/L: 15/8 ERA: 3.35 SO: 170 WHIP: 1.25 IP: 204.0 OPP AVG: .217
Right off the bat, let me say that CJ Wilson has to be the surprise of the postseason, as far as pitchers go. I admit, I am not all-knowing or all-seeing, but I have a pretty good handle on the happenings of Major League Baseball, and I did not know a thing about this guy. What is most impressive is the average opponents have on him, which is a testament to the kind of stuff he must have. Similarly, he threw over 200 innings this year, no small feat for any pitcher.
He had not started a game in the Major Leagues since 2005, and yet he has had a rather impressive campaign, one that he can say has been rather consistent. However, a red flag was raised in September, posting a 6.26 ERA. The critics were silenced, if even momentarily, when he was 6.1 innings of scoreless ball, while only surrendering five baserunners, against the Rays in Tampa Bay, no less. If Texas wants to be a serious contender in the American League, a pitcher besides Cliff Lee is going to have to step up, and that might be CJ Wilson.
10. Jonathan Sanchez
W/L: 13/9 ERA: 3.07 SO: 205 WHIP: 1.23 IP: 193.1 OPP AVG: .204
If I were to tell you at the beginning of the season that Jonathan Sanchez would have a better ERA than both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and that he would have the lowest opponent average of any playoffs pitcher, you would probably call me crazy. Well, I didn't, but still, that is rather impressive. This is not to say that he is better than either of those two mentioned, but Jonathan Sanchez has definitely had a coming out type year.
The two statistics that point to postseason success for Jonathan Sanchez is the strikeouts and the opponent average. Those kind of numbers tell the opposing team that if anyone is going to beat Jonathan Sanchez, it will be Jonathan Sanchez, or the Giants offensive, either way. Not only are those numbers impressive, but get a whiff of this September ERA: 1.17. That is down right impressive.
The only thing holding Sanchez back from being in the top five is his inability to show the league that he can maintain consistency for longer than a month. I have already written an article on this guy, check it out if you want, but I better stop before I start gushing.
Still, if this guy is number 10, that's an indication of the heap of talent that the Major Leagues have in the pitching department.
9. Cole Hamels
W/L: 12/11 ERA: 3.06 SO: 211 WHIP: 1.18 IP: 208.2 OPP AVG: .237
If anyone doubts Cole Hamels ability to perform, just ask who the 2008 World Series MVP was. To be completely honest, Cole Hamels made a convincing argument for playoff MVP. However, a less than stellar 2009 campaign and some bumps in the road in 2010 has allowed doubt to ever so slowly creep into the minds of the baseball community. However, Cole Hamels has looked as indomitable as ever, posting a 2.15 ERA over his last 10 starts.
Unfortunately for hitters and Cole Hamels, he lives and dies with his changeup. Unfortunately for hitters, it is definitely one of the top 10 pitches in the Major Leagues, and only second in changeups to Tim Lincecum. Unfortunately for Cole Hamels, it is never good to rely on the sanity of one pitch. Simply put, if Cole Hamels' changeup shows up for work this postseason, Phillies will win the World Series. But if it doesn't, we got ourselves a postseason as open as it has been in several years.
8. David Price
W/L: 19/6 ERA: 2.72 SO: 188 WHIP: 1.19 IP: 208.2 OPP AVG: .221
I must admit, when I originally drew up this list before the onset of the playoffs, David Price commanded the No. 6 spot, with half a thought to break the top five. However, he took the nastiest hit of anyone on the list after his showing in the first game against the Rangers, surrendering four earned runs in 6.2 innings. That kind of performance is not indicative of the sixth place on the list, and confirmed the nagging thought that he just wasn't ready for postseason baseball.
There have been many anticipated postseason debuts this year, especially from pitchers this year, and David Price was right up there with the most anticipated. People doubted his age, and people praised his strong Cy Young worthy 2010 campaign. In the end, Price fell victim to the doubts, setting the Rays, a team widely considered to have World Series potential, to a fast 0-2 start against the upstart Texas Rangers.
Now this isn't to say that David Price has considerable upside in the future, the near future even. But this does mean that he isn't ready to take over the top five ranking that many Rays fans hope he would command.
7. Matt Cain
W/L: 13/11 ERA: 3.14 SO: 177 WHIP: 1.08 IP: 223.1 OPP AVG: .221
Now is when Rays fans might start throwing a fit, and I understand. But the truth is, Matt Cain is simply better suited, at least presently, to pitch in the postseason. Coming off of a truly dominant Tim Lincecum start, Matt Cain went right out and threw an impressive game of his own, going 6.2 innings and only surrendering one unearned run. Although it was ultimately in vain, Cain assured many supporters and silenced many skeptics with his performance.
The knocks on Cain were his youth and also his last outing, which was of similar importance and was rather pathetic, to be frank. However, it is well known in the Bay Area and throughout the pitching community that the resolve and focus of Matt Cain is unmatched for a man so young, and comparable to the best of the best. Similarly, he has a body built to throw a baseball. In baseball terminology, he is a horse, the ever reliable No. 2 starter that has no real holes.
The truth is that Matt Cain might not have lots of room for improvement, but as he showed this last year and in 2009, he has the makeup to be a dominant pitcher in this league for many years to come.
6. Tim Hudson
W/L: 17/9 ERA: 2.83 SO: 139 WHIP: 1.15 IP: 228.2 OPP AVG: .229
If not for the man named Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson would be the favorite for the National League Cy Young Award. All year he has shown the dominance that the league saw during early in new millennium with the Athletics. His stuff was consistent, his approach simple yet incredibly effective, and when the Braves needed him the most, he helped steer them to the playoffs. If not for his relative lack of playoffs experience, his season so far would dictate a top five ranking.
Regardless of the ranking he has on this rather inconsequential article, Tim Hudson has been an extraordinary story this year. Having had 2009 cut short, he came back with one of the if not the most dominant year of his career. He helped lead a young, inexperienced team back to the land it once knew so well. And he gave one of the greatest managers of all time the ability to savor the postseason one last time.
Tim Hudson deserves a lot of respect for what he has accomplished all year, and hopefully will get the recognition he deserves in the Cy Young voting, even for a man that shouldn't win the award.
5. Roy Oswalt
W/L: 13/13 ERA: 2.76 SO: 193 WHIP: 1.03 IP: 211.2 OPP AVG: .213
It didn't seem for a while that the Phillies could get any better. Although they were injured, they always knew that once Chase Utley and Ryan Howard came back off the disabled list, they would regain their World Series form. However, the ever-savvy, and wealthy, Phillies went out and got another ace, Roy Oswalt. And was he good. He did not lose a game for the Phillies, rounding out their staff and giving them a legitimate chance to throw a three-man staff all the way through, which is now dubbed H2O.
If not for his mediocre outing in Game 2, it was looking like the Phillies pitching staff would just mow through the competition, leaving broken pieces of hopes and dreams wherever they went. Still, the Phillies still have the best offensive team in the National League, and certainly the most experienced.
What gets lost in Roy Oswalt's brilliance is the fact that he has a been to a World Series and therefore has big game experience, making him ever the tougher to face in the playoffs. He was also the ace on a staff that included both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. He also has experience pitching in games during the World Baseball Classic. Simply put, Roy Oswalt has the experience to back up the stats and the talent.
And so, he deservedly kicks off the countdown of the top five pitchers in this postseason.
4. Tim Lincecum
W/L: 16/10 ERA: 3.43 SO: 231 WHIP: 1.27 IP: 212.1 OPP AVG: .242
Tim Lincecum, back to back Cy Young Award winner and first to do so in his first two full major league season, was in the thick of the worst month of his life in August. On September 1st, when he faced Ubaldo Jimenez, it was painfully aware that the Giants had no chance to make the playoffs if Timmy did not right the ship, and if he did not do it now. That night, he threw a gem: eight IP and only one ER, starting a month where he went 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA, and propelling the Giants to a NL West title.
Still, questions remained, and the critics were as loud as ever. They questioned his ability to pitch in big games that were unfamiliar, citing his All-Star game start and his first Major League start. They questioned if his body would hold up, and if his loss in velocity was just too much to overcome. Well, Timmy let his pitching speak for itself, as the National League strikeout king, for the third year in a row, threw a complete Game 2 hitter, striking out 14, the highest mark ever for a postseason debut.
He let the whole league know that he is back and better than ever. Now, there is still a long way to go, for him and the Giants, but for at least one night, Tim Lincecum let the world know that he deserved a place amongst the pitching elite, in the regular season and when it mattered the most.
3. Cliff Lee
W/L: 12/9 ERA: 3.18 SO: 185 WHIP: 1.00 IP: 212.1 OPP AVG: .240
The Phillies just about shocked the baseball world when they traded Cliff Lee this offseason. Everyone knew Halladay was good, but Cliff Lee was the best there was, and he completely dominated the Major Leagues during his short stint with the Phillies. He was a one-man wrecking crew, at least for a pitcher.
During the 2009 playoffs, he posted a 4-0 record and was the only man on the planet who could beat the Yankees. In his first five starts with the Phillies he posted a 5-0 record with a .68 ERA. The man was on a mission, and there was not a team in major league baseball that could stop him.
Simply the fact that he went to the Seattle Mariners all of a sudden made them a contender in the AL West. His injury issues and suspension issues gave him a delayed start to the season, but he charged right out of the gate. When it became clear that the Mariners were overhyped, the Yankees started to show interest. However, when talks failed, he went to the Rangers.The Rangers all of a sudden went from a team dominating the division to a serious World Series contender. And Cliff Lee was the man who was gonna lead the charge.
He started strong this postseason, putting up a win in seven innings and only allowing one run. Lee has shown that he is truly dominant in the postseason, and any team with him leading the way will be able to put up a strong showing.
Let me end the Cliff Lee segment with this last statistic:
There have been seven post season games in which the pitcher has recorded 10 strikeouts without issuing a walk, and Cliff Lee has thrown the last three.
2. CC Sabathia
W/L: 21/7 ERA: 3.18 SO: 197 WHIP: 1.19 IP: 237.2 OPP AVG: .239
When it comes down to it, the single most reliable man that can take the mound in terms of quality, quantity, consistency, and ability to pitch no matter what the circumstances, most of the baseball brains would take CC Sabathia. The man is the definition of a horse, able to throw quality pitches, about 120 times, and on three days rest whenever needed. The most memorable days were when CC basically picked Milwaukee up onto his back and pitched them to the playoffs.
When he signed his contract with the Yankees, some people scoffed at the inflation in numbers, noting that he was unable to pitch against quality offenses, and that he was rattled by the money. Truth is, CC just went out there on a daily business and gave his team a chance to win every single day. Granted, it's the Yankees, so you don't have to be brilliant, but CC has compiled a 40-15 record, a 3.25 ERA, and has thrown 467.2 innings. When the Yankees went to the playoffs, Sabathia, on three days rest many times, simply went out and did his thing, which lead the Yankees to a World Series.
There are the Cliff Lees and the Tim Lincecums of the world whom can be stated as being more dominant every night, but there is not man who embodies the true nature of a professional pitcher on a daily basis then CC Sabathia, and so he sits here at No. 2, and well deserved.
1. Roy Halladay
W/L: 21/10 ERA: 2.44 SO: 219 WHIP: 1.04 IP: 250.2 OPP AVG: .245
Hey Roy, Cliff Lee was better! Hey Halladay, you don't have the experience to pitch in the postseason! Hey Roy, get some consistency will you!
These were the things that Roy Halladay had to listen to from his many critics. Starting from the Cliff Lee trade, Roy Halladay was maligned by baseball. The brains couldn't figure out why the Phillies would trade Cliff Lee, and neither were the fans, who weren't very happy about it.
Then came the first half of the season, where the Phillies experienced the day to day Roy Halladay roller coaster, where every game was either a complete game shutout or a rather mediocre performance. Then, with his record at 10-8, Roy Halladay decided he wanted to be recognized at the best pitcher in the game today.
Just look at the numbers. He leads the Major Leagues in wins and WHIP, is second in ERA and strikeouts, and is first in IP. He threw a perfect game. He led the league in complete games. Since 2007, no one has thrown more complete games than Halladay, who has thrown nine. The next closest mark is five.
And just when everyone thought Roy Halladay would start to look human for the first time since his 10-8 start, he made his postseason debut.
The second no-hitter in postseason history.
Not against the Giants, or the Braves, but the Cincinnati Reds, one of the best offenses the National League had to offer. The news rippled through the baseball community like a bolt of lighting or a deadly virus, making people stand in awe and cower in fear. Most people simply said, "Wow," as they tried to comprehend what just happened.
And if any doubt remained about who the best pitcher in baseball is, it left in a heartbeat.
Roy Halladay, you are truly the best pitcher in the 2010 postseason, and the best pitcher that 2010 has to offer. Well deserved.