There may be nothing in professional sports that quite measures up to starting the final game of a seven-game playoff series in Major League Baseball. It can either mean going home, moving on, or winning it all.
Before the advent of the expanded playoff system in 1969, only two teams were eligible in MLB, the pennant winners of the American and National Leagues. For 66 seasons this was the accepted format, and the Fall Classic brought us many great memories from that period of time.
When both leagues split into two divisions, the League Championship series was formed, and was a best-of-five format up until 1985, when it was increased to seven games to increase revenue and match the length of the World Series.
When the Division Series was introduced in 1995, five games were determined to be the length, and has remained so ever since. Even though we are looking at who we would consider to start a Game 7 of a series, we could certainly count Game 5 of division series as well, considering it’s a one-and-done proposition, and still determines whether a team marches onward or out.
So, the upcoming list is a ranking of the top 50 pitchers to start a Game 7, or deciding game of a playoff series.
The list does NOT reflect how a pitcher performed during the regular season, it only reflects their performance DURING the playoffs. Major difference here.
Performances in big games during the season might be important, but don’t reflect the type of pressure that pitchers are under when given the ball to get their team a championship.
And here we go…