MLB League Rivalry: Improved Pitching Marks End for AL Superiority Over NL?
Two perfect games. One near perfect game (How near is near? Blown call on the 27th out "near"). Three regular season no-hitters. One no-hitter in the playoffs, first since 1956. The 2010 Major League Baseball season has been headlined as "The Return of the Pitcher."
Along with 2010 being the year of the pitcher, this year in baseball saw the return of the National League.
In the 80th mid-summer classic in Anaheim, California, the National League came out victorious for the first time since 1996. National and American league pitchers combined to scatter 13 hits while only giving up a combined four runs. Lineups that consisted of former MVP's, former batting champions, former Rookie of the Year award winners, future MVP players were limited to only four runs combined.
The 2010 MLB Playoffs were headlined by dominant pitching. Roy Halladay opened up the MLB playoffs by no-hitting the Cincinnati Reds in his first playoff start. Tim Lincecum opened up the NLDS series between the San Francisco Giants and the Atlanta Braves with a complete game shutout. Cliff Lee gave up two runs in three starts in the ALDS and the ALCS and only walked one batter in 24 innings pitched. Colby Lewis who has pitched to a career 5.27 ERA, who found himself pitching for Hiroshima Carp of Japan's Central League for two seasons, became the seventh pitcher to defeat the New York Yankees twice in a playoff series, pitched to a 1.27 ERA and helped the Texas Rangers reach the World Series for the first time. Matt Cain earned a 0.00 ERA throughout the 2010 postseason in route to winning his first World Series championship.
As soon as the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers punched their tickets to the Fall Classic, many were quick to write off the Giants and were ready to hand the commissioner's trophy over to Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers. I was part of that group, and as soon as the Rangers took a 2-0 lead in Game 1, I said the Rangers were going to be celebrating last Sunday night as World Series Champions.
I mean, come on; how could you not assume an outcome like that? Texas as a team hit .304, slugged .512 and had an OPS of .890 against the Yankees in the ALCS.
The Giants, on the other hand, beat the heavily favored Phillies. That was no small feat as they took care of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
Still, the Rangers were the favorite in the World Series. The Giants pitching staff held the Rangers unforgiving lineup to a .190 average, .288 slugging, and an OPS of .546. Scan a few lines up and look at the comparisons of the two series for the Rangers. Do we still use the excuse that the team is rusty after not playing for four days?
The mid-summer classic and the playoffs are the two biggest stages for Major League Baseball. The two showcased tremendous pitching and in each of them the National League came out winners. To me, the resurgence of pitching will in fact take some "fire power" away from the AL as the notorious power hitting league.
The Giants once again proved that good pitching will always beat good hitting. The AL has developed some good young pitching, but if it continues to rely on strong lineups and power hitting stars, the National League will continue to thrive in each of the two "big stages" in the baseball season.
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