Sandy Koufax, Curt Schilling, Bob Gibson. We all know the pitchers who turn red hot in postseason play and are able to stop hitters dead in their tracks.
Having an ace pitcher on a playoff team who is that dominant makes a team that much more likely to win it all, especially since rotations move down to three men.
The following are the top 10 pitchers that others are hoping to avoid in the playoffs. I'm limiting this to active pitchers who are likely to be in the playoffs this season, and naturally they need to already have playoff experience.
It remains to be seen how well Weaver can do on the big stage, but in the ALDS he has been dominant, going 2-1 with an ERA under two. He did not do much in his only ALCS outing against the Yankees, but not many did that year anyway (2009).
Tim Hudson's 1-3 record in the playoffs is actually fairly deceiving, since his other numbers are fairly good, and his last outing was a seven-inning shutout last year against the San Francisco Giants, who went on to win it all.
He remains low on this list, however, due to the fact that we haven't seen him perform past a divisional series yet.
It took a while, but C.C. is finally learning how to pitch in the playoffs. His career numbers are not very impressive, consisting of an ERA over four.
Once his performances in Cleveland and Milwaukee are discarded, his numbers look much better, with a 5-1 record and a large number of strikeouts in eight games. Add in the fact that he'll have to carry the team this year, as playoff great Andy Pettitte is gone, and he should do well.
Cole Hamels could go pretty much anywhere on this list depending on what you look at. His 2008 performance was amazing, and helped the Phillies win the World Series.
In 2009, however, he stunk and helped the Phillies lose the World Series. He rebounded and was alright last year. Either way, a lot of strikeouts will be had when he takes the mound in the playoffs, as he has 69 overall to just 18 walks.
Verlander gets placed this high on this list because he has been downright scary this year, not only winning the Cy Young Award already, but he has placed himself in MVP discussion as well.
It's a good thing he has that, because his playoff resume is poor. A 1-2 record, a 5.82 ERA, and a complete unraveling in the World Series is precisely what Verlander has to get rid of during the Tigers' playoff run this year.
Unlike many of the other pitchers on this list, Lewis has not had a great 2011, and will likely finish the year with a record under .500. Despite this, all one has to do is look at his 2010 playoff record to know what he can do.
In four games, Lewis was 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA, and was even able to keep the Yankees' lineup from doing much of anything. Looks like we will find out soon enough if he can do the same this year.
Chris Carpenter is just trying to push the Cardinals into the playoff race now, which is an uphill battle. If the Cardinals are able to make it there, however, they'll at least be comfortable knowing they have a great playoff ace.
Carpenter is 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA in his playoff career, including not allowing an earned run in the World Series. I'd like to see more strikeouts from him though, as he only has 38 through nine starts, which is definitely lower than his season average.
Josh Beckett has struggled in recent playoff matches, but if he can tap into the Josh Beckett of old, then it will be a sight to see.
Beckett is 7-3 overall with a 3.07 ERA in the playoffs, and has a 1.16 ERA in two World Series. After leading both the Marlins and Red Sox to World Series titles though, he struggled in 2008 and 2009, which did not help Boston's chances.
Many people had questions about how well Roy Halladay would do in the playoffs last year, as he did not have experience on the big stage. His response? A no-hitter his first time out.
One of his two NLCS outings was not very impressive, but now that he has some experience, he should be even better this year.
Cliff Lee is the one guy that any team, with perhaps the exception of the Giants, want to avoid in the playoffs. He's 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 10 starting appearances, and if you remove the Giants' games, the two losses and most of those earned runs go away.
Something about the playoffs brings out the best in Cliff Lee, and he is going to be great to watch in the playoffs this year as a result.