2011 MLB Playoffs: 10 Best Pitchers for the Postseason

Charles Bennett@chasbennettonbrSenior Analyst ISeptember 29, 2011

2011 MLB Playoffs: 10 Best Pitchers for the Postseason

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    Well, after the exciting wild card race came down to the last day (perhaps the most cardiac night of baseball in decades), the MLB playoffs are beginning.  And, now more than ever, it’s a pitcher’s game. 

    So I thought now would be a good time to take a look at the 10 arms who are most likely to have a big impact in this postseason.  

10. Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers

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    Jose Valverde has been one of the best closers in the league this season, converting all 49 of his save opportunities. His 2.24 ERA is one of the best among the closers who are entering the postseason. 

    Considering that the Detroit Tigers don't have a strong third or fourth option, they have to rely on Valverde and the bullpen in an ALDS matchup.

9. C.J. Wilson, Texas Rangers

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    C.J. Wilson surprisingly ended up as the Rangers' No. 2 pitcher in 2010, behind Cliff Lee. This year, he was elevated to Rangers ace. Wilson had one of the best Septembers among MLB pitchers, capping off this season with a 2.94 ERA and 206 Ks. 

    He was somewhat jittered in the 2010 playoffs, but that experience will likely prepare him for a better showing this year.

8. Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers

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    Fears that Detroit only has one good pitcher have been assailed by Fister's recent play. Doug Fister has been the best September pitcher, catching fire since being traded from the Mariners mid-season and going 8-1 with the Tigers. He has a respectable 2.89 ERA. 

    The one thing that worries me about Fister is his lack of experience in high-pressure situations...he's only 27 years old and has only been in the league for two-and-a-half seasons.

7. Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    The 27-year-old Ian Kennedy has come out of almost nowhere to win 21 games this season, putting him in the NL Cy Young discussion and carrying a large part of the Diamondbacks' run to the postseason on his shoulders. 

    If his 2.82 ERA and 198 strikeouts are any indicator of postseason performance, he could mean trouble for the Brewers. On the other hand, this is his first ride on the pony, which is why I've dropped him to seventh, despite the fact that he's had a solid regular season.

6. James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays

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    On the ever-changing Rays roster, Shields has emerged as the top option in Tampa. He has won 16 games this season and had a 2.82 ERA, 225 K's and a 1.04 WHIP. Shields also has 11 complete games and four shutouts. 

    He has postseason experience, though one would hope he can rebound from a 2010 performance where he gave up four runs in 4.1 innings. With the Rays squeaking into the playoffs, Shields will live to pitch another day.

5. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankeees

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    Nothing to see here. Just the all-time saves leader. Just the all-time leader in games finished. Just has a sub-2.00 ERA in each of the last four seasons. Just has 42 playoff saves, including 11 in the World Series. Just has an 0.71 postseason ERA. Just hasn't lost a playoff game or given up a playoff home run in a decade. Just hasn't blown a playoff save in years. Move on.

4. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

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    An ace anywhere else, Hamels is the third man in the Phillies rotation. He "only" has 14 wins, 193 strikeouts, a 2.79 ERA and an 0.99 WHIP. Hamels is one of the most experienced pitchers in this years' postseason, with 12 appearances, six wins and a 1.03 WHIP. 

    He is particularly dominant in the divisional series, where he has a 2.20 ERA.  

3. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Whodatunkit...another solid Phillies starter. Six shutouts this season. Seventeen wins. Career .633 winning percentage. A postseason record of 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA, 10 strikeouts per walk and no losses in a division series. 

2. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Last year's NL Cy Young winner, Halladay has not had an ERA above 3.00 in the past four seasons and has won at least 63 percent during this same time. In this past season, he was 19-6. A good pitcher, Halladay still only has three postseason starts (a good one, a bad one, and an indifferent one), which is why I'm not quite ready to put him in the top slot.

1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

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    Sorry, Roy, but this is Justin Verlander's season. 

    The guy has 24 wins this season against only five losses, with two shutouts, a no-no and a 2.40 ERA. He is the runaway favorite for the AL Cy Young, and many are talking about him for AL MVP. He is the best pitcher for the postseason until proven otherwise. And don't give me the experience line. 

    Believe it or not, Verlander has more World Series experience (in 2006, as a rookie) than Halladay does.