Ranking the starting pitchers left in the MLB playoffs

  • Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
  • Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
  • Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
  • Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association

The hyperbole that surrounds a premier playoff pitching matchup has become a kind of baseball trope. There is just no better hook for an upcoming game than publicizing a battle between a pair of aces.

The reality is that, these days, if you watch game for that micro-battle, you are almost invariably going to be disappointed. The game itself might turn out to be a classic, but chances are, one or both bullpens are going to play a key part in how the outcome is decided.

Let’s consider this objectively, using the Bill James formula for game score, which rates the performance of a starting pitcher. The average game score is 50. This season, according to baseball-reference.com, there were 520 outings in which a starter had a score of at least 60, or a little less than one in three. There were 179 starts of 70 or better, 42 of at least 80 and just two that reached 90.

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