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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Best Postseason Starters

With the 2006 Postseason upon us, I feel its time to reflect on the best Postseason starters of the last 20 years. Forgive me for not going back further, but I feel I really should only comment on pitchers I've seen. And we won't bother discussing relievers because really, what's the point. Nobody is close to Rivera, who has been the lynchpin of the Yankees late 1990's success.
(Trivia: What reliever holds the record for lowest career Postseason ERA with a minimum of 20 and 2/3 IP? Answer at bottom)
So I present to you, one man's opinion of the top 5 playoff starters of the last 20 years (arguments welcome).

5. Dave Stewart: 10-6, 2.84 ERA
Stewart was the ace of the Oakland A's mini-dynasty from the late 80's through the early '90s. Nobody dominated the AL in playoffs like this guy. Stewart went 8-0 in LCS play, and never had ERA over 3.46 in any playoff series for the A's from 1988-1992 (7 post season series). Stewart has 2 LCS MVP's on his resume ('90, '93) to go along with a WS MVP ("89). We all remember his intimidating glare (and the far less intimidating, and slightly amusing imitation attempted by Andy Pettitte).

4. Orel Hershiser: 8-3. 2.59 ERA
Besides being the best athelete ever named Orel, Hershiser was an October dominator for two different teams in both leagues. Hershiser stepped up big when his undermanned and overmatched Dodgers team needed him in 1988. That year Orel hurt both the Mets and the A's by going a combined 3-0, with 1 save in 42 innings with an ERA of 1.05, collecting the NLCS and WS MVP trophies on the way. He then caught on with Cleveland in 1995 and led them to the World Series, and added another LCS MVP trophy to his mantle.

3. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez: 9-3, 2.55 ERA, 107 K's in 106 innings.
Exagerrated raft stories aside, Hernandez burst onto the scene when the Yankees outbid the competition for his services and quickly became the most reliable postseason starter of the Yankees 1998-2000 run. Hernandez seemed impervious to the pressures of the postseason, starting his playoff career 8-0 and not losing until his 11th October game (which came in his 3rd season). Along the way, he collected the 1999 ALCS MVP to go along with his 3 World Series Rings.

2. John Smoltz: 15-4, 2.65 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
On a staff with future HOFers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, Smoltz emerged as the playoff ace for a team that unfortunately is known more for the WS titles it didn't win. The lack of titles can hardly be attributed to Smoltz, who has more playoff wins than anybody. You want consistency? NLDS: 2.52 ERA, NLCS: 2.83 ERA, World Series: 2.47 ERA. Some highlights include a CG SHO in game 7 of the 1991 NLCS against Pittsburgh and the 1992 NLCS MVP trophy and lets not forget that it was Smoltz who battled Jack Morris zero for zero in the famous seventh game of 1991 World series, which the Braves bullpen eventually lost in 10 innings. You want heart? With his shoulder aching, Smoltz dominated the Astros for 7 innings to level the 2005 NLDS at a game apiece. There isn't much in the playoffs that Smoltz hasn't done on the mound.

1. Curt Schilling: 8-2, 2.06, 0.926 WHIP
Schilling is the big game pitcher of his generation. He has taken 3 different teams to the World Series, making 15 playoff starts with 4 complete games and 2 shutouts. After carrying the Phillies to an improbable WS birth in 1993, Schilling made a living as the final piece needed by playoff contenders, helping both the Diamondbacks and Red Sox to World Series titles. Along the way, Schilling was awarded the 1993 LCS MVP and the 2001 WS MVP. We all know about the famous bloody sock, but more importantly, in games that his team was facing elimination Schilling is 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA.

Roger Clemens: 12-8, 3.71 ERA. Nice win total, but the relatively high ERA indicates some big game struggles. Among his losses, nobody ever mentions that in the 2004 NLCS game seven, when he was outdueld by Jeff Suppan. Never been postseason series MVP.

Andy Pettitte: 14-9, 4.08 ERA. With an ERA over 4, his reputation as big game pitcher appears to be caused by offensive support.

Randy Johnson: 7-8, 3.28. Yes, he was huge in 2001, but is 0-7 in 7 division series starts since 1995.

Greg Maddux: 11-14, 3.22 ERA. Good ERA indicates a lack of offensive support might have been this HOFer's biggest opponent, especially in WS play (2-3, 2.08 ERA).

David Wells: 10-4 3.15 ERA. Never big on fitness, Wells has come up big in the playoffs, bettering his regular season career ERA (4.07) by nearly a full point and even winning ALCS MVP honors in 1998.

Juan Guzman: 5-1, 2.44 ERA. Seriously. Who the hell is Juan Guzman? Toronto's #2 starter on the back to back WS Champion teams from 1992-93.

Next generation of Aces?
Chris Carpenter: 3-0, 1.97
Barry Zito: 4-2, 2.43
Roy Oswalt: 4-0, 3.66

Trivia Answer: Of course, it's John Rocker. 20 2/3 innings, 0 (zero) earned runs allowed. That's 1 run for every I.Q. point over 60.