There is no one, single way to win in October. You can slug your way to victory (in the 2002 postseason, the Angels and Giants combined to hit 51 homers). You can perfect the small-ball game (the NL champion Astros in 2005 pulled off 18 sacrifice bunts in October). You can put together a deep, well-balanced roster full of talented players who, somehow, always seem to play their best in October (the Yankees of 1996-2000).
But the surest way remains through dominant starting pitching. Three shut-down starters, or two, or even one, can carry a team a long, long way in the postseason. It's the primary consideration I keep in mind when making postseason predictions. Last night in Boston, I saw one pitcher, Jon Lester, continue to emerge as one of those dominant types, as the Red Sox won a thrilling, classic game to advance. Chico chronicled the Rays' victory -- but I still wonder if their pitching is dominant enough.
I got three out of four in the first round (Phillies, Red Sox, Rays), and I'm kicking myself about missing the fourth (Dodgers), because in picking the Cubs to beat them I violated my own prognostication method.
The Cubs had a deep rotation -- the kind that racks up lots of wins in the regular season -- but not necessarily a dominant one, the kind that wins in October. (Interestingly, Alfonso Soriano made a similar argument after the Cubs were eliminated, saying, "We're not put together for [a short series].")
The Dodgers, on the other hand, are overlooked (at least by me) in the dominance category. I wish I had looked closer at Derek Lowe's numbers -- I would have seen that almost no one in baseball had been as dominant as him down the stretch. No. 3 starter Hiroki Kuroda was almost as good, and Chad Billingsley was as solid a No. 2 starter as any in the field of eight postseason teams.
I used to have these wonderful debates with Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz about the question of whether there is such a thing as a team that is "built for the postseason," as opposed to the regular season. His argument was that there is no difference. I've always thought there was -- and his Braves teams of the 1990s and early 2000s, consistent division champs who won only one World Series, may have been the ultimate manifestation.
What do you think? Is there such a thing as a built-for-October team? And as we begin to weigh our picks for the next round, who among our final four is built the best?
Posted by: Andy | October 7, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: PTBNL | October 7, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ce | October 7, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PRG | October 7, 2008 8:42 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.