The MLB playoffs are around the corner, and itâ€™s that time when the answer to the questionâ€”â€œWhat does it take to win the World Series? Pitching, pitching and pitching.â€œ becomes the mantra of all contenders. Big hits are important but mainly because against great, strong, consistent pitching, they are so rare. So what are the important ingredients that make a team loaded for bear and what things indicate that a club is about to be eaten by the bear?
Donâ€™t confused great pitching early in the season with great pitching going into the post season. A team doesnâ€™t make it to the playoffs without a solid core of starters and a good bullpen. But the fact is that a great pitching staff thatâ€™s tired and/or injured headed into the post season is no better than a good pitching staff thatâ€™s rested and healthy. Youâ€™re talking three starters in the playoffs and each one of those pitchers has to ready to go when itâ€™s their turn. One of those starters may end up pitching three games of a seven game series. Three sound starters are important or one great one, one excellent one and one who can give you a chance will do too.
As far as closers go, itâ€™s every day from here on out. Thereâ€™s rarely a rest. Unless the other teamâ€™s pitching is so tired and unhealthy that theyâ€™re getting blown out of the park. Then a closer can get a break. You need a closer with great stuff and speed and nerves of steel or any other clichÃ© of which you can think.
A dependable set up man is almost as important as that closer. Itâ€™s not a glamorous job, but itâ€™s essential in getting from the seventh to ninth via the eighth in a one to three run game. When the set up man doesnâ€™t do his job, everyone starts doubting the move by the manager. â€œWhyâ€™d he take the starter out, he was doing great.â€? True. But the guyâ€™s arm was about to go south, and he was going to serve up a meatball any time.
Middle relief is essential when your starter breaks down early and you need someone who can give you solid innings and keep you in the game. So now we are talking depth. Pitching staffs that have depth not only shut down opponents, but they give the entire team confidence because they know that they always have a chance to win.
A great pitcher with playoff experience will almost always win out over one with no experience. Unless that experienced pitcher is ailing and tired. Then all bets are off.
Consistency wins out over spotty performances. Consistent performances in September and October– in the stretchâ€”will win out over early to late season great performances accompanied by dead arms or injury.
So, any takers on whoâ€™s got what it takes this year?