10/05/2004: Worried about the Cardinals' chances in the postseason....
because they don't seem to have a pitching "ace"? Well, take heart. Brian Gunn over at Redbird Nation has done a study of the "ace effect" in the postseason, and he's come to some possibly comforting conclusions:
My data suggests that teams with ace pitchers do no better and no worse than you’d expect based on their regular-season winning percentage alone. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s a key point. Take the Yankess-Twins matchup in Round 1 of the AL playoffs. People will claim that the Yankees, because they have no true ace (or really anyone close this year), will come in with a dubious advantage, despite the 101 wins they piled up over 162 games. The Twins, on the other hand, will loom larger than their regular season record suggests, solely because of their Big Two of Johan Santana and Brad Radke. In fact, you’ve probably heard the phrase “you don’t want to face those guys in a short series” several times over the past few weeks.
But the history of postseason matchups does not bear this out. To be clear, this does not mean that it’s not helpful to have ace pitching in the postseason. It is. But ace pitchers are no more important in the postseason than they are in the regular season. However your team adds or subtracts runs from the scoreboard – be it relievers, defense, #3 starters, or simply outscoring your opponents to death – that’s the key, not whether they’re embodied in one or two frontline starters.
When I first began this study, I expected that there would be some measurable advantage to having an ace, so that one might be able to say something like “having an ace on your postseason roster raises your expected series winning percentage .020 points.” Instead I found no added benefit whatsoever. This bodes well for a team like the Cardinals, who have plenty of “ace hitters” and “ace middle relievers” but no ace starter. And until someone comes along with a more sophisticated methodology and adjusts my findings, I can only conclude that the theory of aces dominating the postseason is a myth.
Len on 10.05.04 @ 07:49 AM CST