Was casually reading Tom Boswell‘s article in the post today (which can be summarized as “1,000 words on why you don’t want to face Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs, duh) and he posted the following intriguing statistic as part of his argument:
- In games started by Kershaw, the Dodgers are 19-4
- In games NOT started by Kershaw, the Dodgers are 59-58
Ergo, the Dodgers are really beatable when they don’t throw Kershaw.
This sounded like a great stat. Until you dive a little deeper and you do the same analysis for our own first place/better record than the Dodgers team.
Los Angeles is, as of the moment of this writing, 78-62. By starter, their team record breaks down like this:
- Kershaw: 19-4
- Ryu: 15-9
- Greinke: 14-13
- Haren: 13-14
- Beckett: 9-11
- Other randoms: 8-11
All others besides Kershaw and Ryu: 44-49
All others but Kershaw: 59-58
Pretty compelling, eh? They’re a losing team when not throwing one of their two aces in Kershaw or Hyun-jin Ryu. Surprisingly, the team under their supposed #2 Zack Grienke sports just a .500 record on the year through 27 starts despite his known quality.
Lets do the same analysis for the Nationals, currently sporting a better record of 79-59 and having just beaten the Dodgers two out of three at their house. Here’s the Nats team record under each starter this year:
- Zimmerman: 19-9
- Fister: 14-7
- Gio: 13-10
- Stras: 16-13
- Roark: 15-12
- Jordan: 1-4
- Treinen: 1-4
All others besides Zimmermann and Fister: 46-43.
Hmm. So, much like the Dodgers, if you play the Nats and you’re not facing one of OUR two best pitchers, we’re basically a .500 team.
I guess the point is this: in a sport where a team that is winning 57% of its games has the best record in the majors, the margins for winning and losing are pretty slim. Or maybe the point is this: you can use stats to support pretty much whatever hypothesis you wish to postulate.
I think everyone knows that beating Kershaw is nearly impossible, and facing him twice in a short series may be the difference between advancing and going home. But then again, this is the same Kershaw who has (believe it or not) a career 4.23 ERA in the post-season and got hammered by the Cardinals for 7 runs in 4 innings in last year’s NLCS. I guess that’s why they play the games.
But, I think it is also safe to say that the series in Los Angeles showed why it’d be one heck of an NLCS if the seedings held and the two top NL teams held form in the divisional series. Lets hope it comes to pass.