"My job is to get us to the playoffs. Everything after that is fucking luck." - Billy Beane
Thanks to the new Wild Card Showdown, even more luck has been added to the World Series lottery. But it has also increased the importance of starting pitching. If the Dodgers and Braves meet in a 1-game playoff, I'm putting my money on Clayton Kershaw over someone like Tim Hudson.
Ideally, a team would like to pitch their ace in the 1-game showdown. But with the playoff race going down to the wire, this isn't always possible. However, it's likely that one of the team's top 3 pitchers will be available to start. The top 3 starters also get more than 75% of the post-season starts (compared to 60% or less during the regular season).
So it's the top 3 starters that become much more important after the regular season ends.
Here's a quick breakdown of the best "Top 3" among the most likely NL playoff teams. I got these by just adding together the Wins Above Replacement for each team's best 3 starters.
|Team||WAR||Top 3 Starters|
|Nationals||12.4||Gonzalez, Strasburg, Zimmerman|
|Dodgers||10.5||Kershaw, Billingsley, Capuano|
|Cardinals||9.8||Wainwright, Lohse, Lynn|
|Giants||9.7||Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong|
|Reds||9.1||Cueto, Latos, Arroyo|
|Phillies||9.0||Hamels, Lee, Halladay|
|Braves||5.0||Maholm, Hanson, Minor|
There you have it. The Washington Nationals, the laughingstock of the National League for their first 7 years, now has the best record in baseball and the best starting pitchers for a post-season run.
Of course, it's possible that the Nationals are about to shut down Stephen Strasburg. But that's a topic for another day.