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Extreme teams

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The 2005 World Series intrigued me because it involved two teams that relied heavily on their pitching staffs. It supported the old adage that pitching wins championships. I decided to look at every playoff series since the introduction of the league championship series in 1969.

I looked at every team that could be considered a pitching extreme team (a team that relied on good pitching to carry a mediocre lineup) and a hitting extreme team (a team that relied on good hitting to carry a mediocre rotation). Teams were considered extreme when they ranked in the top half of the league in runs scored and the bottom half in runs allowed (or vice-versa).

When classifying teams I didn't park adjust their runs scored and runs allowed (mostly because it would've taken me tons more time).

The results were 26 teams that could be considered pitching extreme teams (PET's) and 20 teams that could be considered hitting extreme teams (HET's). I didn't find any absolute truths (such as pitching beats hitting), but there were some interesting trends.

11 of the 26 PET's made the playoffs before the institution of the wild card. 7 of 26 HET's made the playoffs before the institution of the wild card. The wild card seems to have been much more benefit to hitting teams. Before 1995 only 7 of the 104 total playoff teams were HET's. After 1995, the percentage of HET's participating in the playoffs jumps from 6% to 15%. The wild card caused the number of hitting extreme teams to only increase from 11% to 17%.

Although the addition of two extra playoff spots helped HET's more than PET's when it came to getting to the playoffs, PET's faired much better once the playoffs started. Since the introduction of the wildcard in 1995 PET's are 13-10 in playoff series while HET's are just 3-13.

PET's don't seem to fair much better in a seven game series versus a short five game series, but they are 5-2 in the World Series.

It makes sense that HET's do better in the longer championship series round (4-6) than they do in the division series (2-10). In a short series the HET's are forced to face more aces, while the longer series allows HET's more of a chance to get to the oppositions weaker pitchers.

For some reason, extreme teams have faired much better in the American League. PET's are more likely to make the playoffs in the NL, but once they get there, PET's have a better winning percentage in the AL (.611) than they do in the NL (.454). Likewise HET's fair much better in AL playoff series (8-10) than in NL playoff series (0-8). Why is this?

Well it could have something to do with the DH. It could have something to do with specific ballparks in the AL that play to the advantage of extreme teams. More likely it is a fluke that is a product of the small sample size.

Other fun trends;

  • Pitching extreme teams, although it is a sample size, seem to be a good bet against hitting extreme team's possibly proving that good pitching does good hitting in the playoffs. PET's are 6-0 against HET's in playoff series. Those six series were; 1996 ALCS Yankees over Orioles 1997 NLDS Marlins over Giants 1997 WS Marlins over Indians 2001 NLDS Braves over Astros 2003 NLDS Cubs over Braves 2005 ALDS Angels over Yankees
  • Obviously a balanced team, with both good pitching and hitting, has a better chance of winning than an extreme team. Extreme teams are 22-30 in playoff series versus balanced teams since 1969.
  • Pitching extreme teams have only met in once in 37 years since the championship series was introduced. That was in this year's World Series.
  • HET's are 2-1 in the World Series. The 1992 Blue Jays and 1987 Twins won the championship while the 1975 Red Sox lost.
  • The 1987 Twins made both the HET's and PET's list.
  • The PET's to win the world series are the 1969 Mets, 1985 Royals, 1987 Twins, and 1996 Yankees. In all cases those teams defeated balanced teams.
  • AL PET's have performed better versus balanced teams than NL PET's (NL PET's are 6-11 versus balanced teams in NL playoff series, while AL PET's are 8-7 versus balanced teams in AL playoff series).
  • HET's are 2-10 in the division series. The Cleveland Indians were involved in both wins. Baltimore beat a balanced Indians team in 1996. The next year, en route to the World Series, the Indians beat a balanced Yankees team.
  • Atlanta is correctly known for their great pitching, but they aren't as dependent on it as some might think. They only qualified as a PET once (2001), but made the HET list twice (1982 and 2003).
  • The Braves were the most frequent opponent of extreme teams. They are 1-4 against PET and 3-1 against HET teams.
  • In 1991 Toronto was a PET that ranked eleventh in the AL in hitting. The next year they were a HET that ranked ninth in the league in pitching.
  • Texas was the team to make the playoffs two years in a row (1998, 1999) as a HET.
  • Kansas City (1984, 1985) and Oakland (2002, 2003) made the playoffs in consecutive years as PET.
  • In 1984 Royals finished eleventh in the AL in runs scored and lost to the Tigers in the ALCS. The next year they ranked thirteenth in runs scored, but they beat the Cardinals in seven games in the World Series.
  • Number of PET by decade 1969-1 1970s-3 1980s-6 1990s-6 2000s-10
  • HET by decade 1969-0 1970s-3 1980s-3 1990s-9 2000s-5