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The Best MLB Post-Season Pitching Staffs of All-Time

The Detroit Tigers pitchers have made quick work of a very potent New York Yankee offense so far in the ALCS. But how does the Tigers' pitching compare to other dominant staffs in post-season history?

Gregory Shamus - Getty Images

Heading into today's Game 4 of the ALCS the Detroit Tigers pitchers are boasting a 1.50 ERA and a 38 ERA- through 30 innings against the Yankees. Of course, no one on the internet will let us forget that 4 of those 5 runs the Tigers have allowed to this point were surrendered during Jose Valverde's game one 9th-inning colossal meltdown last Saturday. This actually makes the dominance of the Tigers' staff seem all the more impressive. If one were to conveniently remove Fat Potato's 0.67 IP and his 54.00 ERA from the team totals, the non-Valverdian Tigers have shut down the Yankees with a 0.30 ERA in just over 29 innings pitched.

It's too bad about Jose's unsightly car wreck of an outing, then, because a 0.30 ERA in the American League Championship Series would have placed the 2012 Tigers in an extraordinary position to make post-season history. How does Verlander, Scherzer, Fister and associates rank against other dominating LCS pitching staffs despite the Potato's embarrassing self-implosion? Hypothetically, if they maintain their combined 38 ERA- through this afternoon's elimination game, that would place them just outside the top ten greatest LCS pitching performances.


1 Baltimore Orioles ALCS 1983 37 17.45 8.05 0.49 12 2.57 67
2 Cincinnati Reds NLCS 1970 28 16.38 10.34 0.96 25 2.5 64
3 Oakland Athletics ALCS 1990 36 11.85 4.44 1.00 26 2.78 72
4 Atlanta Braves NLCS 1995 39 20.67 8 1.15 26 2.54 57
5 Philadelphia Phillies NLCS 1983 35 21.53 7.64 1.03 27 2.81 72
6 Baltimore Orioles ALCS 1969 32 21.95 9.76 1.13 31 2.26 63
7 Detroit Tigers ALCS 1984 29 18.75 5.36 1.24 33 1.91 50
8 St. Louis Cardinals NLCS 1982 27 15.31 6.12 1.33 34 2.2 58
9 Pittsburgh Pirates NLCS 1979 30 21.67 9.17 1.5 36 2.93 75
10 New York Mets NLCS 1973 47.3 22.7 7.03 1.33 37 2.99 77
11 Cleveland Indians ALCS 1995 55 20.91 6.82 1.64 37 3.54 80

Note: For the park factors in these tables I averaged the PPF from both ballparks used in the series.

I'll confess 1983 is just barely outside my baseball memory, so I did not have the good fortune to witness the Orioles limit the Chicago White Sox to just 2 earned runs that series. But I can assure you I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. After casting the Pale Hose aside, the O's, in their first year without Earl Weaver as manager in nearly 15 years, went on to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies just a few days later to win the World Series, showcasing a very similar display of pitching excellence in that series as well, with a 1.50 ERA over 5 games.

The Atlanta Braves of the 1990's were notorious for their obscenely great pitching staffs, although their regular season prowess famously never quite translated into success in the post-season. Except of course in 1995. That was the season it all finally went the way it was supposed to for Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and co., and nothing exemplified that more than their combined 1.15 ERA over the course of those crucial six games in October of '95. Interestingly, the 1995 Cleveland Indians, Atlanta's opposition in the World Series just a few days later, also made the top 10 for their pitching excellence in the ALCS of that same year.

The most recent LCS squad to make the top 25 is the 2007 Colorado Rockies, who, amid their miraculous 20-game winning streak that autumn, held the Arizona Diamondbacks at bay with a 46 ERA-. This swift 4-game sweep came on the short-lived strengths of Manny Corpas, Jeff Francis, and most notably, The Dragon Slayer, Josh Fogg. The 2006 Tigers, and the 2005 White Sox were not too far behind this motley assortment of over-achieving Rockies, however, with a 49 and 51 ERA- respectively.

There have only been two pitching staffs in the history of post-season play to hold a 0.00 ERA throughout an entire playoff series-- the 1905 Giants, and the 1884 Providence Grays. The Giants, impressively, only needed 3 pitchers to do away with Connie Mack's A's in what was only the second encounter between the American and National Leagues to that point. Christey Mathewson accounted for 27 of the Giants' 45 innings pitched, with three complete game shutouts. But Mathewson's heroics may not be quite as impressive as Old Hoss Raburn's series in 1884, when he pitched three consecutive complete games without an earned run, in three consecutive days.


1 Providence Grays WS 1884 22 - - 0 0 1.72 53
2 New York Giants WS 1905 45 15.24 3.05 0 0 1.81 64
3 New York Yankees ALDS2 1999 27 16.83 8.91 0.33 7 3.36 72
4 New York Yankees ALDS2 1998 27 27.84 4.12 0.33 8 1.58 35
5 Baltimore Orioles ALCS 1983 37 17.45 8.05 0.49 12 2.57 67
6 Baltimore Orioles WS 1966 36 20.9 9.7 0.5 15 2.42 65
7 New York Yankees WS 1950 37 16.9 4.93 0.73 17 1.88 41
8 Oakland Athletics AWDIV 1981 27 10.38 6.6 0.67 19 2.56 69
9 Atlanta Braves NLDS1 1996 28 28.16 6.8 0.96 21 1.85 39
10 Philadelphia Phillies NLDS1 2010 27 25.26 4.21 1 25 2.71 66

Naturally, some of you may only want to acknowledge those pre-live ball performances, because of the vastly different game that was played then. In which case, you may want to instead consider anointing the Yankees of the late 1990's as the greatest post-season pitching staff of all-time. In two consecutive Division Series in 1998-99, the Yankees held the opposition to just one run over the course of 3 games. The first effort was led by David Cone, David Wells and Andy Pettitte, while 1999's success was largely owed to The Rocket, El Duque, and Pettitte. But, we have to acknowledge yet another caveat with the addition of the Division Series, which can potentially limit a series to just 27 innings, as was the case in both years with the '98 and '99 Yankees.

The LDS format also helps the '81 A's, '96 Braves, and even the 2010 Phillies sneak on to the list by virtue of sustaining low ERAs over just 27 innings. The 2010 Phillies staff at #10, is the most recent of the group and included solid starts from Hamels and Oswalt, but most memorably featured Roy Halladay's no-hitter in Game 1-- just the second no-hitter in post-season history.

Unfortunately, even a 9 inning shutout from Max Scherzer and his cohorts later today won't help the 2012 Tigers on to the Top Ten Post-Season Series Pitching Staffs. No, sadly, Jose Valverde had to ruin that for everyone. But a low-scoring offense from the Yankees this afternoon would go a long way to helping the 2012 Tigers climb the ranks of the Best LCS staffs.

All Park Factors taken from the Lahaman database.

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