My last post discussed my thoughts on what teams would make the playoffs and win the Divisional Series in each league -- for the American League I predicted underdogs Detroit and Oakland, and in the NL the easier-to-pick LA Dodgers and Washington. There's a linked Google Docs spreadsheet in that post that also shows my best guess for who the starting pitchers will be for the rest of the season for all teams in playoff contention.
This post discusses the Championship Series for each league, and I've added another twist. In addition to showing the pitching match-ups, I also ran simulations using former BtBS contributor Matt Hunter's SaberSim. Beginning with the AL, this is my best guess for the pitching match-ups in a Tigers-Athletics ALCS:
|Friday, Oct 10||A's||Sonny Gray||@||Tigers||David Price|
|Saturday, Oct 11||A's||Jon Lester||@||Tigers||Max Scherzer|
|Monday, Oct 13||A's||Jeff Samardzija||Tigers||Rick Porcello|
|Tuesday, Oct 14||A's||Scott Kazmir||Tigers||Justin Verlander|
|Wednesday, Oct 15||A's||Sonny Gray||Tigers||David Price|
|Friday, Oct 17||A's||Jon Lester||@||Tigers||Max Scherzer|
|Saturday, Oct 18||A's||Jeff Samardzija||@||Tigers||Rick Porcello|
This is a fine-looking series from a pitching match-up basis and shows how the July trades Billy Beane made completely shook up the A's starting rotation. Add to that a solid first full season from Sonny Gray and a stunning re-emergence from Scott Kazmir, and it's a rotation to be reckoned with. They may not be the 1971 Orioles, and while the A's have gone 29-34 since acquiring Jeff Samardzija (through Tuesday), pitching is still pitching. One brief comment -- I highly doubt that Sonny Gray will be the starter in the first game if the A's can do anything about it.
Contrast them with the Tigers, the team whose pitchers can match up with the A's almost man-to-man, and this doesn't even take Anibal Sanchez into account. The Wall Street Journal opined in August (prior to Sanchez' injury) that Verlander might not even be a starter in the postseason. This no longer appears likely.
I used Matt Hunter's SaberSim to see how these pitching match-ups might turn out. There are caveats galore in using this, mainly that I would prefer to use actual in-season performance versus a set of projections, but anything is better than nothing. I chose to run five sets of 1,000 games, taking game location into account. Here are the surprising results:
|Fri, Oct 10||OAK||Gray||568||560||561||533||570||@||DET||Price||432||440||439||467||430|
|Sat, Oct 11||OAK||Lester||500||520||536||494||524||@||DET||Scherzer||500||480||464||506||476|
|Mon, Oct 13||OAK||Samardzija||594||584||602||574||595||DET||Porcello||406||416||398||426||405|
|Tue, Oct 14||OAK||Kazmir||496||530||516||524||529||DET||Verlander||504||470||484||476||471|
|Wed, Oct 15||OAK||Gray||529||588||559||563||546||DET||Price||471||412||441||437||454|
|Fri, Oct 17||OAK||Lester||527||527||506||531||514||@||DET||Scherzer||473||473||494||469||486|
|Sat, Oct 18||OAK||Samardzija||598||567||593||573||597||@||DET||Porcello||402||433||407||427||403|
In all cases, 2014 ZiPS Projections were used
In seven games and five sets of projections, 35 total, a grand total of two had the Tigers winning a game, let alone the series. I find this nothing less than stunning, since I consider the staffs to be almost equal. I will give the Oakland offense the slight advantage over the Tigers, recent performance notwithstanding, but not enough to explain these lopsided results.
These are the projections -- in my mind, it's a seven-game series, and I'll go with the Tigers, taking their home field advantage and postseason experience into account. If this series actually occurs, it should be outstanding baseball.
The National League looks like this:
|Sat, Oct 11||Dodgers||Clayton Kershaw||@||Nationals||Stephen Strasburg|
|Sun, Oct 12||Dodgers||Dan Haren||@||Nationals||Tanner Roark|
|Tue, Oct 14||Dodgers||Hyun-jin Ryu
|Wed, Oct 15||Dodgers||Zack Greinke||Nationals||Jordan Zimmermann|
|Thu, Oct 16||Dodgers||Clayton Kershaw||Nationals||Stephen Strasburg|
|Sat, Oct 18||Dodgers||Dan Haren||@||Nationals||Tanner Roark|
|Sun, Oct 19||Dodgers||Hyun-jin Ryu
The Nationals will be the home team, but I have a hard time picking against the Dodgers. They have the best pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw, a deeper starting rotation and a very potent offense. This is how SaberSim sees these match-ups:
|Sat, Oct 11||LAD||Kershaw||504||473||479||512||503||@||WAS||Strasburg||496||527||521||488||497|
|Sun, Oct 12||LAD||Haren||511||534||509||535||517||@||WAS||Roark||489||446||491||465||483|
|Tue, Oct 14||LAD||Ryu||523||477||450||482||473||WAS||Fister||477||523||550||518||527|
|Wed, Oct 15||LAD||Greinke||529||540||512||535||527||WAS||Zimmermann||471||460||488||465||473|
|Thu, Oct 16||LAD||Kershaw||532||523||544||531||584||WAS||Strasburg||468||477||456||469||416|
|Sat, Oct 18||LAD||Haren||511||534||509||535||517||@||WAS||Roark||489||446||491||465||483|
|Sun, Oct 19||LAD||Ryu||414||425||384||400||387||@||WAS||Fister||586||575||616||600||613|
While not as stark a difference as in the ALCS, SaberSim clearly prefers the Dodgers. I'm not seeing the Haren-Roark match-ups as clearly favoring Dan Haren like SaberSim does, but that's nit-picking. Similar to my thinking on the Tigers, the Dodgers pitching and playoff experience should be enough to win, although I again see this as a seven-game series.
I will be absolutely shocked if these scenarios play out, since any combination of playoff defeat or finishing series early would render the match-ups moot. In addition, games rarely ever play out the way they should -- in 2012, the Tigers swept the Yankees 4-0 in the ALCS whereas it took the Giants seven games to defeat the Cardinals in the NLCS. All the chatter centered on the "advantage" the Tigers would have in setting their rotation, resting their players and meet the Giants fresh. Other than being swept swept 4-0 in the World Series, it turned out well for them.
A Tigers-Dodgers World Series would feature outstanding pitching and a match-up we haven't seen before. Due to the All-Star Game, the Tigers would be the home team, and I wrote some time back on how the home team is favored in recent World Series history. I'll discuss this potential match-up next Monday.
. . .
All simulations from Matt Hunter's SaberSim. Any mistakes in running the simulations are the author's.
Scott Lindholm lives in Davenport, IA. Follow him on Twitter @ScottLindholm.