Friday, August 21, 2009

The Postseason Bests of All-Time

Well, I know. We're getting tired of this guy heading all the lists, but whatcha gonna say, the Babe was just the best player of all-time, even without counting his pitching prowess, which actually does come into play here. In postseason ball, most players stick to what they do best. They either hit their way to notoriety in the World Series or playoffs or they pitch their way there. For the Babe, it was mostly his hitting, which would have been enough to land him in the top spot in the All Players Postseason Best List for a Career. At 28.065 POST PEVA, that batting number would have outdistanced him from the #2 man on the list, Yogi Berra, 22.935. However, when you add in the pitching, it raises Ruth to 30.139.

The list of All Player Postseason Career Best contains many of the players we all think of as great, even some who are not quite Hall of Fame worthy, although 24 of the Top 40 are already in the Hall of Fame, including two of this year's class, Joe Gordon at #31 and Rickey Henderson at #36. And when you include those who ten years from now will be inducted (Greg Maddux, Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Schilling, Smoltz, and Chipper Jones) and those who would be without some of their questions (Rose and Manny Ramirez) - Yes, we know Manny might make it anyway, and perhaps even Rose some day - that makes it 32 of 40. Not too shabby.

Now it's always a question to how highly you should rate a player's postseason ability when considering Hall of Fame worthiness. Players don't get an equal shot at World Series notoriety due to their team success or lack of it in the regular season. In the old-timers days, prior to 1903, postseasons were not an every year event, skipping the first decade of pro ball, the 1870s, and most of the 1890s. But there's no doubt that it raises their profile, and should be considered, in that discussion. As we can see, it certainly contains a good deal of the cream rising to the top 40 of this list.

The remainder of the Top Ten includes some of the best postseason players of the past generation, including Reggie Jackson at #6 and Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter at #8 and #9 respectively. One surprise to us was how highly Bernie Williams ranked, coming in at #10. Way to go Bernie.

So another list dominated by the Babe brings out some interesting notes on other players and reminds us of their World Series greatness through the years. Congratulations Postseason Top 40 guys; it is greatly deserved. Go to Top 40 All-Time Postseason Career Players for the list.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Relief Pitchers, Past and Present Bests

It's just amazing how this role has changed? Just look at the best relief pitching seasons of all-time and you'll see a wide range of pitching eras. From one generation ago when pitchers would hurl over 125 innings from the bullpen to today's closer with a plethora of saves, lots of games pitched, but few innings along the way, and even back to the far reaches of yesteryear, when the innings were high and the wins were high, too.

So with the PEVA Player Ratings System, you can see that era does not matter; it is outcome based on how much you dominated your time. And the top pitching seasons in a relief role goes to men who did that. No, not as much as a starting pitcher. Sorry, folks, they're just not as valuable. And both PEVA and payroll states that. There's no $22 million per year relief pitcher. $15 million seems to be the top of that line. But that does not mean not valuable, or that some seasons of these relief pitchers were not amazing. And the best of them all, #1, reaches back to that one generation ago when some of the best plied the trade, although this pitcher is sometimes a bit forgotten amongst the greats of the era such as Gossage, Sutter, and Fingers. It is 1983 and the best season of a relief pitcher in the history of baseball goes to Dan Quisenberry of the Kansas City Royals. And yes, the Royals were very good back then. Maybe someday they'll be very good again.

Rank Name
Year Team Lg W L SV IP ERA Age PEVA-P
1 Quisenberry Dan 1983 KCA AL 5 3 45 139.0 1.94 30 24.535
2 Gagne Eric 2003 LAN NL 2 3 55 82.3 1.20 27 23.161
3 McDaniel Lindy 1960 SLN NL 12 4 26 116.3 2.09 25 22.970
4 Moore Wilcy 1927 NYA AL 19 7 13 213.0 2.28 30 22.864
5 Hernandez Willie 1984 DET AL 9 3 32 140.3 1.92 30 21.765

For the rest of the Top Forty, go to Best Relief Pitching Seasons Ever.

With 45 saves and 5 wins, even today you'd think he performed well, but his 1.94 over 139 innings pitched really begins to tell the story of how a relief pitcher was used and just how valuable he could be. Imagine if today Mariano could perform his magic over twice the amount of innings. First, you'd get a really good pitcher going longer and not rely on the 11th or 12th best pitcher in your organization to pick up those extra frames with their 4.75 Earned Run Averages. Anybody sure the current model, what we're calling Model #3, is really the best one or just the one we've gotten used to. This all added up to a 24.535 PEVA Player Rating, a darn good number even for a starter.

But a different use in the role does not hurt your ability to shine in the best ever relief pitching seasons list. Just ask Eric Gagne, whose 23,161 PEVA in 2003 included 55 saves and a 1.20 ERA over just 82.3 innings, albeit almost perfect ones. This second place finish shows that relief pitchers can be as valuable in this era of limited use when they dominate the field in the 9th inning. And just behind Gagne sits Lindy McDaniel from 1960. This St. Louis Cardinals hurler from two generations past fits the older use model, Model #2, with his inning pitched above 100, but also bridges the gap back to Model #1, the Model T of relief pitching. That's where #4 in the rankings, Wilcy Moore, occupies the slot from 1927. This was a time when saves were not prevalent and starting pitchers went complete games as often as the current lot goes to the health food store. Moore, however, pitched over 200 innings in that era, won 19 games, and saved 13 more. He was a hybrid pitcher, for want of a better term, pitching all over the map for the Yankees in that stellar 1927 season, including 12 starts. And folks, just another couple tidbits reaching back to those days. Moore was in his rookie year in 1927 at the age of 30.

But where are all those other relief pitchers we've come to associate with greatness? Did they have some of the best seasons of all-time, too? Yes, they did. Mariano Rivera, probably the best relief pitcher overall of all-time, sits at #6 and #12, just to name a few. Bruce Sutter's best season, 1979, comes in at #8, and the Goose, Mr. Gossage, holds down the #19 spot, while Mr. Fingers comes in at #10, and Mr. Eckersley at #17.

And what about the most recent past, 2008, for example. Jonathan Papelbon holds down the #40 spot for last year's great relief pitching prowess. 41 saves and a 2.34 over 69.3 innings.

Will we ever see a season like that of Wilcy Moore again? I doubt it. Probably not anything close to that of Sutter, Gossage, Fingers, or Dan Quisenberry either. We're likely to keep going down the path of specialized innings pitched by role players in the relief core. And there will be great seasons among the low IP crowd, no doubt about it. But it would be interesting to see just how Model #1 or Model #2 would work in this Model #3 era. Would give those guys on Baseball Tonight something new to talk about.