Pitching still matters in the playoffs

If any readers out there ever own a Major League Baseball team and want to make the playoffs, build your team around great pitching.

Don’t get reeled in by some guy who can hit the long ball. Be boring. Get some great pitchers.

Sure, I have grown up watching steroids era baseball and have seen hitting win titles, but the MLB is returning to a state of complete purity.

Now that the MLB is more consistently testing for more banned substances, the playing field is being leveled.

The truth is clear: pitching determines who wins and who loses.

This was clear in the 2010 regular season when pitchers won in convincing fashion. Six no-hitters were thrown, including three perfect games (if you count the one taken from Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga by an umpire).

This trend of dominant pitching has been extended into the 2010 playoffs.

The first and best example that comes to mind is Roy “Doc” Halladay.

In his postseason debut, while Philadelphia fans waved “Doctober” signs, Halladay pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds and was one walk away from throwing a perfect game.

Halladay’s no-hitter is only the second in postseason history, and the first since 1956 when then-New York Yankee Don Larsen threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Although the Reds have not been successful in the last decade, they were the top-ranked hitting team in 2010 and made the playoffs because of it.

However, they were no match for the Phillies’ staff in the postseason. Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt currently share the pitching roster with Halladay. They helped carry the Phillies to a 3-0 sweep of the Reds, who struck out 24 times compared to getting 11 hits in the series.

Hamels struck out nine in a five-hit complete game Sunday night.

The strong performance from the left-hander finished the sweep and allowed the Phillies to share the customary champagne in the club house.

Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is another perfect example of how dominant pitching trumps dominant hitting.

The ace of the San Francisco Giants, who last made the playoffs in 2003, threw a two-hitter in the first game of their series against the Atlanta Braves.

Lincecum had 14 strikeouts in the series opener but, more impressively, many of the strikeouts were because batters were swinging at air.

Although under 50 percent of Lincecum’s pitches actually hit the strike zone, his perfect delivery and breaking ball gave the home plate umpire an easy game to call.

The Yankees have had some impressive hitting during their sweep of the Minnesota Twins, but won because their pitching held the Twins to just six earned runs in three games.

The Yankee’s number one pitcher is C.C. Sabathia, who won the 2007 American League Cy Young Award as a member of the Cleveland Indians. He pitched six innings in Game 1 to start the Yankees’ postseason momentum.

Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes kept the train rolling in the next two games.

Pettitte pitched a strong seven innings in the series’ second game, and Hughes threw seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts to clinch the series.

Plus, Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer since Dennis Eckersley, isn’t a bad weapon to have in your bullpen.

History shows pitching wins.

Many great playoff teams of the past had great pitchers.

Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax pitched during the 1950s and 1960s and played on four Dodgers’ World Series teams while picking up three National League Cy Young awards along the way. Furthermore, Koufax led the NL in wins, strikeouts and earned run average for three different seasons.

Don Drysdale, who was a nine-time All-Star and the 1962 NL Cy Young winner, was a teammate of Koufax and helped the Dodgers win the World Series three times.

Denny McClain won 31 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1968, earning him one of his two AL Cy Young awards before the Tigers took the World Series title that year.

Where there is a World Series title, there is undoubtedly strong pitching.

The Twins, who have no ace and were unable hold home field advantage because of it, were the best example of this as the Yankee bats made quick work of mediocre pitching.

The Tampa Bay Rays show how having a bad pitching rotation can cause a great team to lose as well.

After losing their series opener to the Texas Rangers, the Rays sent James Shields to the mound to start Game 2.

Shields finished the regular season with 15 losses and on a three-game losing streak, so no crystal ball was necessary to predict the future.

Shields struck out two but gave up four hits and four earned runs before being pulled out in the fifth inning.

The Rays forced a fifth game after wins from Matt Garza and Wade Davis, but the 0-2 series deficit was too much for the AL East champions to overcome.

The Rays lost the deciding game after Game One loser David Price gave up eight hits and three earned runs in six innings of unimpressive work.

Pitching has always been the most important part of the game. While a dedicated baseball fan knows that, the casual fan has been misled by the steroids era—until it ended in 2010.

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