Some like to believe that the team with the best pitching wins, or should win, a post-season match-up. I can understand this position. But, does it always happen?
I decided to look at every Yankees post-season series since 1995 and compare the Yankees pitching staff against the team they played – using Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA) as a measuring stick of each team’s pitching in the series. This is what I found:
Looking at the results in this chart, it brings the following thoughts to mind:
+ The 1995 Yanks-M’s ALDS, pitching-wise, really was a toss-up.
+ The 1996 Braves should have beat the Yankees in the World Series.
+ The 1997 Yankees should have beaten the Indians in the ALDS.
+ The 1998 Yankees did what they were supposed to do in the post-season.
+ The 1999 Red Sox and Braves should have done better against the Yankees in the post-season.
+ The 2000 Yankees were better than anyone they faced in the post-season that year.
+ It really was a miracle that the 2001 Yankees made it to the World Series, much less making it to Game 7 of the World Series.
+ The 2002, 2005, and 2006 Yankees were all out-armed in their ALDS match-ups – and because of this they probably deserved to lose them.
+ The 2003 Yankees should have won the World Series – and losing it was a major letdown by New York.
+ The 2004 Yankees were lucky to beat the Twins in the ALDS, based on the pitching match-ups, and they were totally out-armed in the 2004 ALCS as well.
In total, in the last 25 post-season series that the Yankees played in, they had the RSAA edge on their opponent 12 times – and won 10 of those 12 times (where they only lost to Cleveland in ’97 and the Marlins in ’03). That’s a success rate of 83%.
On the flip side, in the last 25 post-season series that the Yankees played in, they did not have the RSAA edge on their opponent 13 times – and they lost 6 of those 13 times. Based on this, New York’s post-season odds are about 50-50 when they don’t have the pitching edge.
Where New York beat the pitching odds: The 1996 ALDS & WS, 1999 ALCS & WS, 2001 ALDS & ALCS, and the 2004 ALDS.
Imagine if the Yankees had lost the 1996 World Series, 2001 ALDS, and 2004 ALDS? Losing just these three post-season series would have re-written modern-day Yankees history in a huge way.
Without a win in 1996, maybe there’s no letdown in 1997. With no crushing 1997 ALDS loss, maybe the drive during the 1998 season is different?
But, if they lose the 2001 ALDS, then Games 4, 5 & 7 of the 2001 World Series never happen. And, of course, if they lose the 2004 ALDS, then the 2004 ALCS never happens.
This leads to another interesting question: As a Yankees fan, would you trade in the rings of 1996 and 1998 to avoid the pain of 2001 and 2004? Is that a wash? Is it better to have loved, and lost, than never to have loved at all?
If asked, I would take the rings. I’d rather have good memories and bad memories than no memories at all.