Last week I posted about how often the team with the best Game 1 starter by WAR wins the Division Series (only 55%, as it turns out), and with the League Championship Series coming up on us quickly, I wanted to do a variation of that study for best-of-seven series.
In the wake of the Phillies' sweep of Cincinnati, many are saying their top 3 pitchers (Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels) are all they really need to overwhelm an opponent, even in a 7-game series. How does that triumvirate stack up to other Top 3s since the strike? Combined, Halladay (6.9 WAR), Oswalt (5.1), & Hamels (4.7) posted 16.7 Wins Above Replacement during the 2010 season, a total that ranks 6th among LCS participants since 1995:
1. 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks (18.5 WAR):
2. 2005 Houston Astros (18.3 WAR):
3. 1996 Atlanta Braves (18.0 WAR):
4. 1995 Atlanta Braves (17.9 WAR in 144 games):
- Maddux (8.8)
- Glavine (4.7)
- Smoltz (4.4)
5. 1997 Atlanta Braves (16.8 WAR)
- Maddux (7.3)
- Glavine (5.0)
- Smoltz (4.5)
6. 2010 Philadelphia Phillies (16.7 WAR)
- Halladay (6.9)
- Oswalt (5.1)
- Hamels (4.7)
7. 2003 Chicago Cubs (16.1 WAR)
8. 2007 Cleveland Indians (15.8 WAR)
9. 1998 San Diego Padres (15.7 WAR)
10. 2001 New York Yankees (15.2 WAR)
Now, those are some impressive rotations, but does having the better top 3 necessarily mean you're a lock to win an LCS or World Series matchup? Based on the past 15 years of data, not quite...
Teams who had the better combined Top 3 starters only won the best-of-7 series 55.6% of the time, and even teams with a 4+ WAR advantage only won 59% of their series. It isn't until you get to instances of a 6+ WAR advantage (80% of series won) that you see the team with the huge pitching edge win as frequently as you may expect. In fact, setting up a simple logistic regression between top 3 starter WAR advantage and series winning %, we get the following equation:
Series WPct ~ 1 / (1 + exp(-0.08 * WAR advantage))
All else being equal, this regression implies the following expected series winning %s for each level of WAR advantage:
Going against the Giants in the NLCS, the Phillies' top 3 starters will likely have an advantage of +5.9 WAR over San Francisco's 10.8-WAR trio of Matt Cain (3.9 WAR), Tim Lincecum (3.5), & Jonathan Sanchez (3.4). Based on the regression results, that dominant rotation edge gives them a 62% chance of advancing to the World Series, less than you might expect from such a big starting pitching advantage in Games 1-3. Three ace pitchers don't hurt, of course, but in the end there will be many other factors beyond Halladay-Oswalt-Hamels that go into determining the winner of the series.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 at 7:51 am and is filed under Postseason, Sabermetrics, WAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.