Normally when you get close to the playoffs, you get excited about all of the players you’re going to get to watch on national television in high pressure situations. Sure, I try to watch the A’s or the Cardinals throughout the year, but there’s something different about knowing everyone else is focusing on Khris Davis or Matt Carpenter raking too.
The same goes with pitchers. It might actually be more true with pitches. Lights-out regular season starts count. Dirty pitches in August count. But in October those things count and it makes watching top pitchers work that much more exhilarating. So there’s just one thing wrong with this year’s postseason.
Most of the pitchers I want to see do their thing over the next month will be sitting at home.
No disrespect to anyone actually pitching in October. Of course there will be people like Boston’s Chris Sale, Houston’s Justin Verlander, and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw in the mix. They’re reliably entertaining and it always feels like something incredible could happen with them on the mound in an important postseason game.
But we’ve seen them in this setting before, and whether or not it’s fair to say it’s just not as electric when Verlander ruling a game is the rule not the exception. We’ve seen that show before. It’s a good show, and I’ll buy another ticket if you have one. Sometimes you just want to see another performance that night. Here are all the pitchers who would be awesome to watch this postseason.
Well, this one’s easy. Sports aren’t fair, but no one has had a more unfair year than Jacob deGrom. It all looked like things were peachy at the beginning of the season, and the Mets’ healthy rotation was a big part of that, and then things cratered in New York as they always seem to do.
It’s easy to have sympathy for most of the Mets roster but deGrom is right at the top of that list. He had a 1.70 ERA in 32 starts, with 269 strikeouts over 217 innings but a 10-9 record because of a complete and utter lack of run support from his teammates. He had 29 straight starts of allowing three or fewer runs, and didn’t give up more than four runs in any start this year.
Along the way he broke a major league record that has stood for over 100 years, and can go on the shelf with his 0.912 WHIP and a 217 ERA+. His season gave us stats like this.
When Jacob deGrom (1.71 ERA) faces Chris Sale (1.96) today, it will be MLB's first matchup of starters with sub-2.00 ERAs and at least 100 IP since Dwight Gooden (1.74) faced the Cardinals' John Tudor (1.95) at Shea Stadium in 1985, per Elias.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 16, 2018
None of those feats are interchangeable for a World Series ring though. And he might not even win the Cy Young because of outdated views on the value of wins (which would be a travesty).
I wanted to see him in the playoffs because he’s a pitcher operating at the upper limits of his capabilities right now, but also because, man, it would have been nice to see him rewarded for his season long dominance with a postseason berth.
Sure, the Phillies’ young players were fun. Or as fun as they could be while half of them were slumping while the other half thrived before switching roles every few weeks. Aaron Nola though, Aaron Nola was so fun. “It’s Aaron Nola Day” fun. Players on other teams acknowledging his dominance and trying to score runs off of him so their own ace has a better chance at a Cy Young fun.
Harper: "Nola's really good out there. We're trying to get some extra runs on him so Scherzer can win the Cy Young."— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) September 13, 2018
Whose curveball does this ...
Aaron Nola, Filthy Curveball to Colin Moran. Moran's reaction. pic.twitter.com/OyMLnxKAlk— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 21, 2018
... and whose sinker does this.
The Braves rightfully came out on top in the much-anticipated NL East division race (the Phillies made that very easy for them in the end) this year and they’re exciting as all get out, but name someone exciting from their rotation specifically. I’ll wait.
If the Phillies had prevailed, one of the major reasons they could have been an exciting playoff team is their rotation thanks to not only Nola, but Jake Arietta and Nick Pivetta (more on him later) as well.
Syndergaard would be nice to see in the playoffs for the same reasons as deGrom, with just a shade less insistence that he be there. Maybe that’s because his hand, foot, and mouth disease run-in still bothering me or because it’s amazing to even say Noah Syndergaard was awesome this year, but have you seen his teammate’s stats? Which makes his season look like a Cape Cod Leaguer who might just have a chance in the draft next year?
That’s of course unfair to his 3.22 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 2.4 walks per nine and 9.2 strikeouts per nine. To hell with the Mets as an organization, and most of the roster either hasn’t been suffering long enough or isn’t electric enough for me to immediately go “oh yes, there can’t be a playoffs without them.” Congratulations to David Wright for finally escaping, at least.
Like deGrom, Syndergaard should be in a postseason rotation somewhere so fans can stress out when their teams are facing him in a Game 6, so we can geek out over his pitch movement and watch him harness his slider to destroy batters’ lives. It seems wrong that that’s not happening.
Manaea is a little different from the other arms on this list. His team is here, but he’s not. After a season that included a no-hitter against a juggernaut Red Sox team in April and a 3.42 first half ERA, Manaea hit the disabled list in August due to shoulder issues and he’ll now be out until 2020 thanks to arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
Throughout the season, as the A’s navigated injury landmines and somehow persevered, Manaea was the linchpin of their at-times cobbled together rotation and he kept on chugging for as long as he could while they needed him. It’s a shame he couldn’t get his time in the sun in the postseason, because if anyone on the A’s pitching staff deserved that it was him.
One of the cooler moments last night was players huddled on the field postgame to facetime Manaea.— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) September 26, 2018
Melvin says, no matter where wild card game is, Manaea will be there. "Everybody was thinking about him. He was a huge part of this team and a guy you wish was here yesterday."
Pretty heartbreaking, that.
Nick Pivetta is (obviously) not on the same level as Aaron Nola just yet. But the reason I’d want to watch him in the playoffs isn’t because of his overall contributions to the Phillies rotation. I wish he was in the postseason so I could have more time to appreciate his curveball.
I didn’t watch all of Pivetta’s tarts this year, I wasn’t seeking them out every time he came up in the rotation. But I watched enough that I absolutely fell in love with his curve. According to Baseball Savant, Pivetta has a 21.79% usage rate on his curveball with a 15.75 whiff rate (both second ranked among his six available pitches). Opponents’ batting average against his curve was just .208, second only to the ruthlessness of his cutter at .167 BAA.
It’s also legitimately thrilling to watch.
Nick Pivetta, Disgusting 81mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/9zsyBkYqxm— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 19, 2018
Nick Pivetta, Filthy 81mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/RVZBepAOaJ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 16, 2018
Maybe next year.
Between Scherzer, Nola, and deGrom, none of this year’s Cy Young favorites are in the postseason. As established already, that’s a shame. But with Scherzer (and his teammate Stephen Strasburg) it’s more of a worry because unlike the other two men on the Cy Young shortlist, Scherzer is 34 years old and only halfway through a seven year contract on a team that is losing its greatest assets to age and free agency as it watches the rest of the division finish their rebuilds and direct their movers to deposit their belongings at the top of the standings while Washington languishes.
In short, our chances to see Scherzer deal in October are dwindling.
His stuff isn’t though, so as long as he still has the sharpness and the control that makes him so good I wish it was more likely he’d be making a postseason appearance. This year was the most likely chance for him to make it back over the next few years (unless he gets traded) and Washington couldn’t get the job done.
There were lots of Mariners players it would have been nice to see in the postseason. Felix Hernandez of course, if only because it would get the “no postseason appearances” sign off his back and the prospect of him having just one more season to manage that as his career heads down the opposite side of Youth Mountain.
Besides him, Edwin Diaz is the obvious choice because he made history this season by breaking the Mariner’s season saves record by reaching 49, then won a bet against manager Scott Servais that involved Servais shaving his head just like Diaz’s with save number 50. He’d end the season with 56, only six short of the all-time season record of 62.
Seeing him in a postseason situation, where another team has basically already lost the game if they’re facing Diaz, would have been a treat. Especially since Diaz has been under-covered this season thanks to the Mariners’ second-half drop off that had them out of playoff contention before September even hit.
Corbin dealt for the Diamondbacks this season. So much so that there were some pretty persistent rumors he’d be going to the Yankees in a trade at some point. Being a top pitching target for the Yankees definitely means you’re shining, especially when it’s happening on a lesser contender.
The Diamondbacks’ September collapse might have kept them from the playoffs and even being a factor in the final NL races, but Corbin was a pain in opponents’ lineups most of the season. He ended with a 3.23 ERA, 2.47 FIP, and a 1.056 WHIP. Plus his season included a one-hitter back in April. Should Arizona have made the playoffs, as looked likely for much of the year, we could have been in for some real lights out pitching.