We had a good email on the Baseball Today podcast today from Jeff Horwitt, of Arlington, Va. Jeff pointed out that the pitching hasn't been as good this postseason as last season and wondered if that was because the starters in this year's postseason were worked harder in the regular season. According to Jeff, the "bottom line is that the 32 pitchers who have started a postseason game this year threw a combined 631 more innings this season than last season. This works out to on average about 20 innings per pitcher which doesn't seem like much at first, but really means they threw the equivalent of about four more starts this year than last year. "
Interesting premise. First, offense is up. Here are some numbers comparing 2010 to 2011:
2010 Division Series: 2.63 ERA, .218 average allowed, 26 home runs in 15 games
2011 Division Series: 4.39 ERA, .245 average allowed, 42 home runs in 19 games
2010 LCS: 3.89 ERA, .241 average allowed, 22 home runs in 12 games
2011 LCS: 4.66 ERA, .262 average allowed, 25 home runs in games (entering Friday)
For another reference point, the totals for the 2009 postseason: 4.12 ERA, .247 average allowed, 63 home runs in 30 home runs.
Comparing 2011 to 2009, offense is still up, although nowhere near as dramatic as in 2010. I suspect last year was just a bit of aberration, due in large put to the fantastic performance of the Giants, who posted a 2.47 ERA and held opponents to a .196 average. Note also that we've replaced good pitcher's parks with good hitter's park: In the AL, Comerica (decent hitter's park despite its deep center field) replaced Target Field (strong pitcher's park), and in the NL, San Francisco (pitcher's park), Atlanta (pitcher's park) and Cincinnati (hitter's park) were replaced by Milwaukee (hitter's), Arizona (hitter's) and St. Louis (slight pitcher's park).
Here's another indication of how dominant the starting pitchers were last season: They went at 7 innings in 23 of 32 games (and allowed one run or zero runs in 15 of those 23 games). Comparing the percentage of 7-inning starts to other recent postseasons:
2011: 11 starts of 7+ IP (5 with 1 or 0 runs) out of 28 games (39 percent)
2010: 23 starts of 7+ IP (15 with 1 or 0 runs) out 32 games (72 percent)
2009: 18 starts of 7+ IP (12 with 1 or 0 runs) out of 30 games (60 percent)
2008: 15 starts of 7+ IP (6 with 1 or 0 runs) out of 32 games (47 percent)
2007: 7 starts of 7+ IP (6 with 1 or 0 runs) out of 29 games (24 percent)
2006: 14 starts of 7+ IP (8 with 1 or 0 runs) out of 33 games (42 percent)
So, yes, the pitching hasn't been as good this season, and it has been a bit surprising considering runs per game were down a tenth of a run from last season and at its lowest since 1992. As for Jeff's premise that the pitchers are tired from having thrown more innings collectively this year than last year, I suspect that's probably true in any given postseason: Teams that make the playoffs often do so because their rotations have stayed healthy all season.