Jerry Green wasn't quite as impressed by Roy Halladay's no-hitter as you might have been ...
And the TV announcers, in their glorious ignorance, proclaimed: “Roy Halladay has just pitched the first no-hitter in the postseason since Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956.”
The rest of the American sporting media grabbed at that same line — Halladay’s no-hitter, the first in the postseason since Larsen’s.
Forgive me for being the purist/curmudgeon again, but the two events were not the same. They were not equal.
There is nothing in Major League Baseball that matches the World Series.
What I watched Larsen accomplish on the tiny TV set in the library of the Ann Arbor News building in 1956 is different than Halladay’s achievement I watched in red and green on the cable contraption in my dining room in 2010.
I suppose that might offend some of you. Especially the some of you who love the Philadelphia Phillies.
I think Green's right, though. I believe pitching a no-hitter in the World Series is better than pitching in a Division Series, which is better than pitching a no-hitter in the middle of a pennant race, which is better than pitching a no-hitter in the middle of May.
Anyway, more about that tomorrow when I rank the 10 greatest postseason pitching performances (and yes, some of you are going to want to poke me in the face with sharp sticks). What actually intrigued me was Green's very next sentence:
Halladay is a great pitcher. He gets my vote as the best pitcher of this still-new 21st century.
Could that be right? Before this season, Halladay had won just one Cy Young Award. Before this season, I suspect most observers figured Halladay still had a great deal of work to do, before preparing his Hall of Fame induction speech. Has he really been the best pitcher of these last 10 seasons?
This is almost entirely an empirical question.
And the short answer is yes. From 2001 through 2010, Halladay ranks sixth in the majors with 2,066 innings, about 150 behind Mark Buehrle (mostly because Halladay didn't pitch much in 2001). But with 156 wins, Halladay is second in wins (just one behind CC Sabathia). And among pitchers with at least 1,800 innings, Halladay ranks second in ERA+ (one point behind Johan Santana) and first (by a lot) in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). And all while doing (almost) all of it in the game's toughest division.
My top 10, with rough adjustments for postseason performance and quality of competition:
1. Roy Halladay (54.6 WAR)
2. Johan Santana (46.5)
3. CC Sabathia (42.7)
4. Mark Buehrle (42.3)
5. Roy Oswalt (44.6)
6. Randy Johnson (35.1)
7. Tim Hudson (39.1)
8. Mike Mussina (30.3)
9. Javier Vazquez (34.3)
10. Andy Pettitte (26.6)
Yeah, I know ... Javier Vazquez?
Hey, the first version of this list included Carlos Zambrano. But I pushed Zambrano below Pettitte because of the latter's postseason work. The message here is that it's really hard to pitch well, year in and year out, for an entire decade.