Sixteen teams. No days off within a series. Games in bubbles. More win-or-go-home games than ever before. Say what you will about the coming baseball postseason, but it's going to be different.
From a pitching standpoint, the task of rating staffs against one another has never been more complicated. The way teams have deployed their pitchers during October has changed quickly in recent years, but given the unusual parameters in 2020, we can chuck most of those lessons out the window. We will be learning along with the teams how to navigate four series (if you survive) in one mad dash for the crown.
Even in a normal season, the practice of forecasting playoff pitching is more an art than a science. For hurlers, track records are often less important than how a pitcher is throwing when the playoffs begin, though the two prisms tend to blend together to create focus. A hot reliever might have rolled into the All-Star break with a sub-2.00 ERA. Then he might have struggled during the second half and enter October with a 3.50-ish ERA. His career mark could be something like 2.50. How, then, should we expect him to pitch? There are lots of explanations for such a pattern. Could be injuries. Could be an evening-out of fortune. Could be fatigue. Pitchers are funny creatures.
With the advent of Statcast metrics in recent years, we have more and better data than we used to when addressing the key point: How has a pitcher been throwing? This year, that question is particularly pertinent because in a two-month season, everything qualifies as recent performance.