Baumann: How the Detroit Tigers super-rotations explain the evolution of playoff baseball

From SABR member Michael Baumann at The Ringer on October 21, 2019:

In games 1 and 2 of the 2013 ALCS, Detroit Tigers right-handers Aníbal Sánchez and Max Scherzer both went at least five innings into their starts without giving up a hit, a feat that they improbably repeated as members of the Washington Nationals in the 2019 NLCS.

Sánchez and Scherzer have combined to allow just five runs and 14 hits over 32 2/3 postseason innings this year, and in the six games they’ve combined to appear in, the Nationals have lost only once. Scherzer and Sánchez played a huge role in sending the Nationals to their first World Series—in fact, the first in the 51-season history of the Expos–Nationals franchise and the first for Washington, D.C., since 1933, which was 86 years and two departed MLB teams ago.

In this World Series, these two ex-Tigers will face a former teammate, Justin Verlander, now ace of the Houston Astros. It was Verlander who came in behind Sánchez and Scherzer to start Game 3 of the 2013 ALCS. Verlander took a loss in that game and the Tigers went on to lose the series to Boston, four games to two. Boston was the higher seed, but before David Ortiz’s game-tying grand slam in Game 2, the Tigers were four outs from taking a 2-0 series lead on the road. That would’ve been a nearly insurmountable lead given the quality of Detroit’s rotation. Throwing that opportunity away just a year after being swept in the 2012 World Series made for a pair of heartbreaking playoff exits.

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Originally published: October 21, 2019. Last Updated: October 21, 2019.