Lindbergh: Does good pitching actually beat good hitting in the playoffs?

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on October 13, 2017:

If Aaron Judge were merely large instead of Statue of Liberty–sized, Francisco Lindor might have hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning of a scoreless ALDS Game 3, sending the Indians to a series sweep and a spot in the ALCS.

The Indians-Astros matchup that many anticipated when Cleveland and Houston took 2-0 leads in their respective division series would have pitted one of the best pitching staffs ever against one of the best offenses of all time. Indians pitching delivered the highest-ever FanGraphs wins above replacement, thanks to the lowest-ever park-adjusted fielding independent pitching. If park-adjusted FIP is too abstract for your taste, no matter; the Indians’ staff also had the fifth-highest WAR ever based on little old runs allowed, and the highest since World War II. The Astros’ offense, meanwhile, posted the best wRC+ of any team but the Babe Ruth–and–Lou Gehrig–led Yankees of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

A showdown between an unstoppable lineup and an immovable staff would have been the best possible test of the time-honored baseball belief that “great pitching beats great hitting,” which pundits repeatedly trot out at this time of year. The Astros held up their end in the ALDS, hitting .333/.402/.571 in their four-game triumph over the Red Sox—an impressive (if unsustainable) performance that put them on pace for the best postseason OPS of all time. The Indians didn’t, as the Yankees upset them with three consecutive series-saving wins.

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Originally published: October 16, 2017. Last Updated: October 16, 2017.