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    Sunday, October 23, 2022

    New Sporcle Quiz: Best Pitcher Postseason Performances of the Wild Card Era

    Yesterday, I broke out my first Sporcle quiz of the postseason, looking at the Best Postseason Performances by Hitters, according to Win Probability Added. If you missed it, go check that out; I even wrote up a little blurb of extra info to go with it.

    Today, I return with the obvious follow-up: Can you name the best postseason performances among pitchers? Once again, we’re dealing with just the Wild Card Era, so 1995 to present. This list includes both starters and relief pitchers, although a few of the top answers notably pulled double duty on that front (as a small hint). And I don’t know if the top answer is as singularly obvious as it was on the other list, but I would bet the top three players would still be most people’s first three guesses in some order or another.

    I didn’t do a formal study or anything, but it might be a little easier to rack up or lose Win Probability as a pitcher than a hitter, thanks to the outsized effect a starter has in a game or the high leverage situations relievers are brought into. The spread of values is a little greater than it was with the hitters; only about 1050 pitchers out of 2500-ish fall in that 0.1 to -0.1 range that I highlighted yesterday. And we also see a lot more pitchers making that 0.8 cutoff for the quiz. The upper and lower bounds stay in similar places, but that’s in part because there are only so many games in the postseason in the first place. It also probably helps that too many losses and you don’t get many more opportunities to lose more WPA.

    Anyway, go try today’s quiz (and yesterday’s, if you missed it!), then come back here for ahas been on trial for sexual assault few more bits of trivia.


    Like I said, a top-three that includes 2014 Madison Bumgarner and the 2001 Curt Schilling-Randy Johnson duo is probably how most people would start their guesses even if I didn’t include the Team and Year hints. All of those performances are just so iconic, I’m not sure what I can even add about them.

    Of course, the more notable thing might be all-time Postseason WPA leader Mariano Rivera appearing eight times, while no one else, pitcher or hitter, hits three appearances (Justin Verlander was the nearest miss on that front, with 0.78 WPA in 2017). I felt for a while like there were fewer repeat names on the pitcher list* (and we had another narrow miss here, with Randy Johnson also reaching 0.78 WPA in 1995), but Rivera more than makes up for that. The only unfortunate thing is that he is not the single-year leader for a reliever; the “unfortunate” aspect there is more that the unanimously-beloved Rivera would be a much better bearer of that title than his predecessor John Wetteland, who most recently has been on trial for sexual assault against a young family member.

    *I initially tried to make the quiz similar to the 50-ish names that the hitters quiz used, but adjusting my cutoff to be similar based on the 0.8 WPA cutoff added another 20 names, a number of whom were making their second appearance and balancing this aspect out a little more.

    I’m not sure who will be the least-guessed answer this time around. I would bet that the starters are generally more recognized than the relievers. My criteria yesterday was “a player from the 1990s due to recency bias + player from a losing team”, which would indicate someone like Mark Wohlers or Michael Jackson. But the initial returns on Michael Tucker, my pick from yesterday, are looking pretty good, so maybe my reasoning is misguided?

    Like I said, the bottom of the list isn’t actually terribly different (numerically) from the bottom of the hitters’ list. At a glance, though, a lot of the teams represented didn’t go as deep into the postseason, and moreover, the pitchers listed seem to be largely relief pitchers. This is kind of what contributed to my earlier hypothesis; there are only so many times you can blow a close game and stick around in October, because your team will either stop using you in high-leverage situations or get knocked out.

    Meanwhile, the least successful hitters are often there for defense, and rack up negative WPA over a lot of bad at-bats at the bottom of the order, which isn’t the kind of thing that will immediately end a run, and probably why were even a few champions among the least-successful hitters (2013 Stephen Drew, 1996 Mariano Duncan). There were a few pennant winners at the bottom, though including Jose Valverde in 2012 (-1.37). After him, there’s 1997 Armando Benitez (-1.13), 1995 Darren Holmes (-0.93), 2011 Shaun Marcum (-0.92), 2009 Ryan Franklin (-0.89), and 2004 Dan Miceli (-0.88).

    To win while racking up a lot of negative value then would mean some back-and-forth series with a team that didn’t have many better options in the pen, and if you are the type of reader who also followed me at The Crawfish Boxes, you might have already guessed that this describes Ken Giles in 2017, who finished with -0.87 Win Probability Added. That’s the lowest total ever in a World Series-winning season. That mark also ties him with the worst mark by a starting pitcher, which comes from 2009 Cole Hamels; after winning both the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008 (while totalling 1.19 WPA), he followed that up with a disastrous, -0.87 mark that came with 16 runs allowed in 19 innings. That’s the craziness of baseball, I suppose.

    And finally, will 2022 be adding another name to this quiz? Well, through the Division Series, the leader was Emmanuel Clase at 0.7, but the Guardians have been eliminated. Among still-active pitchers, there’s Luis Garcia (the Astros one, although the Padres one has also been good) right behind him, at 0.69 so far. He could pass 0.8 with a good outing or two, but the toughest part for him might be actually getting a second appearance; all of that came from his five-inning relief appearance in the 18-inning Game 3 against the Mariners. And of course, that total can also drop, which has hurt both Robert Suarez and Aaron Nola in the NLCS, after both of them entered the round with around 0.6 WPA.

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