Monday, October 5, 2009

World Series Champions' Magic Number

Baseball has seen all sorts of world championship pitching staffs since the start of the modern World Series in 1903. One star young pitcher would lead his championship team in wins one year (Babe Ruth, with 23 wins for Boston in 1916) and then go on to become the all-time leading home run hitter and win four more World Series as a legendary outfielder for the team's rival.

There would be teams with a 34-game winner (Boston's Joe Wood in 1912) and ones with seven pitchers who'd record at least 10 wins (Cincinnati's 1976 Big Red Machine).

But never in baseball history has a team won the World Series if its winningest pitcher didn't have at least 14 victories for the team during a full season. (Fernando Valenzuela led Los Angeles with 13 in strike-shortened 1981.) In fact, just two World Series champs had a winningest pitcher with less than 15 wins: the 2003 Florida Marlins with three 14-game winners, and the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, led by John Candelaria (14).

In other words, the odds aren't in the Phillies' favor heading into the playoffs. And it doesn't look too good for L.A. either.

The winningest pitcher on both teams finished with just 12 wins. The Phillies' Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, and Jamie Moyer reached 12, while Chad Billingsley had 12 for the Dodgers. Every other team in this year's playoffs features a pitcher with at least 15 wins.

And you thought it was bad for the Phillies that their closer is 0-8 with 11 blown saves and a 7.21 ERA.

Looking for a bright side, or perhaps an asterisk to the rule? Cliff Lee finished with 14 total wins for the season if you count the seven he won before his trade from Cleveland.

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