October is all about pitching.
But mostly it’s about pitching.
So how do this year’s postseason teams rank in terms of their pitching staffs? Glad you asked. Let’s rank them.
*ERA+ stats current through Saturday
Major League ranks: first in ERA (3.01), ERA+ (136) and WHIP (1.10), third in K/BB (3.29)
Bottom line: This is not exactly the starting staff we envisioned for the Dodgers at the start of the year, but, nevertheless, they wound up with the best rotation ERA in MLB, as expected. Max Scherzer has brought his bona fides to a group in which Walker Buehler gets a chance to build on his budding October legacy and Julio Urías has become a force of nature. Even with Clayton Kershaw likely out with an arm issue, the Dodgers have the arms to win a short series. The bullpen is well-stocked with the experience of Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly, David Price and Corey Knebel, and Phil Bickford has been a revelation. All told, no pitching staff in MLB has been better at limiting hard contact than that of the Dodgers.
Major League ranks: third in ERA (3.50) and ERA+ (124), fourth in WHIP (1.18), ninth in K/BB (3.01)
Bottom line: Right-handers Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are as fearsome a threesome atop a rotation as any in this October tournament. All three had sub-3 ERAs this season, with Burnes a strong candidate to win the NL Cy Young. The Brewers finish things off with one of the best closers in the game in Josh Hader, but they are equally capable of erasing threats in the middle innings with the variety of looks and the reverse splits available to Craig Counsell from the likes of Brent Suter, Brad Boxberger and Hunter Strickland. While a late-season broken hand for super setup man Devin Williams is a big blow, this staff is still a handful.
Major League ranks: first in K/BB (3.43), second in ERA (3.24), ERA+ (127) and WHIP (1.15)
Bottom line: The Giants’ pitching staff is a lot like their lineup. It’s not loaded with stars, but it is loaded with dudes who get the job done. Retaining Kevin Gausman and adding Anthony DeSclafani has been huge for the rotation, as has the breakout of young Logan Webb. Lefty Jake McGee has been one of the most reliable closers in baseball this season, though he’s dealt with a late-season oblique issue. Tyler Rogers, Jarlín García, José Álvarez, Zack Littell and Dominic Leone have all been impactful relief options for a club that mixes and matches in the middle and late innings very well and has a variety of guys who can deliver multiple relief innings.
4) White Sox
Major League ranks: fourth in K/BB (3.27) and ERA+ (117), fifth in WHIP (1.20) and ERA (3.73)
Bottom line: The Sox had one of the two largest strikeout percentage improvements in MLB this season and also had one of the 10 largest drops in walk rate. Lance Lynn brought a ton of pedigree to a rotation in which Lucas Giolito has been reliable, Carlos Rodón has turned his career around and Dylan Cease has taken a step forward (though Rodón’s late-season arm soreness is a big question mark). The bullpen anchored by Liam Hendriks has depth aplenty, but there is a huge X-factor in the performance of Craig Kimbrel, who has been much shakier on the South Side than he was in the first half with the Cubs.
Major League ranks: second in K/BB (3.39), third in WHIP (1.17), fourth in ERA (3.67), 11th in ERA+ (107)
Bottom line: Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are gone, Tyler Glasnow is hurt, and yet the Rays always seem to find a way. It will once again be fascinating to watch Kevin Cash deploy his arms, especially with such a young and largely unproven rotation that figures to include three rookies (Shane McClanahan, Luis Patiño and Shane Baz, who debuted in September) and a sophomore (Drew Rasmussen). The bullpen has also seen a lot of turnover from last year’s group and is now anchored by surprise All-Star Andrew Kittredge. The exact cast of that ‘pen changes by the day due to injuries and roster churn. But these are the Rays we know and love: plucking anonymous names out of the ether and getting big outs.
Major League ranks: sixth in ERA (3.74) and ERA+ (114), fifth in WHIP (1.20) and K/BB (3.19)
Bottom line: Giving Gerrit Cole the ball is easy, but the Yankees have had to navigate a lot of challenges after that, including a shoulder issue that cost Corey Kluber three months and an erratic (and, of late, injury addled) season from Jameson Taillon in his return from his second Tommy John surgery. Yet Jordan Montgomery has been a reliable No. 2, and Nestor Cortes has unexpectedly stepped up with some big innings. Jonathan Loáisiga’s shoulder injury greatly hampered the bullpen and put a lot of pressure on Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green. But Loáisiga returned in the final week, and Luis Severino has become an interesting weapon in the ‘pen, as have Michael King and Clay Holmes.
Major League ranks: seventh in ERA (3.76) and WHIP (1.23), fifth in ERA+ (115), 17th in K/BB (2.65)
Bottom line: Though Zack Greinke has been a shadow of his old, consistent self this season, the Astros still managed to field a strong rotation. Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers Jr. have both had excellent years, and Rookie of the Year candidate Luis Garcia has provided a big boost. Jose Urquidy is also a solid October option. The bullpen is a much bigger question mark. Despite the Trade Deadline acquisition of Kendall Graveman, the Astros have continued to have stretches in which they struggle to build a bridge to closer Ryan Pressly.
Major League ranks: seventh in ERA+ (113), 8th in ERA (3.88), 10th in WHIP (1.24), 13th in K/BB (2.75)
Bottom line: Atlanta has dealt with a lot of injury and inconsistency elsewhere in the rotation, but Max Fried and Charlie Morton have been stabilizing forces at the front end. If Ian Anderson can iron out his ups and downs and pitch as he did for the Braves last October, that will greatly improve their chances of advancing. The bullpen has been an iffy area, as Deadline acquisition Richard Rodríguez has been a bit homer-prone and closer Will Smith’s walk rate has increased.
Major League ranks: 12th in ERA (3.98), 17th in WHIP (1.30), 20th in ERA+ (98), 30th in K/BB (2.01)
Bottom line: Barraged by injuries basically from the first day of Spring Training, the Cardinals never got to field the rotation they envisioned. But in the second half, the return of Miles Mikolas and the unheralded trades for J.A. Happ and Jon Lester made for a much more effective unit behind the ageless Adam Wainwright. Jack Flaherty is a big question mark after a lost season upended by oblique and shoulder issues. A bullpen in which closer Alex Reyes and others have compiled the worst walk rate in MLB has unexpectedly been improved by the additions of Luis García and T.J. McFarland. Somehow, the Cards have pieced together one of the most effective pitching staffs in baseball in the second half, aided by the best defense in the game in terms of outs above average.
10) Red Sox
Major League ranks: 9th in ERA+ (111), 12th in K/BB (2.80), 15th in ERA (4.26), 23rd in WHIP (1.38)
Bottom line: Boston was extremely careful and extremely patient with staff ace Chris Sale in his return from Tommy John surgery, and that approach has paid enormous dividends down the stretch. Sale has largely looked like his old self since his August return, though he was surprisingly ineffective in trying to shut down the Nationals on the final day of the season. He pairs with Nathan Eovaldi to form a terrific, playoff-tested tandem at the top of the rotation. but with effective rookie Tanner Houck moved to the bullpen to manage his innings, the rotation does have question marks from there. The bullpen is operating without set roles, as Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino have both seen their effectiveness wane in the second half.