Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Aceless Accusations

Justin Baumann over at the Bleacher Report argues that the Cubs have no aces on the pitching staff and therefore need Jake Peavy. 

I contend that the Cubs have three aces and only need Peavy if they want to make it embarrassing. 

His evidence is last year's playoffs, when no Cub pitcher was able to shut down the Dodgers.

I prefer not to talk about last year's playoffs. 

Seriously, though, I have always hated the use of postseason performance as evidence for a baseball argument or the legacy of certain players. I know, I know, the playoffs are the absolute most important time to come through in the clutch and the worst possible occasion to choke. But it's such a small sample! Especially when you choke and choke hard.

You could take a three- or six-game window of any Hall of Famer's performance and find it abysmal. And you could find a 10-game stretch where Henry Blanco was absolutely on fire. And if that completely unrepresentative sample happened to take place in October, some people would wind up labeling Joe Morgan as a choke artist and Henry Blanco as a critical component to any championship roster.

But nobody really has the ability to just "switch it on" in October. If they did, what was wrong with them in the third week of June when they went 0-12 against the Reds? I just don't buy these "clutch" labels we throw on players who have had fortunately timed hot streaks over which they had no control.

The same goes for pitchers. While you definitely can judge their playoff potential by examining their stats against playoff-quality teams, it's completely unreliable to talk about their past playoff experience when that amounts to no more than a handful of starts. Any pitcher can have a bad game--at any time. To judge any of them on the basis of two or three games would be ignorant of the unpredictability of baseball. 

In my opinion, Zambrano, Harden, and Dempster (if he duplicates the marvel that was the 2008 season . . . and ignores that little LA train wreck) all qualify as aces because any of them would be at least considered as the Game 1 starter for any number of playoff contenders.

There's no way I'm saying that Jake Peavy would be "the guy" to ensure the Cubs at least one playoff win. It would be nice to have him.
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