The 2013 World Series hasn't even started and many are already dubbing this MLB post-season to be the "Year of the Pitcher."
No team has managed to score better than three runs more than once in the League Championship round, with each club pitching a shutout in the opening three games. So, what's behind this year's pitching dominance?
The first and most obvious factor is sheer talent.
Each of the four remaining playoff teams boast a blend of ace talent and veteran presence that has led to individual pitchers stepping up and tossing gem after gem to will their teams toward a pennant.
Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Jake Peavy and Zack Greinke all have Cy Young Awards on their resumes. Max Scherzer is very likely to join that group once the 2013 hardware gets handed out, while Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright led the NL in wins and logged more innings than any other pitcher during the regular season.
But it's not just those pitchers – lest we forget David Price's Wild Card game heroics, Anibal Sanchez' near-no-hitter or the efforts of Red Sox vets John Lackey and Jon Lester – that are forming the narrative. Rookies like Michael Wacha, Hyun-Jun Ryu and Sonny Gray have all tossed gems that have pushed the "Year of the Pitcher" to the forefront.
While Verlander would eventually get the better of Gray in the decisive NLDS game and Ryu essentially is a rookie in name only (being 26 and a veteran of seven dominant seasons in Korea), Wacha has certainly emerged as one of October's biggest stars.
Drafted just over a year ago – 19th overall by the Cards in 2012 – Wacha has taken a huge leap forward this fall, flirting with a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLDS and following that up with a six-plus-inning shutout performance to power a 1-0 NLCS Game 2 Cardinals win over Kershaw.
It would be an easy fix to just flat-out state that the pitching has been that good, but it's not like these starters have been facing inferior lineups. All four of these teams have the potential to be offensive juggernauts, with the Red Sox, Tigers and Cardinals having finished top-three in runs scored in 2013. All four teams can boast of game-breaking bats in their line-up, from Miguel "Triple Crown" Cabrera to the playoff pedigree of David Ortiz, clutch performers like Carlos Beltran and David Freese to break-out stars like Yasiel Puig.
But still, the Red Sox 1-0 win on Tuesday marked the fourth of this year's post-season, tying a record for most 1-0 games in a single post-season since the dawn of the LCS era, previously set in 1991 with all four involving the Atlanta Braves' three-headed monster of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery.
History might tell us that it's just a recurring trend swinging back the pitchers' way. Since the inception of the League Championship Series MVP Awards in 1977 (NL) and 1980 (AL), starting pitchers seem to claim the award in clusters.
Of the 10 pitchers that have won ALCS MVP there have been three separate occasions of three pitchers winning the award in a five-year span or less. More pitchers have claimed the NLCS MVP Award (12), but those wins, too have come largely thanks to three- and four-year spans of pitching dominance.
What's even more curious is that those spans basically overlap. Between 1990 and 1995 a starting pitcher won the LCS MVP six out of 10 times. Between 1997 and 2001 starters again took six of 10. The trend would repeat itself once more between 2005 and 2009. Since 2009, however, no starting pitcher has won either the LCS or World Series MVP Award.
Is this season just the start of another cycle?
Regardless of why it's happening, the starting pitchers appear to be on a collective roll this October and we're only just past the half-way point of the month.
What do you think is behind this post-season's pitching dominance? As always, it's Your! Call.