Monday, October 23, 2006

A Performance of Historic Proportions

There have been great post-season pitching performances before. Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Jack Morris and Orel Hershisher are just a few of the players that have shined in the World Series. While all of those players were spectacular in leading their teams to World Series Championships, none of them accomplished what Kenny Rogers is accomplishing right now. Heading into the 2006 postseason, Rogers had given up 20 earned runs in 20 1/3 innings. That equates to an abysmal 8.85 ERA. In 23 innings in the 2006 postseason, Rogers has given up zero runs in 23 innings. In fact, he is only four scoreless innings from owning the postseason record for consecutive zeros. The current holder of that record only happens to be one of the five greatest pitchers in MLB history, Christy Mathewson.

Even more remarkable is the fact that Rogers had developed a reputation for being one of the worst second-half pitchers in baseball. Rogers pitched well enough during the first half of the season to be selected as the American League starter for the All Star game. What transpired after the All Star start can only be described as a disaster. In seven starts, Rogers lasted just 31 innings. In those starts, he produced an unfathomable ERA of 9.29. Tigers fans were wondering how the team could possibly survive the postseason with a staff ace performing that poorly. Rogers quieted most of those concerns by pitching well to end the season. He pitched so well, in fact, that his post-All Star game ERA was actually less than his pre-All Star game ERA. It was a nice way to end a successful regular season.

What happened after the season ended has been nothing short of shocking. Rogers took his career 6.45 ERA into a first round match-up against the Yankees. Up to that point, Rogers had never lasted longer than 5 1/3 innings in the postseason. He promptly dominated the Yankees by giving up zero runs on only five hits over 7 2/3 innings. He then smoked the Oakland A’s by giving up zero runs and just two hits over 7 1/3 innings. Those performances were precursors for his dominances on the biggest of stages against the Cardinals in the World Series. Rogers baffled the Cardinals by giving up zero runs and two hits over eight innings. This postseason, Rogers has 19 strike outs in 23 innings. That amounts to 8.3 K/IP. His career mark is only 6.0. Just in case the enormity of Rogers’ accomplishments has gone unnoticed, here are his 2006 postseason stats compared to his career statistics:

Kenny Rogers------Innings--W/L----ERA----WHIP----K/IP

2006 Postseason-------23------3-0------0.00----.69-------8.3

What Rogers has done is, by far, the most unbelievably dominating performance I have ever seen in a MLB postseason. He is one start away from delivering the greatest statistical postseason in baseball history. He is four innings from owning the most dominating stretch of postseason pitching the history-rich sport has ever witnessed. The scale of his performance is going largely unnoticed by the baseball world. Sure, fans and media alike have noticed that Rogers has pitched well. But, there is a nationwide ignorance as to exactly what Rogers is accomplishing. In an ESPN poll of 52,000 respondents, 50.8% said that Rogers’ performance was “Outstanding but not quite legendary.” Only 31.7% said that Rogers’ performance was “Among the best in baseball history.” Not only has his performance been among the best in baseball history statistically speaking, the fact that Rogers’ had failed so miserably in past postseasons makes this even more remarkable. I have never seen an athlete transcend his/her game when the stakes were higher in my lifetime. In just one season, he has already done enough to go down as one of the Tigers all-time greats. Should the Tigers win the World Series as many have predicted, Rogers should be prepared to gain cult-like status in Detroit. I find this whole development fascinating and totally unexpected as this post that I wrote from last year probably indicates. What a difference a year makes!

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