After all the hype about Houston's Big ThreeIs Roger Clemens still pitching Game Five?the pitcher who had the best start in World Series and the League Championship Series ironically was Brandon Backe, seven shutout innings in the 1-0 finale loss.
Last year, Backe threw perhaps the two best pitched games of the Astros surprise playoff run. He pitched six innings and allowed two runs in the 8-5 win over the Braves in the first round that gave Houston a 2-1 edge in the series that they ended up winning three games to two. He then pitched eight innings of a shutout win over St. Louis, the best pitched game of the series, pushing the Astros to the brink of their first World Series with a three games to two advantage (though they lost the next two).
Sure, he also pitched two poor games in the postseason, one in each of the last two years. In game one of the 2004 NLCS, he allowed four runs in 4.2 innings en route to a 10-7 loss. And he gave up five runs in 4.1 innings in the series clincher over the Braves this year, which Houston won 7-6.
But overall he has had a 2.89 ERA in the playoffs in 2004 and a 3.00 ERA this year. That's not bad for a guy who owns a 4.86 career ERA and has only had one season in which his ERA was no worse than the park-adjusted league average. His career postseason ERA (2.95) is almost two runs lower than his career regular-season ERA (4.86).
That made me wonder what was the greatest difference between a pitcher's regular-season and postseason ERAs. Is Backe's the highest ever or among the highest? Who knows? So I looked it up.
Here are the pitcher's with a postseason ERA that is at least one and one-half runs better than his career regular-season ERA (stats through 2005, min 90 IP):
Blue Moon Odom
That's an interesting list. There are some great pitchers who "took it to the next level" in the postseason and some marginal pitchers, like Backe, who did the same, though their "next level" was competence. Any list headed by Sterling Hitchcock has got to be wacky. Also of note are the two Yankee relievers finishing up the list.
Backe deserves some credit in helping getting Houston to their first World Series, especially in a year that their offense suffered through the loss of Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran. I guess Chuck D was right.