The 2013 MLB playoffs have reached a critical stage, as both the American League and National League Championship Series are entering Game 6. With two teams facing elimination and the other two just one win away from a World Series berth, the time for urgency is now.
With uncertainty still present, it's hard for fans and analysts do anything but dream about what could be. In this instance, it's four teams with revered pitching staffs that could go toe-to-toe with any team in the world.
The question is, which potential pitching matchups would steal the show at the 2013 World Series?
Zack Greinke vs. Jon Lester
Greinke: 15-4, 148 SO, 2.63 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .234 BAA
Lester: 15-8, 177 SO, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .253 BAA
When it comes to postseason pitching, not too many players have mastered the craft as well as Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox. When it comes to making something out of nothing, few in the league can do what Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers does.
These two grinding pitchers are well-established as aces, and in this scenario, they'd lead former trade partners up against one another.
During the 2013 regular season, Greinke was 15-4 with 148 strikeouts, a 2.63 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and a .234 opponent batting average in 28 starts. In his final 17 appearances, Greinke lowered his ERA from 4.30 on Jul. 3 to 2.63 on Sept. 28.
Greinke was 9-2 during that stretch.
Lester was 15-8 with 177 strikeouts, a 3.75 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and a .253 opponent batting average during the regular season. Before jumping to conclusions, note that Lester lowered his ERA by 0.77 points during the final two months of the season.
Most important, Lester has a career 2.49 postseason ERA in 11 appearances and nine starts. There are only a select few truly elite pitchers in baseball, and both Greinke and Lester qualify.
Clayton Kershaw vs. Justin Verlander
Kershaw: 16-9, 232 SO, 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, .195 BAA
Verlander: 13-12, 217 SO, 3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .253 BAA
This is the ultimate dream pitcher's duel.
Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers is the best pitcher in the National League, leading all players in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers had a down season in 2013 but won AL MVP just two years ago.
Both players have won the pitching Triple Crown and each has dominated on the postseason stage. Verlander is the established veteran who is reaching legendary heights with his dominance, while Kershaw is the rising star who's already untouchable.
How could it get any better than this?
During the 2013 regular season, Kershaw was 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA, 232 strikeouts and 0.92 WHIP. Batters hit just .195 against the 25-year-old, thus leading to the undeniable truth that Kershaw is at the top of his craft.
Verlander had a down year, going 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA, 217 strikeouts and a 1.31 WHIP. When a sub-3.50 ERA and 200-plus strikeouts qualifies as a "down year," it's safe to say that a player has established their dominance.
If you're still not sold, Verlander has a 0.39 postseason ERA in 2013, while Kershaw's is 0.47. This is the best of all dream matchups.
Max Scherzer vs. Adam Wainwright
Scherzer: 21-3, 240 SO, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .198 BAA
Wainwright: 19-9, 219 SO, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .248 BAA
During the 2013 regular season, Tigers ace Max Scherzer led all MLB players with 21 victories. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals was second to Scherzer with 19 wins over in the National League.
Need I say more?
Scherzer was surgical, becoming the front-runner to win the American League Cy Young Award by going 21-3 with 240 strikeouts, a 2.90 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. Scherzer held opponents to a .198 batting average and has already gone 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in the postseason.
Wainwright hasn't been too far behind.
The Cardinals' mound master was 19-9 with 219 strikeouts, a 2.94 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and a .248 opponent batting average. It was the third time in four completed seasons that Wainwright had won at least 19 games.
Furthermore, Wainwright is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA and Scherzer is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA during the 2013 postseason. If it ends up being Detroit and St. Louis, you should cheer for the fact that we may see this matchup.