As the Yankees won their 40th pennant last night, it was no surprise that starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who was 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA in the series, won the series MVP. Then again, Alex Rodriguez also had a great series, hitting .429/.567/.952, and certainly would have been a worthy choice had he won the ALCS MVP. For what it's worth, Fangraphs had Sabathia with the edge in win probability added (WPA), 0.679 to 0.530 over A-Rod.
At first thought, two wins by a starting pitcher seemed like a lock for series MVP. But just how often has that happened? I went back and looked at all the league championship series since 1985, the first year of the best-of-seven format. There have been 25 times a starting pitcher from the winning team has had two victories in the LCS. He has walked away with the MVP 15 times, which is less than I would have thought. Two of those non-MVPs though lost out to a fellow teammate who also had two wins.
Here's a look at all the starting pitchers from pennant-winning teams with two wins in the LCS in the last 25 years:
|1987 ALCS||Bert Blyleven||No||Gary Gaetti hit .300/.348/.650, circling Bert's 4.05 ERA|
|1988 NLCS||Tim Belcher||No||Orel Hershiser and his one win (1.09 ERA) bested his teammate|
|1989 ALCS||Dave Stewart||No||Rickey Henderson hit .400/.609/1.000|
|1990 ALCS||Dave Stewart||Yes|
|1991 NLCS||Steve Avery||Yes|
|1991 NLCS||John Smoltz||No||Smoltz was great (1.76 ERA), but teammate Avery was better (0.00 ERA)|
|1991 ALCS||Jack Morris||No||Kirby Puckett hit .429/.435/.762; Morris had a 4.05 ERA|
|1992 ALCS||Juan Guzman||No||Guzman's 2.08 ERA was spit on by Roberto Alomar (.423/.464/.692)|
|1992 NLCS||John Smoltz||Yes|
|1993 ALCS||Dave Stewart||Yes|
|1993 ALCS||Juan Guzman||No||Guzman and Stewart each gave up three runs; Stew got one more out|
|1995 ALCS||Orel Hershiser||Yes|
|1996 NLCS||John Smoltz||No||Smoltz had a 1.20 ERA in 15 IP, but Javy Lopez hit .542/.607/1.000|
|1997 NLCS||Livan Hernandez||Yes||No word on whether Eric Gregg was voted a playoff share|
|1998 ALCS||David Wells||Yes|
|1998 NLCS||Sterling Hitchcock||Yes||My favorite MVP of the bunch, as he pitched all of 10 innings|
|2000 ALCS||Orlando Hernandez||No||El Duque's 4.05 ERA was beaten by David Justice's 8 RBI|
|2000 NLCS||Mike Hampton||Yes|
|2001 NLCS||Randy Johnson||No||The Unit's 1.12 ERA lost to the grit of
|2001 ALCS||Andy Pettitte||Yes|
|2005 NLCS||Roy Oswalt||Yes|
|2007 ALCS||Josh Beckett||Yes|
|2008 ALCS||Matt Garza||Yes|
|2008 NLCS||Cole Hamels||Yes||"C'mon, Cole. Pound the corners. Get him to chase one outside."|
|2009 ALCS||C.C. Sabathia||Yes|
There have been eight relievers since 1985 to get two wins, the most recent being Julian Tavarez for the 2004 Cardinals. Jesse Orosco is the only man, starter or reliever, to get three wins in an LCS, accomplishing the feat for the 1986 Mets. None of the relievers won series MVP.
Don Sutton (1974) and Burt Hooton (1981) join Belcher as the only Dodgers to have two wins in a single NLCS. MVPs were not awarded for the league championship series until 1977. Hooton won the 1981 NLCS MVP.