It's an adage seemingly as old as baseball itself: Good pitching stops good hitting.
In the World Series, which begins Saturday, that's especially true. "The whole thing really revolves around starting pitching," explained Joe Buck, who will provide play-by-play with analyst Tim McCarver. "It really takes three solid starters to get the thing done, and you can probably get by with three. If those three do their jobs, that's going to give you your best chance to win.
"I don't think teams that come in to any World Series lack pitching or lack defense," he continued. "And that's the thing. It becomes a real defensive game, where a play here, a play there, a bad pitch here, hanging curve ball there can not only cost you a game, but those games turn into lost series."
Essential is power pitching, the sheer ability to throw a ball past a hitter. It's been proven time and again, by Josh Beckett of the Florida Marlins against the New York Yankees last year, by the Arizona Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001 against the Yankees, and by other pitchers throughout history.
Why are power pitchers so effective in October? "Well, first of all, from a practical standpoint, it's cold at least some of the time," Buck said, "and power pitching on cooler evenings if not downright cold evenings usually has an advantage there.
"I think most times you've got a situation where a finesse pitcher has got to be perfect. And it's tough to be perfect when the nerves are there and you've got so much riding on each pitch. That's why more times than not, you're going to find that pitchers that can rare back and just blow it by a hitter have more success. . . . There are a few exceptions, and those are the really talented, calm, at-ease pitchers that can get by on tricking hitters in October."
Much has been made of the "Curse of the Bambino," the Boston Red Sox' world championship drought that dates back to when the team sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees following the 1919 season. However, a more rational explanation may lie in the Sox' style of play over the years.
The BoSox play in Fenway Park, confines with cozy dimensions in left field that tempt right-handed hitters to swing for the fences. Thus, Red Sox teams historically have been built around what wins in their home park, right-handed power hitting, and not what wins World Series games -- pitching.
And with the pitching being as good as it is in October, it's important for an offense to be able to create runs. That's why the Yankees have been so successful in the postseason over the last decade.
"The one thing that everybody's said when Joe Torre got to the Yankees," Buck said, "was this is a guy who brought a National League style of play to the American League. They got runners on, they got them over and they got 'em in. They take extra bases. They steal a couple of bases. You don't have to be a fast team. You have to have a different mindset . . . And if you can't [do those things], that goes back to the whole pitching thing. The pitching's too good to try to lay back and wait for big three-run home runs."