Pitching Pushes MLB Playoffs In Post-Steroid Era

There has been a paradigm shift in the post-steroid era of baseball.  Other than the Cubs, who always seem to be behind the learning curve, no longer are teams shelling out large contracts to older sluggers.  Instead, a lot of that money has been put toward younger talent.

And rather than seeing bulky boppers age in front of your eyes, the remaining teams in the League Championship Series are primed to take the next step because of their young pitchers.

For evidence of this shift in ideologies, look no further than the NLCS Game 1 match-up between the Phillies and Dodgers.

Philadelphia will send Cole Hamels to the bump looking to take a 1-0 series lead. Hamels was a postseason hero in 2008. Hamels posted a perfect 4-0 postseason record en route to the Phightin's world title. He allowed only 23 hits and 7 earned runs in 35 innings of work, while striking out 30 batters and walking only 9 all at the tender age of 24.  Hamels looked like he would have a breakout 2009, but struggled for the most part and finished with a 10-11 regular season record along with a 4.32 earned run average.

With a clean slate, Hamels can etch a new postseason mark against the Dodgers starting tonight.  Last year against the Dodgers, Hamels went 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two playoff starts against Los Angeles, clinching the team's pennant with a win in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium -- where the two teams will kick off tonight's festivities.

Clayton Kershaw and his wicked breaking ball provides Hamels' competition.  You can add Kershaw to the list of Dodgers prospects to make an impact with the big league ball club.  It's why Los Angeles' original team is usually among the contenders.  His 8-8 record was pedestrian, but his peripherals are outstanding.  His 185 strikeouts and 2.76 ERA ranked as the best on LA's staff.

And in his first ever postseason start, Kershaw shut down the mighty St. Louis Cardinals offense as he scattered nine hits and allowed only two runs in a game the Dodgers would eventually win, 3-2.  Kershaw's gift basket to Matt Holliday should be arriving any day now.

Down the freeway, Jered Weaver will garner a start for the Angels against the Bronx Bombers.  Weaver went 16-8 with a 3.75 ERA and 1.242 WHIP in 2009 as he proved to be the ace of the California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  In only his third postseason start, Weaver puzzled Boston's hitters in a 4-1 Angels win.  Weaver struck out 7 batters in 7.1 innings, allowing one run on two hits en route to victory.

Of the three starting pitchers slated to go for the Yankees, CC Sabathia (28) is the youngest.  But what the Yankees lack in youth in its rotation, it makes up with young, flame-throwing relievers.

Phil Hughes, who was expected to be a front-line starter once upon a time, has excelled in the Yankee bullpen.  As a starter, he posted a 3-2 record and 5.45 ERA in seven starts.  But after being shifted to the pen, Hughes turned into one of baseball's most reliable set-up me as he went 5-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 51.1 innings of work.

Hughes' strikeout-to-walk ration jumped from 2.07-to-1 all the way up to 5-to-1.  His K/9 ratio elevated to 11.4 and his WHIP dipped to 0.857.

Then there's Joba Chamberlain, who made 31 starts for the Yanks in 2009.  However, the youngster is clearly more effective coming out of the pen.  His career splits tell the story.  As a reliever, Chamberlain owns a 1.50 ERA, 0.983 WHIP, 3.95 K/BB ratio, 11.9 K/9 ratio and has 79 punchouts in 61 innings.  As a starter, the WHIP jumps to 1.480, the ERA jumps to 4.18 and the strikeout-per-walk ratio gets cut in half.

The trio of Chamberlain, Hughes and Mariano Rivera makes the Yankees bullpen a scary proposition as we get later into October.

The youth has been served.