MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Sabathia, Verlander proving worth in October

Ringolsby: Playoff rotations running on empty

Sabathia, Verlander proving worth in October
The term ace is thrown out too frequently in baseball.

Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, however, are legitimate aces.

And they are using this postseason to underscore why they are head and shoulders above others.

They embrace the challenge.

Sabathia has made two postseason starts for the New York Yankees. He has worked 17 2/3 innings, allowed only three runs, and won both games -- two of the three games the Yankees have won in the postseason.

ALCS

Verlander has pitched 16 innings, allowing one run, and won both of his starts for Detroit.

Big deal? Seems to be.

There are six pitchers who have worked at least 13 innings this October. Three of them are with the Yankees -- Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda (16 innings) and Andy Pettitte (13 2/3) -- and three Tigers -- Verlander, Doug Fister (13 1/3) and Anibal Sanchez (13 1/3).

NLCS

This is a postseason in which starting pitching has been hard to come by, particularly in the National League.

Through Sunday, NL starting pitchers averaged 4.65 innings per start. Since the addition of the Wild Card in 1995, there has not been a postseason in which a league's starting pitchers averaged fewer than five innings per start. The lowest average prior to this year was 5.08 innings per start by NL starters in 2007.

• The NL starting pitchers in 1981 averaged a record 6.9 innings per start. That is the only season prior to 1995 in which there was a third round to the postseason, created because of a midseason strike that led to a first-half and second-half champion in each division.

• San Francisco went into Monday night's NLCS Game 2 with only 26 1/3 innings of work from starting pitchers in six games, the lowest innings total for a rotation in six postseason games. Baltimore, which won the AL Wild Card, but lost in five games to the Yankees in the ALDS, received 36 innings of work from its rotation, second fewest for a team that played six postseason games.

• St. Louis starters have worked 32 innings in seven games, the fewest total for a rotation in seven postseason games. Arizona set the seven-game postseason record for fewest innings by a starting rotation, with 39 innings pitched in 2007. Oakland received 39 1/3 innings from its rotation in 2006.

• Cincinnati, eliminated in the NL Division Series, received 23 innings of work from its starters in five games, equaling the third-fewest innings in a five-game postseason. Atlanta starters worked 19 1/3 innings in 2004, the Yankees rotation worked 20 1/3 innings in 2011 and Cleveland also received 23 innings from its rotation in 1999.

• NL starters are 4-8 in the first 24 starts this postseason, which would equal the worst winning percentage for a league's rotation in postseason history. NL starters were 6-12 in the 29 starts in 2000. There have been only 18 times in which a league's starting pitchers had a sub-.500 record in the postseason.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.