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Does experience matter in October? Joe explored the subject in the piece reprinted below, which was originally published on October 3rd, 2008.

"However, in taking on the Cubs, [Manny] Ramirez must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with several position players and pitchers who offer little (if any) post-season experience."

Chad Billingsley: 6 2/3 IP, 1 R, 7 K
Dodgers 17, Cubs 5, 2-0 series lead

"[David] Ortiz said he still believed their lack of post-season experience would hurt the Rays in the long run."

Evan Longoria: 3-for-3, 2 HR
James Shields: 6 1/3 IP, 3 R, 4K
Rays 6, White Sox 4, 1-0 series lead

We go through this every single year, but the storylines never change. The notion that post-season experience is a driving force in post-season success never goes away. No matter how many times a team with little or no post-season experience—the 2007 Rockies, or the 2006 Tigers, or the 2003 Marlins, or the 2002 Angels—makes a mockery of the idea, we find ourselves back in the same situation each fall, with writers and players pointing to experience as a factor on par with talent, when in fact it doesn't matter at all. Whatever success teams with post-season experience have that makes it look like it is a factor—say, the Yankees from 1996-2001—is better explained by this: teams that get back to the postseason a lot tend to have good baseball players.

Playing well is what matters, and despite the endless discussion of the value of playoff experience, there's not much correlation between having been there before and playing well now. It's a stock storyline that allows for easy, space-filling quotes, and facile explanations of good and bad performance. Every time a young player fails to make a play, or doesn't get a hit in a key spot, or spits the bit on the mound, it gets attributed to an inability to handle post-season pressure. Whenever a veteran succeeds in a comparable situation, the experience is cited as the reason.

It's all just too easy. The fact is, baseball doesn't work that way. Players handle pressure successfully, on balance, or they wouldn't be MLB players. Sometimes, MLB players make mistakes, have a bad start, a lousy week, and it has nothing to do with pressure. Baseball is a hard game, but it's hard in April and June, too, and this idea that has developed over the last 15 years—which seems, to me, to have started when MLB went to three playoff tiers in 1995—that October baseball is vastly different from the regular season, has led us down a pretty misleading path.

Adding to the irrationality is that the threshold for post-season experience seems to bounce all over the place. Some writers referenced the Phillies' 2007 post-season experience as an edge for them over the Brewers. Apparently, getting wiped out in three games is valuable, and spending about 15 minutes in the postseason makes you experienced. Other pieces compared the Brewers' and Phillies' experience—neither has won a post-season game or series since before the Division Series existed—as if the two were comparable.

How about this? Post-season baseball is just baseball with more media credentials and fewer games between flights. Pressure? There may be more, but is it any more than that faced when you're trying to get drafted? Make a team? Win a playoff spot? Does this week really feel more pressure-packed for the Brewers or White Sox than last week, every game a must-win game, did?

The stock storylines don't add anything to our enjoyment of the game. Whether it's "post-season experience" or "veteran leadership" or "pitching and defense" or "small ball," all these attempts to fit the postseason into boxes limit our knowledge rather than expand it. If we're going to break down these games, and figure out why players do well and poorly, why teams win and lose, let's wipe the slate clean and focus on what's happening

Thank you for reading

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Future article idea: Looking at the change in aggregate player OPS (or FIP for pitchers) relative to the regular season, binned by the number of years in MLB and/or number of trips to the postseason.

Do rookies as a group play better or worse than you'd expect from their regular-season stats?
I am a huge fan of Baseball Prospectus and I think its writers have done much to counter balance the analysis by myth or legend. I am not an adherent of the Joe Morgan school of study by cliche and started reading Bill James back in 1980. I don't like articles like this as I suspect this is where baseball traditionalists have a point. There are limits to numbers and statistical study, and those limits are usually reached when analysts start to quantify intangibles like leadership, managerial talent and pitcher-catcher chemistry. From a common sense point of view, to make a snap shot statement that experience doesn't make a difference is quite a leap. In almost any occupation, experienced and capable professionals often are the difference in an emergency. How about the police officer, ambulance worker, fire fighter or brain surgeon that you deal with? Do you take ability or would you like ability plus experience when it suddenly goes wrong? If you take the aggregate number of years on a club and use that as the basis for analysis, this is flawed. It is the difference between a 20 year veteran who has 20 years of experience or one year of experience twenty times. The former is gold. Success is often the experienced personality who is respected, capable and in the right place at the right time. That cannot be measured like FRAA or WARP. A rookie club might just have enough of those people in the examples given in this article, either coaching or playing, to have made the difference. In any case, in an arena where deep arguments are expected and enjoyed, this one struck me as somewhat shallow.