Playoff experience doesn't matter

As Matt Moore showed in his Game 1 start, experience doesn't really matter when you have talent. Michael L. Stein/US Presswire

Last week, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon made a surprising decision when he announced that rookie left-hander Matt Moore would start Game 1 of the ALDS against the Texas Rangers. Moore wasn't just a rookie but a rookie with one major league start under his belt who spent more than half the year with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits. The decision worked out well, as Moore shut down the 96-win Rangers on their home turf for seven innings.

In this case, ability trumped experience, and the young player came through in the clutch. Conventional wisdom suggests that playoff experience is a valuable factor for the postseason. The question is, does this bit of conventional wisdom survive scrutiny, or is it merely urban legend?

To examine this, I started looking at the value of experience in the playoffs at the individual level using all playoff games since 1969. Why 1969? The start of the divisional era greatly increased the potential number of at-bats or innings pitched a player could collect in the postseason, making any pattern easier to find.