September baseball is well underway, and Commissioner Bud Selig must be replete with excitement.
With just about half a month left in the regular season, there are an astounding 14 teams within no more than two-and-a-half games out of a playoff spot.
Among them are some teams we have come to expect—New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and St. Luis Cardinals—and some welcome new additions to the playoff scene like the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates.
As exciting October baseball draws near, now is as good a time as ever to take a historical look back at each contender’s five best postseason performers of all time.
It should be noted that this list is based on merit, not hype.
If you are looking for Derek Jeter praise, you will be sorely disappointed. While Jeter’s playoff accomplishments are certainly praiseworthy, his numbers simply fail to meet the lofty standards set by former Yankees greats, despite common public notions.
3 World Championships, 17 Pennants and 21 Playoff Appearances
Set to retire at the conclusion of the season, it looks as if the Braves have just one more opportunity to reap the benefits of Chipper Jones’ postseason bat.
With 92 career games played in the postseason, Jones is no stranger to the bright lights of October. In fact, the future Hall of Famer has flourished beneath them.
An .871 career postseason OPS has catapulted the third basemen into the organization's upper pantheon.
The longtime Atlanta catcher is quite simply the greatest hitting catcher in the history of the organization.
Javy Lopez’s postseason numbers do not disappoint. His .817 OPS is among the team’s all-time leaders.
The Braves terrorized the National League throughout the 1990s and John Smoltz deserves much of the credit.
He may not invoke the same emotion that names like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine do in regards to Braves lore, but we’ll just let his postseason statistics do the majority of the talking.
In 207.2 innings, Smoltz struck out 191, walked just 67 and accumulated a 2.69 postseason ERA. He holds the record for postseason strikeouts and his 15 career wins rank second in baseball history.
In terms of postseason success, Glavine’s 14 career wins rank third on the all-time list, and his 218.1 innings pitched are second of all time.
An ERA of 3.31 speaks to the quality of the innings that Glavine threw.
Of the famous Atlanta trio, Greg Maddux may have had the most accomplished career.
It’s tough to ask for much more than a 3.28 ERA in 197.2 career postseason innings.
3 World Championships, 7 Pennants and 11 Playoff Appearances
For all of his accomplishments, Cal Ripken Jr. managed to turn it up a notch when it came to the playoffs.
In 28 career postseason games, the baseball immortal amassed a highly respectable .861 OPS.
The first baseman posted a .848 OPS in 1983.
Another storied Hall of Famer, Frank Robinson ended his career with a .874 OPS in the postseason.
Robinson’s nine postseason home runs are tops in Baltimore history.
Jim Palmer is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.
Palmer had a career postseason record of 8-3 with a 2.63 ERA—all accumulated as a member of the Orioles. His 90 strikeouts lead the franchise.
Dave McNally’s career postseason ERA of 2.56 is as good as anybody’s in Baltimore’s history.
His 65 strikeouts trail only Palmer for the franchise’s top rank.
3 World Championships, 6 Pennants and 9 Playoff Appearances
Jermaine Dye has more postseason hits (20) than any player in White Sox history.
Despite being banned from baseball for allegedly “throwing” the 1919 World Series, Shoeless Joe Jackson was a fine postseason player.
In eight games during the 1919 playoffs, Jackson accrued an eye-popping .956 OPS—an interesting way to go about intentionally losing.
Paul Konerko leads the White Sox in a number of postseason categories, including RBIs (17) and home runs (7).
His .854 OPS is near his career-norm and is beyond acceptable.
A.J. Pierzynski is notorious for his competitive nature.
In the postseason, it would seem that the aforementioned trait has proven quite beneficial to the catcher. Pierzynski owns a .892 career postseason OPS.
In six playoff games, Ed Cicotte has four complete games and owns a 2.45 ERA.
5 World championships, 10 Pennants and 13 Playoff Appearances
Pete Rose was the main cog in a Cincinnati Reds team that claimed World Series championships in 1975, 1976 and 1980.
Rose boasts a 1975 World Series MVP award, as well as a career .825 postseason OPS.
Johnny Bench owns a career postseason OPS of .864.
The best catcher of all time helped the Reds win three World Series titles.
Another key piece to their World Series’ lineup card was the always-reliable Dave Concepcion.
Concepcion owns a career postseason OPS of .792—a more than acceptable level of production for a second baseman.
The Reds could have never experienced the same playoff success without relief pitcher Jack Billingham.
In 40 innings pitched, Billingham accumulated a strong 2.03 ERA.
Don Gullett deserves some praise for anchoring the World Series Reds of the mid-1970s.
In 90 postseason innings, Gullett posted a respectable 3.90 ERA.
There exists few careers more under-appreciated than that of Hank Greenberg.
His postseason statistics only further affirm his merit to be in the discussion of the very best in baseball history.
In 23 games, Greenberg’s 1.032 OPS is almost unrivaled.
Despite a rather mediocre career regular season OPS of .767, Alan Trammell was among the most prolific hitters in the playoffs.
Trammell’s .992 postseason OPS helped the Tigers win the 1984 World Series and earned him the World Series MVP award.
By now, everybody in baseball knows all about Kirk Gibson's memorable limp-off home run, but don’t let just one at-bat define the man.
A .943 career OPS in the postseason is about as good as it gets.
Carlos Guillen’s 2006 postseason alone earns him a spot on the list.
In 41 at-bats, Guillen posted a 1.008 OPS
One of the best pitchers in Detroit history, Mullin did it in the postseason as well.
Mullin’s career 1.86 postseason ERA is dazzling. His 36 strikeouts are second on the Tigers' all-time list.
Tim Salmon has what it takes to perform on baseball’s ultimate stage.
Whatever “it” is, Salmon used it to help the Angels win the 2002 World Series by accumulating a .908 OPS in 16 games that year.
When the Angels won the 2002 World Series, Troy Glaus was a big reason why.
His postseason OPS of .762 may be middling, but Garret Anderson owns the franchise record for postseason RBIs with 22.
In 2002, Francisco Rodriguez—just a rookie at the time—burst on to the scene.
In 18.2 innings, the hard-throwing righty amazingly struck out 28 batters while holding them to just four earned runs.
When the Red Sox acquired John Lackey in 2010, they believe they were getting the consistent workhorse that the Angels cherished for several years.
In 14 career postseason games, Lackey did what he always did for the Angels—throw effective innings.
He owns a career postseason ERA of 3.12.
Along with the distinction of being the National League’s iron man, Steve Garvey flat-out mashed in 55 career postseason games.
Among his list of playoff accomplishments, Garvey smacked 11 home runs out of Dodgers stadium, drove in 31 runs and accumulated a .910 OPS.
Duke Snider was one of the few to play for the Dodgers organization during their time in Brooklyn as well as in Los Angelas.
His playoff numbers are awe-inspiring. I’ll let the Hall of Famer’s .943 OPS speak for itself.
Sandy Koufax is the Barry Sanders of Major League Baseball—during his short career, he was as good as anybody who has ever put on a jersey.
His postseason numbers are nothing short of astounding. Striking out 61 batters in just 57 innings pitched, Koufax was as close to unhittable as you can be in the playoffs. Koufax’s 0.95 ERA and 0.82 WHIP are truly in a league of their own.
Koufax’s 0.95 ERA is fifth in all of baseball history.
The Dodgers made three playoff appearances with the help of Fernando Valenzuela’s left arm.
His 5-1 postseason record and 2.01 ERA earn him the spot amongst a franchise historically rich in terms of pitching.
Don Drysdale is one of the best pitchers in Dodgers history. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984, Drysdale helped the Dodgers win three World Series titles during his career.
His complete, three-hit, nine-strikeout game in 1963 is one of the best postseason performances to date.
When it comes to postseason numbers, countless postseason appearances render sample size a non-issue for the list of all-time Yankees.
In 65 postseason games, Mickey Mantle possesses 59 hits, 18 home runs, 40 RBIs and a .908 career OPS.
Mantle helped the Yankees capture seven World Series titles.
Owner of five World Series rings, Reggie Jackson is playoff baseball personified.
Among Mr. October’s numerous postseason accolades are two World Series MVP awards, 18 home runs, 48 RBIs and a .885 OPS.
Where does one even begin to explain the merit of Babe Ruth on any list?
While donning pinstripes, Ruth amassed 15 home runs and 30 RBIs in just 36 postseason games.
Ruth’s astronomical career 1.211 OPS ranks fourth on baseball’s all-time list.
Oh, and he could pitch too. For what it’s worth—as a member of the Red Sox, Ruth’s 0.87 postseason ERA ranks third in baseball postseason history.
In terms of the postseason, Andy Pettitte ranks first all-time in wins (19), innings pitched (263.0) and games started (42). His 173 strikeouts are second of all time.
With five World Series championships to his credit, Pettitte may very well be the best postseason pitcher in Yankees history.
The only things separating Pettitte from the indisputable distinction of being the best postseason pitcher in Yankees history is Mariano Rivera. Nobody has figured out how to touch Rivera’s cutter and it’s unlikely that anybody ever will.
The closer boasts the greatest postseason ERA (0.70) in baseball history—made even more impressive when considering his MLB record of 96 postseason games. He is also No. 3 on the list of WHIP leaders (.759) and seventh all-time in H/9 (5.489).
His 42 playoff saves may be one of baseball’s most unbreakable records.
Nobody—no relief pitcher, nor starting pitcher—has dominated quite like Rivera.
9 World Championships, 15 Pennants and 23 Playoff Appearances
Ricky Henderson has been all around the league, but he is best remembered for his years as a member of the Athletics organization.
In 129 postseason innings pitched, Catfish Hunter compiled nine wins while pitching to the tune of a 3.35 ERA.
Hunter’s stellar performance helped the Athletics secure championships in both 1972 and 1974.
Besides, perhaps, the most memorable mustache in sports, Rollie Fingers also boasts two World Series rings among his list of accomplishments.
The famous relief pitcher recorded nine career postseason saves.
As a member of the then-Philadelphia Athletics organization, Al Simmons made an absolute killing in October.
From 1929-31, Simmons posted an OPS of .983, 1.144 and 1.030 respectively. Sample size considered, you would be hard-pressed to find similar postseason production from anybody.
Ken Holtzman dazzled in limited postseason experience.
A career ERA of 2.35 in 69 innings pitched was good enough garner Holtzman a spot on this list of all-time great Athletics.
Lost amongst the steroid era is the solid career of Giants first baseman J.T. Snow.
His .863 career playoff OPS makes him one of the best postseason performers in Giants history.
One of the best hitting second basemen of all time, Jeff Kent struck fear into opposing pitchers.
Kent compiled a career postseason OPS of .840.
Scandals notwithstanding, Barry Bonds made a career out of mashing the baseball.
The Giants may not have won a World Series with Bonds, but you can’t blame his World Series record-breaking 1.294 OPS in 2002 for that.
As a member of the now-defunct New York Giants, Christy Mathewson was remarkable.
His career 0.85 WHIP and 1.07 ERA are unlikely to ever be matched by another Giants pitcher.
Seeing a 28-year-old on a list of all-time greats is a rare sight, but boy did Tim Lincecum’s 2010 earn it.
In the 2010 playoffs, Lincecum went 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 43 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched en route to a World Series championship.
Now a member of the Angels, Pujols’ Cardinals legacy goes well beyond his remarkable regular season success.
Pujols is currently ranked among the top 10 in baseball history in postseason home runs (18), RBIs (52) and owns an astronomical 1.046 career OPS.
Attribute it to recent memory bias, but there is no chance David Freese lacks a spot on this list.
What can be said about Bob Gibson’s career that has not already been said?
With two World Series MVP awards, a 7-2 postseason record and a sparkling 1.89 ERA to go along with his 0.89 career postseason WHIP, Gibson is among the best to ever do it in October.
Chris Carpenter has anchored St. Louis’ staff since 2004 and has done nothing but provide great pitching.
Jim Edmonds may be best remembered for his myriad of highlight-reel defensive plays, but his offensive prowess is not to be overlooked.
For years, Edmonds led the Cardinals lineup. The center fielder put up 13 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .874 OPS in 64 postseason games.
The Rays are far from an October-mainstay, but some players have made the most of their limited opportunities.
Matt Garza makes the list with a 3.96 ERA to go along with 25 strikeouts in 25 postseason innings pitched.
David Price made his postseason debut in the 2008 with a bang.
In 2008, the young lefty struck out eight, allowed just one earned run and even recorded a save in 5.2 innings pitched.
B.J. Upton helped earn the Rays the franchise’s first World Series appearance a few years ago.
In the 2008 postseason, Upton crushed seven home runs and hit to the tune of an extremely impressive .985 OPS.
2008 also proved to be a successful campaign for Carl Crawford.
The left fielder finished the 2008 postseason with an .801 OPS to go along with seven stolen bases.
The value of Carlos Pena’s bat should not be understated.
Pena had done nothing but perform when called upon in the postseason. The strong first baseman has a career postseason OPS of .910.
Just how good has Nelson Cruz been in the postseason? A 1.083 OPS in 2010 and a .959 OPS in 2011 made him an easy addition to the list.
With 14, Cruz is the franchise leader in postseason home runs by a long shot.
Ranked second in the franchise in terms of postseason home runs, Josh Hamilton has six dingers to his credit.
22 postseason RBIs are good for second on the Texas all-time list.
Cliff Lee earns the spot due to a 2010 postseason in which he struck out 47 hitters in just 35.2 innings.
Lee’s 0.81 WHIP that year just makes his performance all the more laudable.
Colby Lewis has had a somewhat uneven career, but his playoff success is indisputable.
In 50 innings, Lewis has accumulated a 2.34 postseason ERA.
As a member of the Montreal Expos, Gary Carter had a particularly memorable 1981 postseason where he accumulated a 1.214 OPS in 35 at-bats.
Passing away earlier this year, The Kid will always be remembered for his exemplary leadership qualities.
Given the franchise’s dearth in postseason appearances, Chris Speier manages to make it onto the list.
Speier’s nine career postseason hits are tied with Andrew Dawson for second on the Expos/Nationals all-time list.
Andre Dawson is one of the organization’s very best players. His .463 postseason OPS is dreadful, but nine hits are still second on the franchise’s all-time list.
Just a mediocre performance from this year’s Nationals should be enough to drastically alter this list in the future.
One of the few bright spots in the organization’s postseason history, Bill Gullickson performed well in his limited opportunities.
A 2.14 ERA in 21 innings is more than praiseworthy.
In 1981, Steve Rogers compiled a near-immaculate 1.00 postseason ERA. The career-Expo went 3-1 with two complete games to add to his limited playoff resume.