MLB Playoffs 2012: Best at Each Position in the Postseason
With the American League West and East both being decided on the final day, a day in which Miguel Cabrera locked up the first Triple Crown in two generations, we now know the 10 teams in the playoffs (A's, Braves, Cards, Giants, Nats, O's, Rangers, Reds, Tigers and Yankees) and who will be playing in the two 163rd games later this week.
In that spirit, I thought I'd take a look at the best players at each position in this season's MLB playoffs.
Honorable Mention, Batters
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- Jay Bruce, Reds: Sure, Bruce has 34 dingers and an .815 OPS. On the other hand, he’s only batting .251, and has a WAR of just 1.4
- Curtis Granderson, Yankees: Granderson is one of a handful of MLB players with 40 homers this season. He's also batting .230 and isn't even in the top 50 in WAR.
- Matt Holliday, Cardinals: Holliday is the top 10 in the NL in OBP, runs, hits and total bases, but not in doubles, OPS or WAR.
- Derek Jeter, Yankees: Yeah, Mr. November led the league in hits this year, but two of his numbers were underwhelming: his .793 OPS (due to having less than 50 extra-base hits) and his -1.4 defensive WAR.
- Buster Posey, Giants: Posey is one of two catchers in this year's playoffs who hit over .300 in the regular season, and the only one who also drove in 100 this season.
- Joey Votto, Reds: There are years when the 2010 MVP has solid performance not marred by bouts with injury. This year wasn't one of them.
Honorable Mention, Pitchers
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Matt Cain, Giants: Matt Cain is sixth in ERA (2.79), third among pitchers in the playoffs. He’s won 16 games (including a perfect one), but is out of the top 15 in the MLB in quality starts and didn’t quite make it to 200 Ks.
Aroldis Chapman, Reds: Despite his 38 saves and 122 strikeouts, Chapman doesn’t quite make the cut due to a 6.97 ERA in June and a 4.05 ERA in September, to say nothing of his four errors on the mound.
Max Scherzer, Tigers: Max Scherzer has the second-highest number of regular season Ks (231) among MLB pitchers; he also led the majors in Ks per nine and won 16 games. His ERA on the season? 3.74.
Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
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Yadier Molina is hitting .315 on the season and is the only backstop in the majors with double-digit stolen bags. But what made me decide to put Yadi is this spot is his dWAR, which (according to ESPN) is a full win higher than any other backstop in the minors, due to his .997 fielding percentage, .479 caught-stealing percentage and 12 double plays turned.
1st Baseman: Prince Fielder, Tigers
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Prince Fielder has more total bags (306) than any other first baseman in the playoffs and has the highest batting average (.312) and second-highest OPS (.937) among first basemen. He also had 30 dingers and drove in more than 100.
2nd Baseman: Robinson Cano, Yankees
Robinson Cano is the only second baseman in the majors with a .900 OPS and the only second baseman with a WAR over 6 (good enough for second in the majors). He’s also one of four MLB players with four dozen doubles and finished third in the majors in hits.
3rd Baseman: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
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Miguel. Cabrera. Just. Won. The. Triple. Crown. Nuff said.
(He also has an MLB-leading .999 OPS and leads all third basemen in WAR with 6.9.)
Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Natonals
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Ian Desmond is the only shortstop in the majors with an OPS over .800 and is leading all shortstops in dingers with 25. He is second among playoff shortshops (Elvis Andrus) in WAR and also stole 21 bases.
Outfielder No. 1: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
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Though his bestiality subsided in the second half of the regular season, Josh Hamilton still finished second in all of baseball in homers with 43 and second in RBI with 128. He also had an OPS north of .900
Outfielder No. 2: Adam Jones, Orioles
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Adam Jones is in the top 10 among MLB outfielders in homers with 32 and is one of two outfielders in the playoffs (Hamilton is the other) with 30 homers and 100 runs scored.
Outfielder No. 3: Austin Jackson, Tigers
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Austin Jackson would have been higher on the list if not for his DL stint, but is still one of a handful of men in the playoffs with 100 runs scored, an OPS over .800 and a WAR over 5. Jackson also has double-digit numbers in triples.
Designated Hitter: Chris Davis, Orioles
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Chris Davis played about half his138 games at DH, with the remainder divided between first base and outfield (and one inning as a pitcher, when he recorded a victory). He is the only playoff DH with an .800 OPS or 33 homers.
Utility Man: Martin Prado, Braves
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Martin Prado, Atlanta’s second basem…no, shortstop…no, third baseman because Chipper’s hurt…no, left fielder…well, you get the point. Prado is in the top 20 in the majors in WAR, and was in the top 10 in the NL in hits (186), singles (128) and doubles (42) while hitting .301
Starting Pitcher No. 1: Justin Verlander, Tigers
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The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner returns to the playoffs for the second straight year. Justin Verlander led the majors in strikeouts and WAR while having the best ERA and most quality starts of anyone in the playoffs.
Starting Pitcher No. 2: Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
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Gio Gonzalez is the only man in the majors to win 21 games. He’s also in the top dozen in the majors in strikeouts, ERA, WAR, WHIP and quality starts.
Starting Pitcher No. 3: Johnny Cueto, Reds
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Johnny Cueto finished in the top five in ERA, second among playoff pitchers behind Verlander. He was also fifth in pitcher’s WAR, third among playoff pitchers and notched 19 victories.
Lefty Middle Reliever: Sean Marshall, Reds
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Sean Marshall started the season as the Reds closer. That didn't work, so they put him back in middle relief. That DID work.
Marshall is one of two lefty relievers to have a sub-3.00 ERA and 70 strikeouts (the other is his teammate, Aroldis Chapman). Marshall also notched five wins in relief and 22 holds and is in the top 10 among lefty relievers in Ks per nine.
Righty Middle Reliever: Mitchell Boggs, Cardinals
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Mitchell Boggs has more holds (34) than any other middle reliever in the playoffs. He has a sub-2.30 ERA and a sub-1.10 WHIP and also notched four wins in relief.
Closer: Craig Kimbrel, Braves
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With no Mo for the postseason, the mantle of best closer falls to Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is one of two relievers in the majors with 100 Ks, amounting to an insane 16.66 Ks per nine innings. The other one (Chapman) doesn’t have 42 saves or a sub-1.10 ERA.