Yes, Cabrera has already won a World Series (2003 with the Marlins), and he has solid postseason numbers throughout his career, but this is a different kind of season entirely for him.
In 29 career playoff games, including Saturday's 3-1 victory over Oakland, Cabrera has hit .274/.379/.557 with eight home runs, six doubles, 22 RBI, 17 walks and 30 strikeouts in 106 plate appearances.
Any player would love to have those numbers in the postseason. But those are numbers that have been accumulated over time—well, as long as two postseason appearances can be, anyway. The pressure gets amplified this year.
Our culture in sports only looks at what you have done lately when judging a player. Alex Rodriguez is widely regarded as a bad postseason player, yet when you look at his numbers (.277/.386/.498, 29 extra-base hits in 249 at-bats), they are respectable.
Who Is Under More Pressure This Postseason?
No one is going to accuse Cabrera of being like A-Rod in the postseason, both because he does have good numbers and doesn't have the New York media machine scrutinizing every little thing he does.
Yet there is something very different about this postseason. Not only does Cabrera have wide-range support for the American League MVP Award thanks to the Triple Crown in the regular season, but the chants when he steps up to the plate and the narrative of what he did this year makes him, in many ways, the face of these playoffs.
Arguably, anything less than a dominant postseason performance, a championship and at least an MVP in the ALCS is going to lead to criticism.
Stories will be written about how Cabrera gave everything he had in the regular season, not saving himself for the playoffs, or how the better pitching gave him fits. There might even be some backlash against his MVP credentials.
Even though the MVP is a regular-season award, we only remember what you have done for us lately. Cabrera just had, at least in the eyes of people who think batting average, home runs and RBI are the most important stats, the greatest season since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Why wouldn't he be able to keep that going in October?
Narratives can change in a hurry. All it takes is a mistake here, or a strikeout with runners on second and third there, to get people talking. It's not fair or justified in any way, but that is the way things work in the media.