MLB Playoffs 2012: Who's Hurting Their Team More Than Helping?
It’s hard to believe that the American and National League Championship Series begin this weekend.
Already, each playoff series has provided its own unique storylines, many due in part to extraordinary performances from stars and utility players alike. However, there are plenty of players who have underperformed this postseason.
Among the notable sub-par performances is that of Cincinnati Reds veteran third baseman Scott Rolen.
Although the Reds as a whole underperformed by blowing a two-game lead over San Francisco by losing three straight at home, this collapse was not without help from Rolen.
An obvious memory from this series will be Rolen’s mishandling of a ground ball that allowed the go-ahead run to score in the tenth inning of what was a decisive Game 3 for Cincinnati.
Rolen did not play in Game 4.
On top of his crucial error, Rolen struggled to be relevant at the plate, driving home only one relatively meaningless RBI in a game that Cincinnati went on to dominate 9-0.
In losses, Rolen went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and struck out three times in nine at bats. This will be a bitter way for the 37-year-old to go out if he ultimately ends up retiring after this season.
Scott Rolen is not alone in making influential missteps this postseason. The Baltimore Orioles may very well have swept the New York Yankees had it not been for the performance of their All-Star closer, Jim Johnson.
By no means do I mean to suggest that the responsibility of this series falls solely on Johnson, but a loss in Game 1 — where he allowed 5 runs in the ninth inning of a tied game — and a blown save in Game 3 have made all the difference in this ALDS matchup.
These are surprising numbers for a pitcher who converted 51 of his 54 save opportunities this season, but credit to Johnson for bouncing back after each of these performances to earn saves in the subsequent games.
Johnson has helped keep the Orioles in this series and may still have the opportunity to send them to the ALCS. Hopefully for Baltimore, if the situation arises, Johnson will be dominant once more.
The Orioles’ Beltway counterparts, the Washington Nationals, also are under pressure to turn in a victorious Game 5 performance against the defending-champion Cardinals. Such scrutiny is amplified by having shut down their young ace, Stephen Strasburg.
I have been a firm believer that the Nationals are still in position to go deep into the playoffs this year behind 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez. However, that prediction was based on Jordan Zimmerman being able to replicate his 2.94 ERA from the regular season.
Starting Game 2 in St. Louis, Zimmerman was nowhere near these numbers, allowing five earned runs through three innings of work.
The Nationals would go on to lose by a score of 12-4.
Zimmerman bounced back at home, when he pitched a perfect seventh inning in Game 4 that included three strikeouts on 12 pitches, which helped to set up a Jayson Werth walk-off home run and force a Game 5.
Nevertheless, if the Nationals advance to the NLCS or beyond, Zimmerman cannot be relegated to the bullpen.
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