If the members of the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants thought they had played in pressure situations before, they are in for a rude surprise when they get to the ballpark for Game 1 of the 2012 World Series on Wednesday night.
The Fall Classic brings with it a level of pressure that many of them have never experienced before.
Let's take a look at five of the best players from each team and figure out whether they'll bite into that pressure and rip it to shreds—or whether they'll choke on it.
2012 Postseason Stats: 9 G, .297/.350/.514, 5 XBH (3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR), 4 RBI, 7 R
At this point, anyone who doesn't mention Austin Jackson in the conversation of the best leadoff hitters in baseball simply hasn't been paying attention to what's going on in Detroit.
If the New York Yankees could go back and make that Curtis Granderson trade again, you'd better believe they wouldn't do it if they had realized what Jackson was going to become.
He is a dynamic player, one who has hit safely in six consecutive playoff games and in seven of the nine in which he's played thus far in 2012.
All he does is get on base, score runs and play excellent defense in center field.
2012 Postseason Stats: 12 G, .354/.404/.438, 4 XBH (4 2B), 5 RBI, 8 R
I'm going to let Twitter give you the breakdown as to why Marco Scutaro isn't just clutch, but he very well might be the most clutch player in the World Series.
Marco Scutaro is first player in @mlb history to have 6 multi-hit games in a single LCS.— MLB (@MLB) October 23, 2012
Marco Scutaro took 43 swings against Cardinals pitching. He had seven times as many hits (14) as he did swings-and-misses (2).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2012
Marco Scutaro tied a postseason single-series record with his 14 hits in the LCS (shares it with Pujols, Hideki Matsui, Youkilis)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2012
Marco Scutaro hit .500 for the @sfgiants in the NLCS, 2nd-highest BA in a postseason series in team history.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 23, 2012
In the NLCS, Marco Scutaro went 6-for-8, plus a walk, with runners on base.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 23, 2012
Oh yeah, and he did all of that after Matt Holliday tried to take him out of the series in Game 2 of the NLCS with his bush-league slide into second base.
2012 Postseason Stats: 9 G, .211/.268/.289, 1 XBH (1 HR), 3 RBI, 2 R
Aside from his fourth-inning solo home run in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Oakland A's that gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead in the game, Prince Fielder has largely been a non-factor in the 2012 playoffs.
With a .250 average, one home run and 12 RBI against San Francisco Giants starters over 60 career at-bats, things might not get much better for the hulking first baseman anytime soon.
2012 Postseason Stats: 4 GS, 2-2, 3.52 ERA. 1.17 WHIP, 23 IP, 22 H, 5 BB, 15 K
Comcast SportsNet's Andrew Baggarly sums up Matt Cain's performance in Game 7 of the NLCS as well as anyone:
Matt Cain was not sharp. Matt Cain still walks off the mound with a shutout, and a standing ovation.— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) October 23, 2012
Cain didn't have his best stuff, throwing 102 pitches and not making it to the sixth inning, but those were 102 pitches that kept the St. Louis Cardinals from crossing home plate, and that's all that matters.
Elias Says Matt Cain is the 2nd pitcher to record a win in two winner-take-all games in one postseason es.pn/VloL4q— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2012
With the season on the line, Cain is the guy that the San Francisco Giants want on the mound.
2012 Postseason Stats: 9 G, .278/.366/.444, 4 XBH (3 2B, 1 HR), 5 RBI, 4 R
While the majority of Miguel Cabrera's five RBI in the 2012 playoffs came with the Detroit Tigers already having at least a two-run lead, his RBI double in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 3 in the ALCS proved to be the game-winning hit for the Tigers in their 2-1 victory.
Cabrera also scored the game-tying run early in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Oakland A's, a game they eventually won, 5-4.
He started to heat up over his last three games against the New York Yankees, hitting .333 with a double, home run and four RBI—no surprise when you consider the tear he's been on (h/t ESPN) in the League Championship Series:
FROM ELIAS: Miguel Cabrera has at least 1 hit in each of his 16-career LCS games, the longest hitting streak in LCS history.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 17, 2012
Struggles against the San Francisco Giants' starting rotation aside—Cabrera is a career .200 hitter (5-for-25) with one home run and four RBI—Cabrera is a clutch performer in the middle of Detroit's lineup.
2012 Postseason Stats: 12 G, .178/.288/.311, 2 XBH (2 HR), 6 RBI, 4 R
As Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press points out via Twitter, perception is everything when it comes to Buster Posey:
A-Rod hits 3 for 25 in the playoffs, people still blasting him. Buster Posey hits 4 for 26 in the LCS, nary a peep.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) October 23, 2012
Since his grand slam against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 5 of the NLDS, Posey hasn't done anything.
In Game 7 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, a game that saw the San Francisco Giants score nine runs with six different Giants driving in at least one run, Posey was more a beneficiary than a benefactor, crossing the plate once but not driving in any teammates.
He's been pretty awful throughout the playoffs.
2012 Postseason Stats: 3 GS, 3-0, 0.74 ERA. 0.62 WHIP, 24.1 IP, 10 H, 5 BB, 25 K
Justin Verlander hasn't been good in the 2012 playoffs; he's been filthy.
He struck out 11 batters in each of his two ALDS starts against the Oakland A's, and he kept the New York Yankees off the board in the ALCS until the top of the ninth inning.
No pitcher in the World Series has been as good as Verlander.
2012 Postseason Stats: 12 G, .320/.340/.580, 7 XBH (4 2B, 3 HR), 9 RBI, 6 R
Pablo Sandoval has been phenomenal for the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs. And he's joining some elite company.
First, in Game 5 of the NLCS:
Pablo Sandoval: 1st Giants player to homer from left side of plate in consecutive postseason games since Barry Bonds in 2002 World Series— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 20, 2012
Then again, in Game 7:
Pablo Sandoval now has an RBI in 5 straight games, matching the longest RBI streak in Giants postseason history (Barry Bonds, 2002)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2012
2012 Postseason Stats: 9 G, .294/.351/.500, 3 XBH (1 2B, 2 HR), 8 RBI, 3 R
Delmon Young has hit safely in seven of the nine playoff games he's played in 2012, leading the Detroit Tigers in RBI.
He really started to heat up in the ALCS, hitting .353 with six of his eight postseason RBI coming against the Bronx Bombers.
ALCS MVP RT @espnstatsinfo Delmon Young: 1st player with GWRBI in all 4 wins in an MLB postseason series.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 18, 2012
If that's not clutch, then I don't know what is.
2012 Postseason Stats: 12 G, .188/.204/.271, 2 XBH (1 2B, 1 HR), 3 RBI, 4 R
Yes, Hunter Pence broke Game 7 of the NLCS wide open when he hit a bases-loaded double in the third inning.
But it's not like Pence really got a hold of the pitch from Kyle Lohse. In fact, it was one of the flukier hits that you'll ever see, as CBS Sports' C. Trent Rosecrans shows us with a super slo-mo breakdown.
The ball hit Pence's bat three times before going past St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma and into center field, where Jon Jay's error resulted in yet another unearned run for the Cardinals.
All things considered, Pence has been a major disappointment since joining the Giants, both in the regular season and the playoffs.