The postseason can add a certain spark to any player without notice, so come playoffs, it's anyone's guess who will step up for the Oakland Athletics.
Last year, Yoenis Cespedes played outstanding.
In his first postseason—in his first season, period—Cespedes led the team with a .316 batting average. He only knocked in two runs in five games, but that also led the team. Cespedes appeared to be dialed in though, striking out only twice in 19 at-bats. He even stole two bases, the only stolen bases for the A's in the ALDS.
One year later, he isn't doing as well. Luckily, others have picked up the slack.
So will Cespedes rebound and have a repeat performance? Will Josh Donaldson—the A's 2013 MVP— continue rolling into the postseason? Or will it be someone surprising?
Let's take a look at how the A's players match up against these three teams. If you consider 2013 stats, season and career stats against the AL playoff teams, as well as postseason numbers, one guy in particular stands out.
His name is Jed Lowrie.
This season, Lowrie hit .290, with 15 home runs and 75 RBI. He also hit 45 doubles, which is an A's record. Lowrie is having a career year.
Best of all, he's hitting .333 against three-fourths of the Tigers rotation, as shown in the table above. Even his career numbers against the same four are pretty darn good. Hitting .250 against Justin Verlander is a success, and Lowrie does even better against Max Scherzer and Doug Fister. None of them will be easy come postseason, but Anibal Sanchez and his league-leading ERA will pose the biggest challenge for Lowrie.
Lowrie hit .385 against Detroit in 2013, including relievers. He owns a lifetime .471 batting average at Comerica Park.
He doesn't do as well as against the Red Sox, but it isn't much to worry about. Check out the chart below, and you'll see there are good numbers against key components along with a few mysteries.
Against the top of Boston's rotation, Lowrie hits extremely well.
He hasn't faced Buchholz or Peavy in his career. But if his performance against top-tier pitchers like Lester and Lackey is any indication, he stands a great chance against the others too. His consistency throughout the season demonstrates the potential is there.
There's no evidence here that Lowrie holds any kind of grudge against the Red Sox. However, there is always a chance that meeting the team who drafted him in the first round of the 2005 draft and dumped him before giving him a solid chance will serve as motivation.
We'll have to see on that one.
This season, he hit .200 against Boston (including relievers). He's a career .286 hitter at Fenway Park.
If the Tampa Bay Rays win, the Lowrie factor is very much to be determined. As the graphic below points out, Lowrie doesn't have strong numbers, or any numbers for that matter, against three-quarters of the assumed Rays playoff rotation.
His production here is a bit all over the place.
So far, Lowrie owns Alex Cobb. Then again, the sample size is small. Conversely, and much to the chagrin of A's fans (and possibly Lowrie himself), the ownage belongs to Davis Price in that matchup—and the sample size is large. He's yet to face Matt Moore and Chris Archer.
He ended the season with a .350 average against Tampa Bay, though, lending a hand to his .444 career average at Tropicana Field. So there's obviously a shot to do damage.
Even more encouraging, Lowrie got hot down the stretch.
In the last two weeks, he hit a whopping .364. In the last seven days, he hit .308. So he's hitting well and he's hot right now.
I could regurgitate stats all day long in support of Lowrie. Instead, I'll simply say he hits near or over .275 with runners in scoring position, with runners in scoring position and two outs and in "high leverage situations," according to Baseball-Reference.com. He has limited playoff experience but did hit .364 in the 2008 ALDS (.111 in the '08 ALCS, .000 in '09 postseason). But he has more experience now, and the postseason certainly counts as a high leverage situation (where he's done well this year).
So why not someone else?
Well, it certainly could be anyone.
It wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Donaldson continue his MVP-caliber play. Cespedes is flailing at pitches, and I don't see this changing anytime soon. Brandon Moss is a "you get what you see" type of player. Reddick has struggled all season.
Looking at the career and 2013 stats, Coco Crisp doesn't quite match up as well as Lowrie. Seth Smith and Eric Sogard do, but Lowrie has that "hero potential." There is no statistical support for this—call it a gut thing.
But he's had a strong year and a strong finish. Look for Lowrie to be this year's hero.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
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