Some players just have a hard time turning it on in the playoffs. Even though they might have had great regular seasons, the playoffs seem different, and that can be a major problem for their teams.
In the five-game Divisional Series, there is no time for star players to fall into a slump, but inevitably some do. Some players simply have a tough week, and as unfortunate as it is, it can have a major impact on the ultimate outcome.
I selected three players from each of the four series who fell into this category. Each one of them is a player that you would expect to ultimately do better but did not produce for his team.
Brian McCann is generally one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. This season was not quite as productive, but he still managed to hit .256 with 20 home runs and 67 RBI. It is also worth mentioning that he only played in 102 games this year due to injury, so his numbers could have presumably been a little higher.
Regardless, as I emphasized in the introduction, this season does not matter very much. McCann went 0-13 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He did not drive in a run either which was a major blow to the Braves.
Jason Heyward had never been a leadoff hitter in the major leagues. This year, he stepped into the role with a solid amount of success. His on-base percentage was .349, and he was naturally an important table setter for the big bats of Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman.
That on-base percentage plummeted to .167 in the playoffs, and that was identical his batting average. In other words, he did not draw a walk. While he always has been aggressive at the plate, this came back to the cause problems in this series. For example, Freddie Freeman hit .313, but he did not drive in a run the entire series because he did not have many opportunities with runners on base.
I know that I just put a lot of blame on Jason Heyward for not getting on base at the top of the Atlanta lineup, but to be quite honest, the Braves needed a lot more production from Justin Upton as well. Although this season was not all that we hoped it would be after his incredibly hot start, he still hit .263 with 27 home runs and 70 RBI.
In this series against Los Angeles, he only got two hits. He did draw four walks, so his on-base percentage was a respectable .333, but his .143 batting average demonstrated his lack of run production. The Braves needed more than that from one of their main weapons.
David Price has never been a great postseason pitcher with a career ERA of 5.81. However, the Tampa Bay Rays depend on their rotation, and even though 2013 was not his best season, David Price is still a vital part of that attack.
He pitched an excellent game against the Texas Rangers to even get the Rays into the final Wild Card position, so maybe I was a little bit optimistic and hoped that he had put these postseason struggles behind him. After giving up seven runs in seven innings against the Boston Red Sox, it is unfortunate to say that I was wrong.
Wil Myers did not even play a full season at the major league level, but he became an important part of the Tampa Bay offense. He hit .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI in just 88 games.
Unfortunately, that success did not carry over into the playoffs as Myers only got one single in 16 at-bats. Obviously, at only 23 years old, he will hopefully have plenty of other playoff appearances to set the record straight and leave a better impression.
Matt Moore is another important piece of the Tampa Bay rotation, and he got off to a bad start in Game One. Boston scored eight runs, seven of which were earned, in just over four innings. Obviously, that is not the start that the Rays were looking for, and it created an uphill battle from that point on.
Moore did have an excellent season though, and that is why I am a little bit surprised about how hard he was hit in the first game. He was 17-4 this season with a 3.29 ERA. He averaged way over a strikeout per inning and posted a WHIP of 0.83. Nevertheless, all of that success could not translate into a big performance in the first game of the series.
Neil Walker is yet another member on this list who needed to get on base and set the table for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, he went 0-19 against the St. Louis Cardinals, and he was only able to draw a pair of walks.
In his defense, he did do excellent fieldwork and did not commit an error. However, Pittsburgh needed more on offense across the board, and during the regular season, Walker was not outstanding but productive. He hit .251 with 16 home runs and 53 RBI. They could have used a little more of that in the playoffs.
Just like with the Tampa Bay Rays and Matt Moore, the Pittsburgh Pirates turned to AJ Burnett to start the first game of the series, and it did not go anywhere near how Pittsburgh would have hoped for. He only made it two innings and surrendered seven runs.
He earned that start by posting the best ERA of his career at 3.30, and even though his record was only 10-11, he pitched much better than that throughout the year. Unfortunately, he chose a terrible time to have his worst start of the year, and it did not work out so well for him.
I seem to be obsessed with people not performing at the top the lineup, but the fact of the matter is that without this production, it is hard to score runs. Starling Marte was only able to grab one hit in 19 at-bats and only drew one walk on top of that.
His one hit did happen to be a home run, but he wasn’t nearly the same hitter who hit .280 and was on base enough to steal 41 bases. The Pittsburgh offense had a hard time functioning from the top, so even though they got good production from the heart of their lineup, it did not mean that much in the long run because they had no one to drive in.
Brandon Moss slugged 30 home runs this year for the Oakland Athletics and drove in 87 runs in the process. His batting average was a little bit low at .256, but he was obviously one of the centerpieces of the Oakland attack.
He did hit a home run in the playoffs but only collected one single beside that. That ultimately came out to a .111 batting average, and it did produce a major hole in the lineup. Also, his 13 strikeouts in 18 at-bats was definitely problematic. Strikeouts really don’t have any productive value. It was a tough series for him.
I feel bad for Sean Doolittle on some level. He came in to pitch the seventh inning of Game Four, and he ended up surrendering two runs. One of those runs was on a very controversial home run for Victor Martinez. In my opinion, the home run was the right call, but having to stand out there on the mound and wait for the decision must have been unnerving.
I know that professionals need to be able to deal with all kinds of circumstances, but I just think that that amplifies the stress of a playoff game. If Oakland would have been able to win that game, the series would have been over, so I am sure that many people will blame Doolittle at least a little bit.
Josh Donaldson was arguably the best hitter in the Oakland lineup all season. However, he got especially hot in September, and I think that most were expecting that to extend into the playoffs. Over that month, he hit .337 with five home runs and 16 RBI.
In 21 at-bats against the Detroit Tigers, he only put together three hits. None of those hits went for extra bases, and none of those hits drove in a run. He had been such a big part of the Oakland offense for the past month especially that it must have been hard to actually get used to scoring runs without him.
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