Already a borderline Hall of Famer based on his regular-season performance, Carlos Beltran has made a habit out of flipping the switch from formidable to unstoppable in the playoffs.
This October has been no exception. The veteran switch-hitter followed a productive NLDS by carrying the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. His contributions included a clutch throw to home plate in the 10th inning and a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 13th.
Although Beltran is making a tremendous impact in 2013, history has taught us that his individual dominance doesn't guarantee a trip to the World Series.
See for yourself in the table below.
|2004||.435/.536/.1.022||1.557||8||Lost in NLCS|
|2006||.278/.422/.556||.978||3||Lost in NLCS|
|2012||.357/.440/.714||1.154||3||Lost in NLCS|
St. Louis was an offensive juggernaut this past summer, leading the Senior Circuit in on-base percentage and runs scored. That's because Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig, among others, complemented Beltran's power hitting with elite production of their own.
However, Carpenter has totaled only two hits through the first six postseason games (.087 BA) after an All-Star-caliber year atop the lineup. Holliday is being way too aggressive, as evidenced by his one walk in 25 plate appearances. Craig continues to rehab from a foot injury, but he still hasn't started running. He won't be a factor unless the Cardinals advance to the Fall Classic.
Meanwhile, Beltran has single-handedly driven in nine of his team's 24 playoff runs, including all three on Friday night.
The Los Angeles Dodgers send Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-jin Ryu to the mound in Games 2 and 3, respectively. Those lefties will force Beltran to swing from the right side, and he posted an underwhelming .252/.281/.448 batting line under those circumstances this season.
Even assuming that he elevates the quality of his play under the bright lights, it's unrealistic to expect the 36-year-old to maintain a superhuman pace against them.
Above all, the Cardinals' chances of clinching the NL pennant hinge upon their pitching staff overcoming its inexperience. Half of Mike Matheny's arms are rookies, and bullpen veterans like John Axford and Edward Mujica haven't been particularly trustworthy lately.
In 2004, 2006 and 2012, Beltran was sent packing following losses in Game 7. For that to change, Adam Wainwright will need to live up to his rotation-leader reputation if that scenario presents itself this time around.