Biggest Studs and Duds of the 2013 MLB Postseason

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIOctober 17, 2013

Biggest Studs and Duds of the 2013 MLB Postseason

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    We're at exciting points in both the ALCS and NLCS. With both series being highly competitive, there's a lot to be impressed with. The Tigers and Red Sox are tied 2-2, while the Cardinals lead the Dodgers 3-2.

    Throughout the playoffs, we've seen many players step up and shine. From dominant pitching performances to clutch hitting, this postseason has already given us a lot.

    Still, there have been players who haven't performed up to snuff. In fact, the struggles of certain players are the reasons their teams are out. Teams that are still in the playoffs are winning despite those players' performances. 

    Here's a look at the biggest studs and duds of the 2013 MLB postseason.

     

    Note: All stats obtained from Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

Dud: Austin Jackson

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    It's going to take more than a 2-for-2 performance in Game 4 to get Austin Jackson off the dud list.

    Prior to Game 4 of the ALCS, he was 3-for-33 with one RBI and 18 strikeouts.

    Manager Jim Leyland made a good move in putting Jackson at No. 8 in the order, but it's going to take more than one game for him to be out of his slump. Jackson has struggled throughout the postseason and is one of the reasons why the Tigers haven't been able to get anything going at the top of the order.

    But the problem goes a little deeper for Jackson, according to his profile on Brooksbaseball.net. He is seeing more fastballs (93) and has struck out 10 out of the 19 times it was the deciding pitch of the at-bat.

    He's batting .235 against the pitch. In fact, the curve is the only other pitch he's gotten a hit off of in the series. Boston pitchers can see Jackson is looking for a fastball to drive since he's struggled with every other pitch. He got both hits in Game 4 off fastballs. So, why not go with the off-speed stuff against him?

    If he can perform the way he did in Game 4 over the next game or two, he could be moved off the list. But for now, he stays.

Stud: Coco Crisp

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    The Athletics may be out of the playoffs, but it's not for a lack of trying on the part of Coco Crisp.

    Crisp went 7-for-18 in the ALDS with an on-base percentage of .455. He continually put the A's in position to win.

    In a 3-2 loss in Game 1, he walked three times. But after he got on base, strikeouts and ground outs left him hanging there.

    Of course, people will point to an 0-for-4 effort in Game 5, which is fair. But you can't deny Crisp helped put the A's in that position.

    But when you look at his numbers, according to Brooksbaseball.net, you see Crisp was able to do things with other pitches besides the fastball. With only the sinker and changeup being deciding pitches in his at-bats in the series, Crisp showed he could get hits off of them.

    The numbers may not be sexy, but Crisp absolutely got the job done when called upon, with the exception of Game 5.

Duds: Wil Myers/Evan Longoria

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    After having a great regular season in which he batted .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI, Wil Myers struggled in the postseason.

    In the ALDS, he went 1-for-16 with four strikeouts. Evan Longoria wasn't good either, going 2-for-13 with four strikeouts.

    Neither were ever able to get going, but then again, the rest of the Rays couldn't either. 

    Tampa Bay struggled to score runs throughout the series, averaging three runs per contest, while the Red Sox averaged 6.5 runs. 

    Myers batted between the No. 2 and 4 spots in the four games, while Longoria was in either the No. 3 or 4 hole. Wherever manager Joe Maddon put them, it only worked in one game, as they struggled throughout.

    Even with better performances in Game 1, the outcome likely wouldn't have changed. The Red Sox ended up winning 12-2. If the duo had performed better in losses, the Rays may have lasted longer. 

Stud: Hanley Ramirez

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    Hanley Ramirez has been a stud the entire postseason, batting .357 with one home run and seven RBI.

    He's cooled off a bit, going 0-for-6 in his last two games, but it must be remembered that Ramirez is playing with a broken rib, according to ESPN Los Angeles' Molly Knight.

    Ramirez suffered a hairline fracture to his eighth rib when he was hit with a 95 mph fastball from St. Louis pitcher Joe Kelly in the first inning of Game 1 on Friday. He remained in that game but was unable to play the following day. He took the field Monday in the Dodgers' 3-0 Game 3 win and collected two bloop singles but said the pain was much worse Tuesday.

    Regardless of what happens with the Dodgers, Ramirez will be remembered for his performance throughout the postseason.

    In a Game 2 loss in the NLDS against the Braves, Ramirez started the Dodgers' near-comeback. He had all three RBI in the game and made it close with a two-run home run in the eighth.

    He had three hits in a Game 3 blowout, including a double and a triple. 

    Simply put, the Dodgers are where they are offensively because of Ramirez. Without him, they don't win the NLDS or come back to beat the Cardinals.

Dud: Jason Heyward

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    Coming into the postseason, there was a lot of talk about Jason Heyward and his .322 batting average from the leadoff spot.

    However, most of his success came prior to having a broken jaw, and it showed in the NLDS. During the series, Heyward went 3-for-18 with one home run, four RBI and seven strikeouts. It's nice to see he had so many hits, but his 0-for-5 effort in Game 4 hurt the Braves.

    Although Juan Uribe will get credit for the Dodgers winning that game with a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning, it was Heyward's struggles that made the biggest difference.

    In the seventh inning, after the Braves had added a run on a Jose Constanza RBI single, Heyward struck out. That was a big inning, as we found out later, as the Dodgers came back to win 4-3.

    According to Brooksbaseball.net, Heyward seemed to struggle with every pitch except the cutter. He got two hits in three at-bats where the cutter was the final pitch, but other than that, the Dodgers owned him with the curve and slider, getting him to strike out six times on those pitches.

    The top of the lineup failed the Braves, and it all started with Heyward.

Stud: Pedro Alvarez

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    The Pirates may have lost in five games to the Cardinals in the NLDS, but Pedro Alvarez sure had a good series. He went 6-for-19 with three home runs and six RBI. He also added an RBI in wild-card playoff game.

    Against the Cardinals, Alvarez was the only Pirates hitter who had at least one RBI in every game He came into the series ready to swing his bat and gave Pirates fans hope. 

    Alvarez showed he had no problem hitting fastballs, according to Brooksbaseball.net. Despite hitting .292 on fastballs during the regular season, opposing pitchers still threw him that pitch, which he hit .500 against in the playoffs.

    Bottom line is, don't throw Alvarez a fastball, especially where he can get it. Try a curve or a splitter, which he batted .089 and .120 against, respectively, during the regular season.

    While it's a shame the Pirates didn't move on, Alvarez did show he could succeed on the big stage.

Dud: Joaquin Benoit

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    The postseason has been none too kind for Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit. Throughout the postseason, Benoit has a 6.35 ERA in 5.2 innings.

    The biggest fail came in Game 2 of the ALCS, when he gave up a grand slam to David Ortiz that tied the game in the eighth inning. At the time, I wrote that Benoit made a mistake throwing a changeup to Ortiz, while noting that he would get a chance to redeem himself. 

    However, in Game 4, with the Tigers already holding a 7-2 lead, Benoit surrendered another two hits and a run in the ninth inning.

    While it didn't cost the Tigers the game, it does give them something to think about moving forward.

Stud: Adam Wainwright

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    Adam Wainwright has made three appearances this postseason and has an ERA of 1.57 with 20 strikeouts.

    While he did suffer a 3-0 loss in Game 3 of the NLCS, he still only gave up two runs. His two starts against the Pirates in the NLDS saw him only give up one run in each game.

    Wainwright's success this postseason has stemmed from his curve, according to Brooksbaseball.net. Opponents are hitting .143 against it, and he has 15 of his 20 strikeouts using the pitch. Of course, his sinker has been good as well, allowing only one hit in seven times the pitch was the last of the at-bat.

    Should it get to Game 7, Wainwright will get the ball for his second winner-take-all game of the postseason.

    With the way he's pitching, that might not be good news for the Dodgers.

Dud: Mike Napoli

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    Mike Napoli did have two hits in a Game 4 loss to the Tigers, but he's still batting .200 in the postseason with one home run and two RBI. Even worse, Napoli has 11 strikeouts, seven of which have come against the Tigers.

    The Red Sox are set to face Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander three games in a row.

    Combined, he is 9-for-41 with two home runs and four RBI off the trio. Most of his damage has come against Verlander, who he is 8-for-26 against in his career with two home runs and four RBI.

    If the Red Sox can get to a Game 7, you have to like Napoli's chances against Verlander. But he still has to get past Sanchez and Scherzer, something he's failed to do in his career.

Stud: Michael Wacha

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    With only 64.2 innings of MLB experience prior to the playoffs, Michael Wacha is acting like a savvy veteran this postseason.

    In two starts, Wacha has picked up two wins, thrown 14 innings and struck out 17 hitters. His ERA sits at 0.64, with his only mistake being to Pedro Alvarez in Game 4 of the NLDS.

    He's doing his damage with all three of his pitches, according to Brooksbaseball.net. His fastball and changeup have each gotten eight strikeouts and have seen hitters hit .148 and .143, respectively, against it.

    Guys like Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn may get the attention in the rotation in St. Louis, but Wacha has shown he is a force to be reckoned with.

    He'll get the ball again in Game 6 against the Dodgers with a trip to the World Series on the line.

Stud: Max Scherzer

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    Max Scherzer should have three wins this postseason. He left the game after seven innings in Game 2 of the ALCS with a 5-1 lead. Surely the bullpen wouldn't give up that lead, right?

    Wrong. That's exactly what it did, as five pitchers combined to help lose the game for the Tigers.

    This postseason, Scherzer has gone 16 innings and has a 2.25 ERA. His biggest moment for him was coming into Game 4 of the ALDS against the A's. After allowing a run in the seventh, Scherzer's moment came in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs. With the Tigers only holding a one-run lead, it was a moment that could have decided Detroit's postseason fate.

    Scherzer proceeded to strike out the next two Oakland hitters, and then got a line out as he got out of the inning and helped keep Detroit's lead.

    The Tigers then responded in the bottom half of the inning with three runs to break the game wide open and send it to a Game 5, where they won as well.

    I'll admit I was wrong when I said it was the wrong move to start Scherzer in Game 1 of the ALDS. Scherzer has shown up in a big way this postseason. 

Stud: Clayton Kershaw

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    The last guy on the list is the most obvious pick for a stud this postseason.

    Clayton Kershaw has done everything you could ask out of a pitcher in the playoffs. He's come back on three-days rest for Game 4 of the NLDS and overall been a great pitcher for the Dodgers.

    In his three playoff starts, Kershaw has an ERA of 0.47.

    According to Brooksbaseball.net, Kershaw's numbers leave you in awe, especially after looking deeper into them. With an average fastball velocity of 94.20 mph, Kershaw is allowing opposing hitters to hit .177. But the fastball has been setting up the slider and curve, which he has 19 total strikeouts using.

    He's going to get the ball in Game 6 against the Cardinals with a chance to force a Game 7. He lost a 1-0 decision in Game 2 after the Cardinals scored an unearned run.

    If the Dodgers can get a little offense going in Game 6, Kershaw is going to be hard to beat. He's the best pitcher in the game and has shown why in the postseason.

Stud: Justin Verlander

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    Justin Verlander may not have had the best regular season, going 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA, but he's more than made up for it in the postseason.

    In three starts, Verlander has gone 23 innings and given up only one run, which was a home run to Mike Napoli in Game 3 of the ALCS. Sadly, it was the only run of the game as the Red Sox picked up the win.

    For Verlander, the lack of run support should be something he's used to. You have to go all the way back to Sept. 13 when the Tigers scored six runs against the Royals to find the last time Verlander got more than three runs of support. This year, Verlander has started seven games where the Tigers scored no runs.

    Even with little run support in the postseason, Verlander has been able to show why he's the highest-paid pitcher in baseball.

    His fastball continues to be dominant, according to Brooksbaseball.net. Hitters are hitting just .125 against it and have struck out 20 times. And his curveball has been even more devastating, striking out eight hitters and allowing .071 average with the pitch.

    When you look at his pitch outcomes, you see he's getting hitters to swing at everything. Most notably he's getting hitters to make contact with his fastball 53 percent of the time, but the .125 average shows you how much success they're having against it.

    If the ALCS goes to seven games, Verlander will get the ball once more. It will be the second time he's received the ball in a winner-take-all game this postseason. If he pitches the way he has all postseason (and the Tigers can get a few hits), there's no reason why Verlander won't win again.