MLB Playoffs 2013: One Player from Each Team That Must Step Up

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2013

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 05:  Will Middlebrooks #16 of the Boston Red Sox throws to first base against the Tampa Bay Rays during Game Two of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 5, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Every postseason, every team has one player who suddenly disappears, erasing the memory of a fantastic regular season with the demons of a shoddy run in the playoffs. 

The four teams remaining in the 2013 MLB playoffs are no exception. 

While we won't focus on starting pitchers here—that would be too easy, right?—there are four players that must step up and improve their play. If they don't, their respective teams could be watching the World Series from the comfort of their living rooms.

 

Matt Carpenter, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts as he scores a run in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Five of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 16, 2013 in Los
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Carpenter was one of the best players on the Cardinals this season and made a name for himself nationally, hitting .318 with 126 runs scored, 78 RBI and a whopping 55 doubles. 

Thus far in the postseason, he's hit .158 with just one RBI, four runs scored and two extra-base hits. He's started to swing his way out of his slump in the past two games, however, with three hits, two runs and an RBI. 

If he can continue to return to his regular-season form, it's hard to imagine the Cardinals losing two games at home against the Dodgers. But if he returns to his slumping ways, the Cards could be in trouble. 

 

Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15:  Andre Ethier #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with manager Don Mattingly #8 after Ethier scores a run in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Four of the National League Championship Series at D
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Dodgers have battled injuries this postseason, and Ethier is no exception. But while Hanley Ramirez, for instance, has produced in this postseason, Ethier has done very little. 

He's now hitting .150 in 20 postseason at-bats with one run scored and zero RBI. He has just three hits in 17 at-bats in the NLCS against the Cardinals, a pretty significant lack of production from center field. 

With Ramirez starting to really struggle with his injuries and Matt Kemp already done for the season, Ethier needs to provide some pop for this lineup. If he does, the Dodgers might just have two more wins up their sleeve.

 

Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 16:  Austin Jackson #14 of the Detroit Tigers hits an RBI single scoring Omar Infante #4 in the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 16, 2013
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Before Wednesday evening, Jackson was hitting .091 with 18 strikeouts and just one run and one RBI this postseason. So manager Jim Leyland decided to mix things up, moving Jackson down to eighth in the batting order rather than having him hit in his customary leadoff role.

The result? Jackson's bat woke up, as he finished with two hits, two walks, a run and two RBI in the Tigers' 7-3 win. 

From STATS LLC, via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Tigers are now 12-4 in the postseason when Jackson starts and scores a run and 5-12 when he does not, dating back to 2010 (the stats in that article have been updated, as they were written before Game 4). 

If Jackson can turn his Game 4 performance into a trend—and in turn continue to spark this offense—it's hard to imagine the Tigers failing to reach the World Series given their starting pitching. 

 

Will Middlebrooks, 3B; Stephen Drew, SS; and Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Boston Red Sox

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 12:  Xander Bogaerts #72 of the Boston Red Sox walks to the dugout after flying out to end  Game One of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park on October 12, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. Th
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

There is a very good chance that Bogaerts will get a start for either the slumping Middlebrooks or Drew this evening, likely for Middlebrooks since Drew hits from the left side of the plate and the Tigers will roll out Anibal Sanchez. 

Middlebrooks and Drew have been miserable for the Sox, a combined 2-for-23 in this series. Even worse, they are just 7-for-51 in the postseason and have combined for just three runs and three RBI in eight games.

With the Detroit bats awakening in Game 4 and the Tigers now rolling out Sanchez, Max Scherzer and potentially Justin Verlander in the next three games if this series goes the distance, the Sox are going to need more production than they've gotten from the left side of the infield to survive. 

 

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