MLB Playoffs 2013: Stars Who Must Improve on Postseason Performances
It's understandable that even the best players go through their struggles at the plate, but did they really have to choose now?
Why can't everybody be like Justin Verlander? 2013 was actually one of his down years, leading some to believe he couldn't be counted upon as the ace of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff come playoff time.
Those fears have been unwarranted, as Verlander has given up just a single run in 23 postseason innings, striking out at least 10 batters in each of his three starts.
Of course, Justin Verlanders don't grow on trees. Some stars have a lot of trouble in the postseason. Maybe it's the weight of expectations in the playoffs. Maybe it's the fact that when going up against the best teams in the league, players the fans consider to be elite are found out more.
Whatever the case is for these four players, they have to figure out the problem and solve it in order to help their teams in the playoffs.
David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
One of David Ortiz's two hits in the ALCS went a long way and scored a lot of runs, so you can't say that "Big Papi" has been awful in this series. But only going 2-for-19 through the first five games isn't acceptable for a player with Ortiz's reputation.
Even at 37 years old, he remains a dangerous hitter. During the regular season, he led the Boston Red Sox in batting average (.309), home runs (30), RBI (103) and slugging percentage (.564).
The entire postseason Ortiz has been off his game. He's hitting only .219, with three home runs and seven runs batted in.
So far, the Red Sox haven't been hurt too badly by Ortiz's struggles. You could envision a future, though, when Boston will need his power to be the difference-maker.
Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
Moving on to somebody who has been truly awful, if you happen to find where Prince Fielder has been hiding, let the Detroit Tigers know. He's been missing for some time.
This isn't a recent problem, either.
Fielder has been bad the last two years in a row, via ESPN Stats and Info.
Prince Fielder: 3-18 with RISP over the last 2 postseasons, including 0-10 with 2 outs.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 18, 2013
ESPN.com's Mark Simon has a great visual representation of Fielder's at-bats.
Throughout the entire postseason, he's failed to drive in a single run. In addition, he's had a single extra-base hit.
Perhaps you could forgive Fielder's struggles if he was making good contact. Sometimes you see hitters on a bad run where they're making great contact, only to find a fielder's glove every time.
That's not the case with Fielder. Most of his balls in play aren't even getting out of the infield. Even worse, he's hardly working the count. At the very least, if you're going to get out on every at-bat, you should make the pitcher work for it.
Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
In 38 postseason at-bats, Matt Carpenter has just six hits. He's driven in just one run and had two extra-base hits.
Carpenter emerged in a big way this season. Sure he was good after getting called up last year, but it was hard to see him making the jump he did in 2013. Aside from Yadier Molina, there is no more important Cardinals' batter than Carpenter.
St. Louis needs his offense in the NLCS and the World Series should it get that far. He's the spark at the top of the lineup and can set the tone for the rest of the game.
Against outstanding pitching, it will be hard for the Cardinals to score enough runs without Carpenter at his best. Too much will fall on Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.
Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 2013 postseason has turned into an arms race. You better have top-notch pitching, or you'll watch you're World Series hopes flushed down the drain.
Clayton Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in the league and the unquestioned ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation. However, he can't start every game. He must get some help from the guys behind him, the most important of which is Zack Greinke.
In 21.0 innings so far this postseason, Greinke has given up six earned runs on 14 hits, striking out 17 and walking just two.
In short, he's been good when he needs to be great. As the No. 2 starter, Greinke will be expected to pitch like an ace. While it's an incredibly high standard, he should've expected this when he signed that massive contract before the season.
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