Handing out Awards for the 2013 MLB Postseason
The MLB postseason lasts for an entire month and involves one-third of all teams. Given this expansion, we ought to recognize its most memorable moments and individual performances.
Predictably, the World Series-winning Boston Red Sox have a significant presence, but they didn't come close to sweeping the awards. That's mainly because we're reviewing both highlights and lowlights from the recently concluded playoffs.
Reminisce about the October action for as long as you can before reluctantly welcoming in the cold 2013-14 offseason.
*All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise specified.
Most Humiliating Moment: Kolten Wong Kills Cardinals Rally by Getting Picked off
The St. Louis Cardinals integrated a lot of rookies onto their postseason roster. That meant the skipper would have fresh bodies available who could throw hard and run the bases swiftly in the later innings.
Kolten Wong's athleticism didn't matter here because Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara picked him off from first base. He would've been heavily criticized just for killing a rally and bringing the inning to a premature end. Wong's idiocy was amplified because this happened in the ninth inning with October hero Carlos Beltran at the plate representing the tying run.
STATS tells us that this was the first playoff game to ever end on a pickoff (h/t Tim Salter, Associated Press).
Honorable Mention: Wil Myers misplays deep fly ball (ALDS Game 1).
Biggest Disappointment: David Freese (St. Louis Cardinals)
David Freese quietly had a mediocre regular season (.262/.340/.381 in 2013 compared to .296/.363/.446 from 2009-12). Even so, there was optimism that he would "flip a switch" in October considering his impressive track record in the playoffs.
Instead, his offensive impact became more negligible with each passing round.
The same guy who set an MLB record two years earlier with 21 runs batted in during a single postseason knocked in only four runs this time despite starting regularly. Moreover, Freese was a complete no-show in the NLCS and World Series, finishing with a brutal .475 OPS in those dozen games.
Atrocious defense at the hot corner made the 30-year-old the runaway winner here. There are countless MLB.com clips much like this one that capture Freese missing a grounder on the left side of the infield, allowing a potential out to become a base hit.
Honorable Mentions: Josh Donaldson (Oakland Athletics), Prince Fielder (Detroit Tigers), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Boston Red Sox)
Biggest Overachiever: Brandon Workman (Boston Red Sox)
Season-ending injuries to Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Miller compromised the depth of the Boston Red Sox bullpen. Although Koji Uehara solidified the closer's role in their absences, there was still skepticism about whether the club had sufficient middle relief to finish off a championship.
Rookie Brandon Workman stepped up in several dicey situations and squeezed out of almost all of them.
The 25-year-old right-hander totaled 8.2 innings in seven appearances without surrendering an earned run. Workman also stranded all six runners he inherited.
The "overachiever" label suits him because of the pedestrian 4.97 earned run average he posted during the regular season.
Workman did, however, suffer the loss in Game 3 of the World Series after that bizarre obstruction call (courtesy of MLB.com).
Honorable Mention: Carlos Martinez (St. Louis Cardinals)
Based solely on their performance during the postseason, these were the best defenders at each position:
Catcher: Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals)
First Base: James Loney (Tampa Bay Rays)
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox)
Shortstop: Stephen Drew (Boston Red Sox)
Third Base: Juan Uribe (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Left Field: Carl Crawford (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston Red Sox)
Right Field: Carlos Beltran (St. Louis Cardinals)
Pitcher: Joe Kelly (St. Louis Cardinals)
Top Rookie: Michael Wacha (St. Louis Cardinals)
The Boston Red Sox solved Michael Wacha in the World Series, scoring eight runs (all earned) in 9.2 innings, but the 22-year-old right-hander played an integral role in getting the St. Louis Cardinals there in the first place.
He nearly tossed a no-hitter in Game 4 of the NLDS when the club was facing elimination. During the next series, his 6.2 scoreless frames allowed St. Louis to jump out to a commanding 2-0 NLCS lead. Wacha then out-dueled Clayton Kershaw, the best regular-season pitcher of 2013, for a second time to seal the pennant for the Cardinals.
Despite very limited MLB work this summer, the former first-round draft pick posted a 2.64 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in five October outings. Max Scherzer and teammate Adam Wainwright were the only pitchers to record more strikeouts in these playoffs than his 33.
Honorable Mention: Trevor Rosenthal (Cardinals), Brandon Workman (Red Sox)
Cy Young Award: Jon Lester
Jon Lester had been the most consistent starter for the Boston Red Sox throughout the second half of the season. He posted a 2.57 ERA following the All-Star break and gave the team quality starts in 11 of 13 appearances.
That dominance continued into the playoffs. Here's Lester's game log to prove it:
|ALDS g1||Oct 4||BOS||TBR||W,12-2||7.2||3||2||2||3||7||114||69|
|ALCS g1||Oct 12||BOS||DET||L,0-1||6.1||6||1||1||1||4||109||60|
|ALCS g5||Oct 17||BOS||@||DET||W,4-3||5.1||7||2||2||3||3||98||46|
|WS g1||Oct 23||BOS||STL||W,8-1||7.2||5||0||0||1||8||112||76|
|WS g5||Oct 28||BOS||@||STL||W,3-1||7.2||4||1||1||0||7||91||74|
Let's point out that he received some favorable postseason matchups.
The Tampa Bay Rays were coming off a grueling month. Their September included 29 games in 30 days, plus they needed to win the American League Wild Card Game to earn an ALDS berth. Due to a serious groin injury, Miguel Cabrera wasn't close to the man we had seen dominate at the plate for much of the summer, and the Detroit Tigers lineup suffered as a result. Although the St. Louis Cardinals had most their offensive leaders available, many of them struggled against southpaws in 2013.
With that said, we could find excuses to tear down anybody's Postseason Cy Young Award case. The fact is that Lester was excellent in four of five starts, and even his weakest performance compares favorably to screw-ups by Clayton Kershaw, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright.
The veteran lefty clinched this honor on the strength of his World Series pitching. He posted the two highest Game Scores for either team.
Honorable Mention: Justin Verlander (Tigers)
Most Valuable Player: David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)
David Ortiz contributed to a couple of other championship teams earlier in his career, but this was easily his best job as a leader.
The Boston Red Sox faced better pitching during the 2013 playoffs than they did in 2004 and 2007. That included possible future Hall of Famers like Justin Verlander and Adam Wainwright, both of whom still seem to be in the primes of their careers. Max Scherzer also started against them twice coming off a fantastic regular season.
Nonetheless, with his 38th birthday fast approaching, Big Papi batted .353/.500/.706 while starting all 16 of Boston's postseason games. He reached base in 14 of those contests, including multiple times in every World Series matchup.
Although Ortiz's offensive stats were extraordinary, the uselessness of the other Red Sox gives us a better appreciation for what he accomplished. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports points out, the slugger's World Series batting average trumped any OPS that his teammates posted against the St. Louis Cardinals. (Read that sentence a few more times so that it sinks in, because that's truly unbelievable.)
Ultimately, the grand slam that saved Game 2 of the ALCS best epitomizes Boston's resiliency. That team—that entire city, really—ought to be grateful for its veteran designated hitter.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran (Cardinals)
Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He wants to make sweet, social love with all of you on Twitter.