With the playoffs just around the corner, the most exciting part of the baseball season is nearly upon us. The past six months have all led up to this, and for eight teams, their season will continue on into October.
For each of those eight teams, there is a handful of players in particular that will need to come through if they hope to make a run at the World Series.
What follows are nine players, one from each of the nine teams still in the playoff hunt, that I fell will fall short when their team's need them most. This is the nine key players that will not come though for their team's in the playoffs.
Career Postseason Stats: None
2010 Season Stats: 14-9, 2.92 ERA, 185 Ks, 30 Starts
Latos has had a phenomenal season, and he along with Clayton Richard, are a big reason why the Padres have been able to hang around in the playoff picture for the entire season, as those two turned what was one of the team's biggest question marks in its rotation into one of its strengths.
That said, Latos is still only 22 years old, and has just 40 big league starts under his belt in roughly a season and a half of service time. He would no doubt be penciled in as the Padres ace in any playoff series, and to this point in his career he has never pitched on anything close to that type of stage.
Not only that, but he has scuffled of late, going 1-4 with a 6.21 ERA over his last six starts, as he may be showing the signs of wearing down as he finishes up his first full season in the big leagues. The Padres and Latos have been a great story, but October doesn't look great for either of them.
Career Postseason Stats: 4-3, 3.25 ERA, 33 Ks in seven games
2010 Season Stats: 9-13, 4.08 ERA, 146 Ks
After largely being a disappointment in his time with the Giants thus far, made worse by his excessively large contract, Zito seemed to have regained the form that made him a Cy Young winner as he opened the season with a 4-0, 1.53 ERA first month.
However, it has not gone quite as well since, as Zito has struggled mightily of late, and is an uninspired 3-11 since starting the season 6-2.
There is no denying that the Giants have one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but if they want to make a run, it would help greatly if Zito pitched like he did to open the season. A strong postseason from Jonathan Sanchez would make this a moot issue though.
Career Postseason Stats: .271 BA, 7 HR, 27 RBI in 32 games
2010 Season Stats: .278 BA, 31 HR, 106 RBI
Despite having one of the deepest lineups in all of baseball, Howard stands out from the rest of the Phillies lineup as one of the most feared sluggers in the game today. However, he strikes out a lot, roughly once every three at bats over his career.
That is generally out weighed by his tremendous run production numbers, as he has driven in 100 runs for the fifth straight season this year, and has led the league in that category three times over that stretch. However, he showed just what a hindrance the Ks can be last postseason against the Yankees.
In 23 World Series at bats, Howard struck out a whopping 13 times, hitting a meager .174 and driving in just three runs over the six game series. Maybe it was just a tough series for him, but Howard is certainly not the type of player that you can count on to carry a team, thanks to his high strikeout rate.
Postseason Career Stats: None
2010 Season Stats: .271 BA, 17 HR, 55 RBI
Phillips is among the best offensive second baseman in all of baseball, and he is undoubtedly one of the clubhouse leaders of the surprise NL Central champion Reds, but there is reason to believe that he will struggle come October.
He has struggled mightily of late, hitting just .163 BA, one HR, and five RBI since September 1, as he has been in quite a slump to finish out the season. A slump alone can cause even the best hitters to press at least a little bit.
However, when you take into account the fact that this will be the first postseason of the 29-year-old Phillips career, that could cause him to put even more pressure on himself to start hitting the ball, and his slump could very well continue on into October.
Career Postseason Stats: .333 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI in two games
2010 Season Stats: .323 BA, 8 HR, 45 RBI
When Infante was named to the All-Star team earlier this season, more than a few eyebrow were raised as he was not even a starter, but was instead considered the best utility player in the league.
When Chipper Jones went down with an injury, Infante worked his way into the starting lineup, and he has begun to stumble a bit with the increased workload, hitting .268 in September after hitting over .300 in each month since the first month of the season.
Now that Martin Prado is out for the season, Infante will assume the role of table setter for the Braves, and all of a sudden the "super utility" man is one of the most important players in the lineup. Time will tell if he can handle the larger role.
Career Playoff Stats: None
2010 Season Stats: 1-0, 16 Saves, 2.08 ERA after trade to Twins
While the moves that centered around Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt stole the headlines at the trade deadline, the Twins made a significant move in acquiring Capps from the Nationals to help shore up the closer spot vacated by the injured Joe Nathan.
On the season, Capps has racked up a total of 42 saves, with a tidy 2.50 ERA, as he established himself as one of the more reliable closers in baseball.
However, Capps spent the majority of his career toiling with the Pirates, and he has experienced the pressures of pitching for a contender in the playoffs. That, coupled with the fact that Capps does not have traditional lights-out closer stuff, and pitches more to contact, could lead to a few blown saves on the biggest stage.
Career Playoff Stats: None
2010 Seasons Stats: .361 BA, 31 HR, 97 RBI
While the career renaissance of Vladmir Guerrero has been a great story, there is little question as to who the Rangers MVP has been this season, as Hamilton has taken the next step to super-stardom this season.
However, a rib cage injury has sidelined him since September 4, and while he is expected to be back in the lineup come October, one has to wonder how the layoff, as well as two fractured ribs, will effect his swing.
If there is one thing we know about Hamilton, it's to never count him out, and if he can comeback and lead the team the way he did earlier in the season it would only add to his legend. I simply don't see it happening though.
Career Postseason Stats: 2-2, 2.88 ERA, 17 Ks in four starts
2010 Season Stats: 13-14, 5.04 ERA, 186 Ks
Shields is the longest tenured Rays starter, and while he is no longer the staff ace since the emergence of David Price, he is still capable of being a front-line starter.
However, he has struggled mightily this season, posting the worst ERA of his career. And he has been even worse of late, going 0-3 with a 7.00 ERA in his last five starts.
For the Rays to be successful this postseason, they will need Shields to pitch to his abilities, but this season has been a tough one for him, and chances are it will not get any better come October.
Yankees Captain Derek Jeter
Career Postseason Numbers: .313 BA, 20 HR, 55 RBI in 138 games
2010 Season Numbers: .267 BA, 10 HR, 66 RBI, .705 OPS (lowest full season OPS of his career)
There is no denying Jeter's body of work, as he has been one of the most successful postseason players in the history of the game. However, there is also no denying that he is having a poor season, and could be starting to show signs of his advancing age.
The Yankees have been able to lean on Jeter time and again when the lights shined brightest, but this season they may very well need someone else to take the reigns and lead the team if they hope to make it back to the World Series.
That said, the Yankees offense is as deep as they come, and someone will almost certainly step up, as Hideki Matsui did last season, and provide the punch the Yankees need. It's just is not going to be Jeter this time around.