Last year in the playoffs, Alex Rodriguez was outstanding for the New York Yankees. He carried the team through the American League Division Series and the American League Championship Series. Although he struggled in the first few games of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies last year, he had several key hits to help the Yankees become World Series Champions.
As the playoffs are about to start, there are some important players who I think will carry their team in the playoffs this year the way Rodriguez did last year for the Yankees. Those are the players that I am going to recognize here.
Votto has been the Reds' best hitter this year. He is batting .323 with 37 home runs and 112 RBI. He has really carried the Reds this year—without him, they would not be close to where they are now.
Another reason I predict Votto to perform well in the postseason is because his statistics show that he is good under pressure. Although this is his first postseason, he still has experienced pressure during the regular season, and he has hit very well with the pressure.
For instance, with runners on base this year he is hitting .377. With runners in scoring position he is hitting .369, and with the bases loaded he is hitting .364.
One of the Rangers' best pitchers is Cliff Lee. He came in a trade before the trading deadline from Seattle. At first he did not do very well for the Rangers, but recently he has been doing very well, having an ERA of 1.93 in September.
One of the main reasons I think Lee will perform well in the playoffs this year is because of how he pitched for the Phillies in the 2009 postseason. He went 4-0 in the playoffs with a 1.56 ERA over five games, including two complete games.
If the Braves are to be successful in the playoffs, I think McCann will be one of their key players. He is batting .271, and he is a very good clutch hitter. A good example of his clutch hitting was his game winning RBI in the All-Star Game this year. Another indication of his clutch hitting is that he hit .385 with the bases loaded this season.
This year Carlos Ruiz has been a phenomenal hitter for the Phillies, and he leads the team with a .302 batting average. Ruiz is especially good in situations where there is a lot of pressure.
For example, with runners on base this season Ruiz is hitting .320. He is also hitting .300 with the bases loaded.
Another reason I predict Ruiz will do well in the postseason is because he has been in the postseason for the past three seasons, and he did very well in two of them. In the 2007 postseason he hit .333, and in last year's postseason he hit .341.
The main reason I picked Huff is that he is probably the Giants' best hitter. He is hitting .296 with 26 home runs and 85 runs batted in.
He is also very good in situations with a lot of pressure. This year with runners in scoring position he is hitting .293. He also has a .306 batting average with runners on and a .400 average with the bases loaded.
Joe Mauer has been great for the Twins this year, and he leads the team with a .327 batting average.
He also hits very well under pressure. He is hitting .348 with runners on base, .331 with runners in scoring position, and .300 with the bases loaded. He also hits .391 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Another reason I picked Mauer was because of last year's postseason, in which he batted .417.
Although Mauer had a knee injury, he came back to the Twins in the final week of the season after missing nine games. As long as he can stay healthy, I expect him to do very well in the playoffs.
David Price has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year. He finished the season 19-6 with a 2.73 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .222.
He is good in situations with a lot of pressure, too. He has a .000 batting average against with the bases loaded, a .181 batting average against with runners in scoring position, and a .206 batting average against with men on base.
For the second half of the year, Hamels has been one of the Phillies three aces. For the season he was 13-11 with a 3.09 earned run average and 209 strikeouts.
One of the reasons I picked Hamels is because he is very good in situations with a lot of pressure. With runners on base his opponents have a .237 batting average this year. He also has a .202 opponents' batting average with runners in scoring position and a .197 opponents' batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Another reason I think Hamels will do well is due to his postseason performance in 2008. In the playoffs that year he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA, winning both the National League Championship MVP award and the World Series MVP award.
Sabathia has been an ace for the Yankees this year, going 21-7 with a 3.18 earned run average and 197 strikeouts.
He is also good under pressure. With runners on base this season he had a .232 opponents batting average. He held opponents to a .256 batting average with runners in scoring position and a .267 batting average with the bases loaded.
Another reason I think he will do well in the playoffs is because in last year's postseason he went 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA.
Mariano Rivera is probably the greatest playoff relief pitcher of all time. This season he went 3-3 with a 1.83 earned run average.
The main reason I picked Rivera is because of his incredible performance in previous postseasons. He has been in the postseason for 14 years and has an 0.74 ERA, including a 0.56 ERA in 2009.
Have you noticed a pattern consistent throughout all of the players I mentioned?
They are all good under pressure, and many have made previous postseason appearances.
I didn't pick any players who were good in the regular season but showed no signs of playing well under pressure.
The reason I did this is because in the playoffs there is a lot of pressure—probably more pressure than any game in the regular season. Because of this, being good under pressure is vital in the postseason. That is why most teams that do well in the playoffs either have a lot of veterans or have made it there before.
What does this mean for the playoff teams? It means that the players and teams who perform well under pressure are the ones that will do well in the postseason.
Pretty much every playoff team has some players that do well under pressure. But there are only a few teams themselves who are good under pressure, teams that go beyond just one star player—and those are the teams who are my pick to win the 2010 World Series.