MLB Playoff Predictions: Power Ranking the Top 25 Players Still Alive in LCS
Well ladies and gentlemen, the 2010 Major League season has reached its very own Final Four in the form of the two League Championship Series.
The American League will pit the defending champion New York Yankees against the first-time winners Texas Rangers, while the National League will feature the back-to-back National League champion Philadelphia Phillies against the upstart San Francisco Giants.
While the ALCS promises to display power with the slugging offenses of the Rangers and the start studded Yankees, the NLCS plans on displaying the so called "arms race," featuring the top two starting rotations that baseball has to offer.
While arguments are made between the better coaching staffs, the GMs, and the chemistry of the team factoring into the success of a ballclub, ultimately it boils down to the strength of the players on each team.
From the highly paid studs such as Alex Rodriguez to the rookie sensation Buster Posey, each team will have to properly showcase their power players in order to have a chance at the World Series.
With that said, let's take a look at the top 25 players that will grace the American and National League Championship Series.
25: Pat Burrell
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Since signing with the Giants on May 29, Pat Burrell has been the offensive power that the Giants were desperately seeking.
In 96 games, Burrell hit 18 home runs and 51 RBI, with a .266/.320/.509 AVG/OBP/SLG. Similarly, the addition of Burrell ignited a fire under his former college teammate Aubrey Huff, who only had 22 RBI and six HRs, ending the season with 20 more HR and 64 RBI.
In the NLDS, Burrell posted a .933 OPS and accounted for three of the Giants' eight RBI in the four games, hitting one of two home runs hit by the Giants in the series.
With substantial postseason experience, he is a welcome mentor to the young Giant pitching staff and the first-time postseason players such as Huff and Freddy Sanchez.
If the Giants hope to beat the titan Phillies, Pat Burrell is going to have to do some damage against the team that took him first overall in the 1998 MLB Draft.
24: Nick Swisher
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Nick Swisher is perhaps the most lovable Major League Baseball player on the planet. He is a prankster, an energy player, and a great presence on the field and off the field.
My brother has even met the man when he was with the Athletics, describing him as a truly good dude. However, he is composed of 100 percent ballplayer. And this year he has had a measurable difference on the Yankees ballclub.
Not only has he posted admirable statistics with .288/.359/.511 split with 29 HRs and 89 RBI, but he has been a great chemistry guy, keeping the uptight Yankee clubhouse and all their egos loose and gelling. An unfortunate part of the Athletic salary dump, the Yankees have struck a goldmine.
If he can maintain the stellar numbers he put up in the ALDS, with nine total bases in 12 at bats, then the Yankees will look as unbeatable as ever.
23: Jayson Werth
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With Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hurt for much of the year, the responsibility to drive in runs fell heavily on Jayson Werth. And he delivered.
Werth smacked 27 HRs and drove in 85 RBI while maintaining a .296 AVG, one heck of a season by any standards.
While there were worries about his strikeout rate during the middle of the season, Werth maintained the power numbers and then the average went up sharply with the return of Utley and Howard.
Jayson Werth has done very well for himself while on the Phillies, but this year might be the most impressive because he had to carry such a large load for a majority of the season and he was able to have a solid year all round.
Jason had a mediocre NLDS, and will have to be better, but he is more than capable of having a great NLCS, which could propel the Phillies to a third straight World Series appearance.
Jayson Werth will have a great offseason while teams pine and bid to try and get this talent off the free agent market.
22: Ian Kinsler
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Ian Kinsler might not have made this list based on his regular season numbers alone, but his NLDS showing propelled him right into the conversation. While he did post a respectable .286 AVG, he only hit nine HRs and drove in only 45 runs in 103 games.
However, his ALDS was nothing short of torrid. Kinsler racked up 17 total bases in 18 at bats, with three home runs, six RBI, two walks, and five runs scored in the only five-game series of the first round.
A breakout performance liked that validated the Rangers respect for this kid, one of the true hitting second basemen playing.
The Rangers are going to need every bit of that power if they hope to get by the Yankees.
21: Derek Jeter
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Derek Jeter is the poster boy for the Yankees, and the Yankees are the poster team of the playoffs. While Jeter had a rather pedestrian regular season, with a .270 AVG, 10 HRs and 67 RBI, the playoffs are Derek Jeter territory. His ALDS was still pedestrian, but let's take a look at Derek Jeter's playoff statistics: .312/.381/.475 with 20 HRs and 56 RBIs in 141 games. Those are impressive numbers for a whole regular season's worth of postseason games.
Derek Jeter has tasted the postseason in every season he has been in the Major League except for 2008, and has played in seven World Series, so experience is one thing he has. Plus, those numbers aren't bad at all, not at all.
If the Yankees captain continues his dominance of the postseason, his team will follow suit.
20: Nelson Cruz
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This year for Nelson Cruz has been the proverbial coming-out party, as in 103 games, Cruz hit .318 with 22 HRs and 78 RBI and posted a .950 OPS.
At the beginning of the season it seemed as if every game Nelson Cruz was going to find a way to take you deep. For a team that built itself around offensive firepower, Nelson Cruz was an incredibly important piece.
And in the ALDS he lived up to his regular season performance, amassing 19 total bases in 20 at-bats with three home runs and two doubles. And with that series he proved that he is no fluke, he is a masher.
Well the Rangers are going to need Cruz to mash in order to get by the king of mashing, the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
19: Aubrey Huff
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To think that only one team wanted Aubrey Huff this past offseason. And that one team is doing a jig for stealing him off the market, for without Aubrey Huff, the Giants would be home right now instead of preparing for the Phillies in the NLCS.
Aubrey Huff had a career year with a .290 AVG, 26 HRs, and 86 RBI, the team leader in those two categories. He was the heart and soul of a offense that did just enough in support of a stellar pitching staff.
Although his NLDS was pedestrian at best, Aubrey Huff was responsible tying a game in the final out, which the Giants went on to win, and scored the tying run in the series-winning game for the Giants.
Although Aubrey Huff certainly has more help with the additions of Buster Posey and Pat Burrell, he will need to be the stud he was in the regular season for the Giants to have a hope of taking down the titan Phillies.
18: Vladimir Guerrero
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It was the consensus of the baseball world that Vladimir Guerrero was well past his prime and had only mediocre years left in him as a DH. The Rangers gambled on him with a $5.5 million contract, and came up aces.
Vlad had a year that had people flashing back to his days with the Expos, posting a .300 AVG with 29 HRs and 115 RBI. 115! That's impressive.
Luckily the Rangers didn't need his productivity in the ALDS, because it decided not to show up.
However, the best bad ball hitter is still lurking in the think of a dangerous Rangers lineup, just waiting to take the swing that has everyone scratching their heads and the Yankees worrying.
17: Michael Young
Michael Young has been one of the best hitters in the league now for the better part of the decade. And this is his first trip to the postseason, a true shame.
While Young has had a solid season, a .84 AVG, 21 HRs and 91 RBI, he has had a rather dismal postseason, with his only main contribution being a disputed three-run home run.
However, great hitters hit, and it is only a matter of time before this truly gifted hitter breaks out, and when he does, the Yankees better watch out.
16: CC Sabathia
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Truth be told, I might have overvalued CC on my list ranking the top 20 pitchers, but that does not exclude CC from the elite in this league at all.
Sabathia's value is limitless simply because of the team he plays for and the rotations he heads. Without him, the Yankees have an ace-free rotation, put together of young bullpen studs, overpaid headcases, underperforming aces, and a once was ace.
Similarly, CC Sabathia once again entered himself into the conversation for the American League Cy Young, something which he has accomplished the last four years in a row.
It now seems as if the league can't even have the discussion without his name popping up down the stretch. The man is truly a horse, and the Yankees need one dearly.
Come on, CC, don't make me wish I hadn't overvalued you again.
15: Jonathan Sanchez
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Jonathan Sanchez has been the most dominant pitcher in the major leagues since September, hands down, posting a 1.17 ERA and a sub-.150 opponent average.
And he followed up that superb September with one of the top five most dominating performances of the Divisional Series, going 7.1 innings, allowing one earned run, and striking out 11 against only one walk. He was so good, that the Giants are moving him up to start second against Roy Oswalt in Philadelphia.
Jonathan Sanchez finds himself right in the thick of an arms race between the two best staffs in the country, and looking as a top man himself. Glad the Giants didn't trade him? I certainly am.
If Jonathan Sanchez is every bit the pitcher he has been for more than a month, the Giants will contend with the Phillies, and possibly pull the upset of upsets.
14: Mariano Rivera
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The best closer October has ever seen, bar none. Mariano Rivera, and his cutter, have single-handedly become the most feared closer (and pitch) that Major League Baseball has seen in some time.
When Rivera enters the game it is just about over; he is the closest thing to a lock that there is in baseball today.
In 91 appearances, he has recorded 73 saves and a .71 ERA, with a .768 WHIP. Dominant numbers. And he has not slowed down, even since his fastball has dropped from high to low 90s. That cutter is still the best pitch known to any pitcher in the major leagues.
If the teams playing the Yankees see a lot of Mariano Rivera, they are in trouble, lots of trouble.
13: Roy Oswalt
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Roy Oswalt at this point is the weak link in the H2O trio, and that says a lot about the dominance of H2O.
Compiling another solid year at 13-13 with a 2.72 ERA, Oswalt has to be one of the most consistent pitchers on any staff.
He has a solid amount of experience with the 2005 Astros and his two roles with the USA World Baseball Classic Team.
Oswalt did show signs of worry in his first and only outing in the NLDS, going five innings and giving up four runs, four earned, including two home runs. However, he is still a dominant force on the mound, to be feared every time he takes the hill.
Against the Giants' equally impressive staff, Oswalt will need to be good, otherwise he could be the one kink in the armor of the Phillies, the kink the Giants are looking for to pull an upset.
12: Chase Utley
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The league hasn't seen a second baseman hit like Utley since since Jeff Kent was winning MVP awards.
Even though this year can't be considered his best by any means, as he has hit for a .300+ average, 30+ home runs, and 90+ RBI over the last five years, he has still managed 16 HRs and 60 RBI in 115 games riddled with injury.
In the NLDS, he managed six total bases in 11 at-bats with four runs batted in. He is truly at his best in the postseason, where he has posted a .915 OPS with 10 HRs and 23 RBI in 35 games.
In combination with Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez, the Phillies lineup is downright scary.
11: Matt Cain
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Matt Cain might be the most underrated pitcher in Major League Baseball. Hiding under the shadow of Tim Lincecum's brilliance and Jonathan Sanchez's rare lightning, Matt Cain goes out day after day and delivers quality.
He's country strong, and country good. Following his All-Star year, he has amassed a respectable 13-11 record with a 3.14 ERA. What has really set him apart is his NLDS start, where he went 6.2 innings only allowing one unearned run, while striking out six.
He has the makeup of a reliable starter in either the postseason or the regular season, and for years to come. He is as sound mentally as he is physically, and the Giants will need all of his focus in this upcoming NLCS.
10: Cole Hamels
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Cole Hamels is the only pitcher on the planet right now that can say he is more of a mystery than Jonathan Sanchez. He burst onto the scene with a ridiculous 2008 postseason, dominating to the level that earned him NLCS and World Series MVP honors.
However, he followed this with a rather dismal 2009, which turned into a mediocre first half of 2010. Upon completion of the All-Star break, Cole Hamels became dominant once again.
He put up a 2.23 ERA after the 2010 All-Star break, and threw a complete game shutout that finished off the Reds in the NLDS, in Cincinnati no less.
Great, not only is Halladay pitching no-hitters, Roy Oswalt throwing right behind him, and an order of studs backing up the pitching, but it looks like Cole Hamels has regained his dominance. Yay.
9: Buster Posey
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Forget Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey deserves MVP consideration. The Giants, who ended the season 22 games over .500, were 16 games over .500 in games started by Buster Posey, which is 108 games by the way. In those games, Posey posted a .305 AVG, a .862 OPS, with 16 HRs and 67 RBI.
Those are spectacular numbers for a rookie, and almost unheard of for a rookie putting in about 2/3 of a year's worth of service, except for the likes of Albert Pujols and Mark McGuire.
In the NLDS, Posey was even more impressive, stringing together 6 hits in 16 at bats. Although he did not record an RBI, he scored the winning run in Game 1, hit in the winning run in Game 3 via an error, and scored the winning run in Game 4.
Basically, he was responsible for every winning run of every Giants victory, which were all decided by one run, mind you.
Posey must continue performing with the dominance of a veteran, lest the Phillies roll over the Giants like a father playing basketball with their 6-year-old son. Otherwise, that son might just hit his growth spurt early.
8: Mark Teixeira
Sending a "Tex Message" may be one of the lamest home run calls I have ever heard, but the man behind it is no slouch. Mark Teixeira, in ways, has not been everything the Yankees hoped, but he has been darn good.
Even with his mediocre .256 AVG this year, he still slammed 33 HRs and drove in 108 runs, no small feat in either category. And just as he was integral in last year's Yankees World Series victory, he will have to be integral in this one.
In the ALDS, Teixeira gained eight total bases in 13 at bats, including a home run, a double, three runs batted in, and two runs scored.
It does help that he is hitting behind Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher and in front of Alex Rodriguez, who is hitting in front of Robinson Cano.
Regardless, there will be more Tex Messages, and the Yankees will win.
7: Ryan Howard
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Just another tool in the arsenal of the Phillies is the pure slugger Ryan Howard. This year, injuries and all, he amassed 31 HR and 108 RBI in only 143 games.
In the last five seasons, Howard has hit at least 30 home runs and batted in at least 100 runs. Four of those season being 40+ HRs and 130+ RBI. The man is a beast, dropping bombs and driving in runs with relative ease.
He as also been great in the playoffs, putting together a .898 OPS with 7 HRs and 27 RBI in 35 games. His presence alone strike fear into any pitcher and defense, and he has the power to dictate the other team to play around where he sits in the game.
Pitchers beware, if Ryan Howard breaks out, run and hide.
6: Robinson Cano
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Robinson Cano, dontchaknow? He has truly been the MVP of the Yankees, and that's a tough title to gain with the star power, and payroll, of The New York Yankees.
He had a breakout year, with a .319 AVG, a .914 OPS, 29 HRs and 109 RBI. And in the ALDS, he looked every bit the professional hitter he has shown himself to be.
The Yankees have enough trust in this kid to have him back their $33 million man, Alex Rodriguez. If you want to see just how good this guy is, just how professional he is at the plate, just take a look at the swing he took in the first game of the ALCS.
If the Yankees make the World Series, I think Cano will be the MVP, and you can quote me on that.
5: Josh Hamilton
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My vote for AL MVP, if I had a vote. The man hit .359 with a 1.044 OPS! On top of that, he hit 32 home runs and drove in 100 runs, all in only 133 games.
The resurgence of Josh Hamilton is truly the stuff of legend, starting with his heroic round at the old Yankee Stadium in the homerun derby. Following that up with this kind of season, simply fantastic.
His postseason, however, has been mediocre, which is the only reason he is not standing in the top three. He is going to have to be an MVP caliber player in order to beat the Yankees in the ALCS, but it is more than possible, he is that good.
4: Alex Rodriguez
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From postseason goat to No. 4 on the Power Rankings list, just goes to show how good he has been these last couple years, especially in the playoffs.
This year, although he only hit .270, he still hit 30 home runs and drove in a ridiculous 125 runs. And for all those who still think he will struggle in the playoffs, check out these stats from his 2009 postseason.
AVG: .365 OPS: 1.308 HR: 6 RBI: 18 = INSANE!
That is how you get off the schneid, in a postseason to remember. Rodriguez is the heart of a lineup that is filled with talent and power. He makes it move, as shown by the number of RBI. You can shut A-Rod down, but not the Yankees.
However, if opponents do not shut Alex Rodriguez down this postseason, the Yankees will not be stopped.
3: Tim Lincecum
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The back-to-back, defending Cy Young Award winner had an off year. However, that off year consisted of a 16-10 record, a 3.43 ERA with 231 strikeouts over 212.1 innings pitched.
This year was defined by his horrendous August (0-5 7.82 ERA), his spectacular September (5-1 1.94 ERA) and his brilliant, dominant postseason debut, in which he threw a complete game, two-hit shutout with 14 Ks.
In the depths of August, the dog days, the media and fans were in a tizzy. What was wrong with Timmy? Everyone thought they knew, but no one knew. And no one will ever know. And no one will ever care.
What he has done from September onwards lets the world of baseball know that he is for real, and that those two Cy Youngs were no fluke, because there may be more on the way.
If Lincecum has anything to say, that may not be the only hardware he earns. And if he stays this dominant, well Timmy and the Giants may just have a chance.
2: Cliff Lee
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Cliff Lee's postseason statistics:
6-0 1.44 ERA 54 Ks 6 BBs
You think he likes to pitch in the postseason?
While Cliff Lee has won a Cy Young, and is obviously a great pitcher, he has never been held in the same conversation with the Roy Halladays, or the CCs, the Timmys, or the King Felixs of the world during the regular season.
It is in the postseason that Cliff Lee earns his money and gains his fame?
What he did with the Phillies in the postseason made him a superstar. He was the new Cole Hamels, only better.
He was the only man on the planet, yes, on the planet, that could beat the 2009 New York Yankees in the postseason, multiple times, and make them look like college walk-ons.
With fans and critics alike wondering if he could back that performance up, he delivered two masterful performances in the ALDS, winning two games, against a Cy Young candidate, while compiling 16 innings and only surrendering two earned runs.
Did I mention that one was a complete game, and also the series clincher, in a winner take all scenario?
He is good, he is real good. And as long as a team has Cliff Lee in the playoffs, hope is alive. He is that good.
1: Roy Halladay
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This was the year of the pitcher, and it is only suitable that the top three spots on this list all go to dominant pitchers. In my opinion, the postseason is the domain of pitchers anyways.
While I will take a good position player over a good pitcher most days in the regular season, there is not a day in the playoffs when I would take a good position player over a good pitcher.
A good pitcher can single-handedly win a series, or at least give a team one heck of a good chance at it. Just look at all the great pitchers who have won games 1 4 and 7, and have gone down in baseball lore as the greatest performers in the game.
And right now, the best to take the mound in Roy Halladay. While his postseason legacy has yet to be completely sculpted, his start is undeniably promising.
To go out and throw a no-hitter in his first-ever postseason start, against a good offense, unheard of. To have thrown a perfect game that very same year, and lead the league in complete games, and complete game shutouts, and innings pitched, spectacular.
His legacy will get tested though, as he has many tough postseason games ahead of him. His next start against Tim Lincecum is being heralded as one of the best postseason pitching matchups ever.
This is only the fifth time in postseason history that Cy Young Award winners will duel, and only the third time that pitchers will face each other where one threw a no hitter and the other a complete Game 2 hitter (or less) in their previous games.
Right now, there is no one else on the planet that the majority of people would take to pitch on their team, and they have good reason. Let's enjoy fans, for this postseason will be one that pitchers will captivate and make their own.
History is being made, don't miss out.