MLB World Series 2010: 10 Players Who Will Make The Most Impact
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Dubbed the Year of the Pitcher, the 2010 MLB season has been full of milestones reached by the men on the mound.
Whether it has been Roy Halladay's bouts with perfection or Cliff Lee's masterful postseason performances, Major League Baseball is all about the pitcher (at least for this year).
Look no further than the 2010 World Series to confirm the old adage "pitching wins championships." With both teams' ERA under 3.00 heading into the Fall Classic, the Giants and Rangers will need to rely on their power pitching to establish dominance in the series.
While the Giants offer more depth in their rotation, especially with 21-year old Madison Bumgarner pitching admirably out of the four spot, the Rangers have relied on the heroics of Cliff Lee and the far less-heralded Colby Lewis to keep opposing offenses at bay (they have a 2.76 ERA this postseason, good for first in the AL).
San Francisco's troubles lie at the plate, where they have struggled to score runs consistently all season long. As a team, the Giants have hit only .231 in 10 playoff games, and despite a torrid postseason from Cody Ross (4 HRs, 8 RBIs in that span), they still cannot be relied upon for constant run production.
On the other hand, the Rangers are ranked first in every relevant offensive statistic this postseason and their ability to capitalize with runners in scoring position has set them apart from the rest of the competition in the playoffs thus far.
Standouts such as C.J Wilson, Ian Kinsler and Aubrey Huff had to be left off the list because of the plethora of impact players.
10. Nelson Cruz
Even though Josh Hamilton has received more fanfare during the playoffs, an argument could be made that Nelson Cruz has been Texas' best offensive weapon during their World Series run.
Although he only ranks at No. 10 on this list, Cruz is still an integral part of the Rangers' lineup out of the five-hole because of the protection he provides for Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero against opposing pitchers.
With a .375/.419/.875 slash line so far, Cruz has remained effective, despite battling lingering hamstring problems (he lost 51 games during the year due to the hammy), and his two-run bomb to straight-away center field in Game 6 of the ALCS put the Yankees away for good in the series-clinching game.
The right-fielder has scored a run in all but one of Texas' playoff wins, and his prodigious power (5 HRs this postseason) power makes him a constant threat at the dish.
Getting Cruz healthy is a must for a Rangers lineup that will be relying on his bat to help breakthrough against a tough Giants' pitching staff.
9. Elvis Andrus
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Elvis Andrus is the real deal.
The slick-fielding shortstop has recovered nicely from a post-All-Star slump (.247 since July 13th) this postseason and his speed on the base paths attracts attention away from the Rangers' trio of sluggers.
On top of his seven steals, Andrus is hitting .333 in the playoffs, and has put himself in the conversation for best shortstop in the American League.
Even though his bat is an asset, the glove of the 22-year-old Venezuelan import has been his calling card this season. A frequenter of the Web Gems segment featured on ESPN, Andrus uses above-average arm and quick feet to gun runners down no matter how deep in the whole he fields the ball. Blessed with excellent range at short, Andrus has the look of a perennial Gold-Glover if he can stay healthy.
This World Series, he will be looked at to provide the Rangers with a spark at the top of the order and energize an already explosive Texas lineup.
8. Brian Wilson
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After racking up one of the best statistical seasons for a closer in MLB history, the bearded fireballer has carried over his regular season success to the postseason.
In his nine innings of work so far these playoffs, Wilson has not yielded a run, and has struck out a playoff-high 12 batters among relief pitchers. To go along with a perfect ERA, the Giants' closer has only allowed four hits in seven appearances, and his 3-to-1 K/BB rate is driving force behind his postseason dominance,
Donning a playoff beard for the ages, Wilson needs to be his usual dominant self if the Giants have any hope of pulling out this World Series.
A close matchup from the outset, it looks like Brian Wilson will be very busy over the next week-and-a-half trying to stifle the all-too-common Rangers rallies that we have been accustomed to this October. In what should be a pressure-packed series, Wilson will have the ability to showcase his ninth-inning talents on the game's biggest stage.
7. Matt Cain
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The veteran right-hander has seen his share of losing during his career for the San Francisco Giants, but now Matt Cain is now poised to start Game 2 of the World Series in what has to be the biggest outing of his professional career.
The only starting pitcher left in the postseason without an earned run to his name, Cain put San Fran ahead 2-to-1 after his victory against Cole Hamels in the NLCS, earning him the nod ahead of Jonathan Sanchez for the second spot in the Giants' rotation.
Playing in his first career postseason, and now World Series, Cain cannot get caught up in the pressure of the playoffs, especially if San Francisco falls behind 0-1 in the series coming into his start Thursday night.
6. Colby Lewis
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Formerly of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan's Central League, Colby Lewis has found his way into the Rangers' World Series rotation.
While Cliff Lee received all the pub during the ALCS, Lewis was the real star of the series going 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA against the vaunted Yankees offense.
The former Rangers farmhand turned in a Rick Reed-esque performance against New York in Game 6, turning in a three-hit, one-run masterpiece in his eight innings of work.
Lewis' hot streak is a boon for a Texas team that has to match up with a deep and talented San Francisco staff. Game 3 will provide the former first round-draft pick with the opportunity to once again give Texas the momentum of a series as well as a forum to continue his reign of supremacy against opposing batters.
5. Cody Ross
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Cody Ross, San Francisco Cult Hero.
When the Giants needed a clutch hit this postseason, Cody Ross was the player that San Fran fans wanted to see up at bat, and for good reason. With four home runs and eight RBI so far, the right fielder has been the difference in three of the Giants' seven wins during the playoffs.
Ross has beaten up on good pitching (see his back-to-back HRs off Roy Halladay) during the Giants' postseason run, and his timely hitting has started a positive trend for San Francisco in pressure situations.
The well-traveled veteran (five teams in seven season) hasn't had much success against current Texas pitchers (1-12), but his one hit, which was the first of his career, happened to be a grand slam against current Ranger ace Cliff Lee.
A little foreboding never hurt anybody, and a Cody Ross-Cliff Lee showdown is one of the highly-anticipated matchups in Game 1.
4. Buster Posey
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San Francisco's baby-faced catcher may be listed as a rookie, but the poise and composure he has demonstrated throughout the 2010 playoffs tells quite a different story.
At the ripe age of 23, Posey has teamed with Cody Ross to revitalize an anemic Giants' offense in the postseason. Although he has been mired in a bit of a slump (aside from his 4-for-5 clinic in Game 4 , Posey went 0-for-14 to end the NLCS), the Giants' cleanup hitter remains one of the few offensive threats that Bruce Bochy has at his disposal.
Posey's defense and handling of his pitching staff, both under-looked portions of his game, have been outstanding, especially considering he only took over the catcher position full-time on July 1st.
San Francisco needs Posey to pick up his game against the Phillies if they have any hope at bring home a sixth World Series title.
3. Josh Hamilton
Sporting a .111 batting average heading into the ALCS matchup against the Yankees, Josh Hamilton exploded with four home runs and seven RBI to go along with a .375 average in six games.
The AL MVP candidate has struck early and often this postseason with six first inning RBI, leading to two Ranger wins.
Hamilton's amazing story continues with Texas' improbable World Series run, and the spotlight will never get brighter for the 29-year-old center-fielder.
Flanked by Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz on either side of him in a dangerous Rangers' lineup, Ron Washington is counting on another big series from Hamilton to help offset the power pitching of the Giants.
2. Tim Lincecum
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Solid, but not spectacular against the Phillies, the Giants need the Tim Lincecum of the NLDS (two-hit shutout in Game 1 vs. Atlanta) to win the World Series.
Opposite Cliff Lee in Game 1 (and probably Game 5), The Freak has had very little experience against the Rangers' hitters, usually good thing for a starter of Lincecum's caliber.
Like fellow starter Matt Cain, Lincecum is participating in his first postseason, and he must be wary of World Series jitters in the first game of the series , especially with Texas outscoring their opponents 8-0 in the first inning during the playoffs.
Despite losing velocity on his fastball by the day, Lincecum needs to flash some of his unhittable side, if he even has that left, if he wants to keep Texas at bay.
1. Cliff Lee
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The man of the postseason, Cliff Lee is ready to turn all of the hype surrounding him into actual performance on the field.
Unbeaten in the postseason, sitting a perfect 7-0, Lee has had the unique experience of pitching in last year's World Series (with Philly).
His usual dominant self during the '10 playoffs, the left-hander has put together a 0.83 ERA to go along with his three wins.
Barring an injury, Lee should have his way with the inconsistent San Francisco lineup. Blessed with history-making precision, the Texas hurler will look to attack the strike zone and force the Giants to swing the bat, not usually a good thing in their case.
For San Fran, the only statistic that could provide some glimmer of hope is Lee's propensity to give up the long ball (he has given up 16 on the year), considering it is one of the few things they actually have success doing on offense.
With a grand slam under his belt against Lee, Cody Ross may be the only Giant threat to the Rangers' pitching ace.
Bonus Slide : Vladimir Guerrero
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No surprise here.
In his 15 illustrious season in the major leagues, Vlad Guerrero has never reached the World Series, until now.
Quiet so far this postseason, Vlad has never had a breakout performance in his three playoff appearances, despite serviceable numbers across the board.
If the Giants are going to pull the Barry Bonds startegy on Josh Hamilton, like the Ynakees did (Game 6: 1-for-1, 3 BB), then Guerrero will need to take advantage of runners in scoring position.
For Vlad, this postseason could be the difference between a Hall of Fame spot. No pressure.
Jesse Paguaga is an intern for Bleacher Report. He is a regular contributor to Baseball Digest in the BD Baseball Fantasy Department. Jesse writes for Gotham Baseball, along with Gotham Hoops and Gotham Gridiron. He can be reached at Paguaga@usc.edu and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/@jpags77. Youngest GM Ever.