Imagine you're a general manager for a playoff team representing Major League Baseball.
Now, take all 200 players that are on this year's playoff rosters and throw them into free agency.
As the GM, you have an unlimited amount of cash and can sign any 25 of the 200 players. The goal is to compile the best possible roster using the players from each 2011 MLB playoff team.
This is the task I will attempt to accomplish in this slideshow.
Here is what my postseason roster would look like if I could pick and choose from the American League and National League contenders.
2011 Statistics: .295 AVG, 19 HR, 82 RBI, 63 R, .389 OBP
If I told you prior to the start of the season that a catcher on the Detroit Tigers would start for the American League in the All-Star Game, you probably would have thought of Victor Martinez. But that wasn't exactly the case.
One of the most pleasant surprises in the 2011 baseball season had to be Detroit's Alex Avila. Avila, who had played just 133 games in two major league seasons, produced for Jim Leyland's ballclub on both offense and defense.
Avila drove in 82 runs, jacked nearly 20 homers, and almost hit at a .300 clip. Alex's phenomenal play also extended to his defense behind the dish. He made just five errors, allowed just seven passed balls, and tied with Russell Martin for most runners thrown out attempting to steal.
I'll take Avila for this roster since he has been the best all-around catcher in the majors this season.
2011 Statistics: .299 AVG, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 105 R, .366 OBP
It wasn't exactly a typical Albert Pujols season, but I dare you to tell me not to have him as my starting first baseman.
For the first time in his 11-year career, Albert failed to reach at least 100 RBI and at least a .300 batting average. However, he still turned in a great year and is still Albert Pujols.
There should be no debate here. Pujols is not only the best first baseman in baseball—he is arguably the best player in baseball, period.
2011 Statistics: .302 AVG, 28 HR, 118 RBI, 104 R, .349 OBP
Speaking of the best players in baseball, Robinson Cano easily lands in the second baseman spot on this roster.
One half of baseball's most-tenured double-play combo has put up yet another great season. For the second consecutive year, Cano muscled at least 28 homers, drove in at least 109 runs, and hit over a .300 clip.
And just as in last year's campaign, Cano landed himself right in the thick of the AL MVP conversation.
2011 Statistics: .244 AVG, 31 HR, 99 RBI, 78 R, .355 OBP
This pick came down to Evan Longoria and Alex Rodriguez. Both are incredibly productive with a bat, both are among the best at their position, and both hold a certain degree of meaning to their respective clubs.
However, after I realized what a debacle of a season Rodriguez had in terms of staying on the field, Longoria was the obvious choice.
Although he missed 29 games and hit at a sour .244 average, no third baseman was more valuable than Longoria. He still hit 31 home runs, drove in a respectable 99 runs, and he provided all non-Red Sox fans with the greatest moment of the 2011 season.
2011 Statistics: .297 AVG, 6 HR, 61 RBI, 84 R, .355 OBP
If any of you Jeter-haters are still reading this slide, let me explain the selection.
For one, Derek Jeter is still playing baseball at a considerably high level. He hovered around a .300 average, scored 84 runs, and drove in 61 despite missing 31 games.
Next, let's throw all of that sabermetric hoopla out the window for a second. According to sabermetrics, Jeter ranks last among shortstops in defense, and his WAR sits at just 0.7. Yeah, yeah... new baseball statistics, so revolutionary!
But go over each roster in baseball and find me a better winner than Derek Jeter. In fact, I'll just save you some time... there is none. Jeter has been there, he's done that, and in all the right ways.
Plus, there isn't a better shortstop from the seven other teams to pick from anyway. (Your other options are Jhonny Peralta, Elvis Andrus, Sean Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, Willie Bloomquist/John McDonald, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Rafael Furcal)
2011 Statistics: .332 AVG, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 109 R, 30 SB, .397 OBP
HEY!!! DOWN HERE!
Now if I finally grabbed your attention from those sparkling numbers above, let me tell you a little about Ryan Braun.
You know what? Those numbers do the talking.
So let's just go back and admire those stats from a prime NL MVP candidate, Ryan Braun.
2011 Statistics: .262 AVG, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 136 R, .364 OBP
I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I kinda predicted Curtis Granderson would hit over 35 home runs this season. Unfortunately for me, I didn't put it in writing. So I'll trust you to take my word for it anyway, being the nice, upstanding human beings you are.
As I stated, I did think Curtis Granderson would reach at least 35 homers this season. However, I didn't see the rest of it coming. Granderson achieved career highs in home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, walks, slugging percentage, and OPS in 2011. His output was nothing short of incredible and assured him a spot in the AL MVP discussion.
2011 Statistics: .289 AVG, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 105 R, .369 OBP
Just as with Curtis Granderson, Justin Upton's 2011 campaign calls for some MVP talk. And just as Granderson did, Upton racked up some career numbers this season.
Justin Upton had career highs in home runs, runs batted in, runs scored, hits, stolen bases, doubles, OBP, and OPS. But more importantly, he headed a D-Backs team to a division title. The same division title that last year's World Series winners captured.
2011 Statistics: .330 AVG, 12 HR, 103 RBI, 76 R, .380 OBP
Victor Martinez makes the roster as the backup catcher based solely on the power of his offense.
He is undoubtedly one of the worst defensively behind the plate and should remain in the DH role for any lineup he is in. But since he can stroke it for a .330 average and 103 RBI, I'm pegging this guy as my second catcher.
2011 Statistics: .344 AVG, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 111 R, .448 OBP
It's extremely hard to leave baseball's most skilled hitter off of this roster, so I didn't.
Miguel Cabrera turned in yet another massive season in 2011. This season marks the eighth in a row where Miggy has hit at least 26 homers and driven in at least 103 runs.
Simply put, Cabrera is one of the best hitters of our generation. He is constantly in the MVP race and consistently rips the ball at an astronomical level.
When it's all said and done, we could be looking at an all-time great hitter.
2011 Statistics: .338 AVG, 11 HR, 106 RBI, 88 R, .380 OBP
Quiet: do you hear that? I don't. Neither does Michael Young.
What is that lack of sound, you ask? It's the minimal buzz around one of baseball's best players. For some reason, Young always seems to catch the short end of the stick. I mean, what does this guy have to do?
Young hit a ridiculous .338 and muscled in 106 runs during the 2011 season. The same season where he was supposed to take a backseat in the Texas organization.
Anyway, I'm using Young as my utility infielder on the roster. He can play every spot on the infield and provide the team with a spark off the bench.
2011 Statistics: .299 AVG, 38 HR, 120 RBI, 95 R, .415 OBP
The final non-oufielder bench spot came down to Mark Teixeira and the man you see above. But after glancing at the offensive output from both, I would much rather have Prince Fielder in a pinch-hit spot than Marky Mark.
Why? His average.
Fielder's superior average was the lone reason for taking him over Teixeira. Their homers are almost the same, their RBI totals are nearly equal, and they both scored at least 90 runs.
But since Fielder hit 51 points higher, he's the man for the spot.
2011 Statistics: .298 AVG, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 80 R, .346 OBP
Here's another player who needs no introduction, Josh Hamilton.
The modern day Natural had another impressive season in 2011. The only thing that kept him from cracking this team's starting lineup was the 41 games he missed.
2011 Statistics: .296 AVG, 22 HR, 75 RBI, 83 R, .388 OBP
The numbers aren't as sexy as the rest of the team, but Matt Holliday is still one of baseball's best hitters. Quite frankly, he can hit for it all. He is capable of stroking the bat for a .300 clip, 30 homers and 100 RBI.
This season's numbers can be attributed to the 38 games he missed.
Add that to that fact that he's hitting behind Albert Pujols, and you have below Holliday-esque numbers.
Regardless, he's on this roster as a backup outfielder.
2011 Statistics: 19-6, 2.35 ERA, 220 K, 1.04 WHIP, 233.2 IP
He's Roy Halladay.
2011 Statistics: 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 230 K, 1.23 WHIP, 237.1 IP
He's CC Sabathia.
2011 Statistics: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 K, 0.92 WHIP, 251.0 IP
Okay, I'll stop doing that.
Even though Verlander may deserve a "He's Justin Verlander," I'll give you a little more substance.
24 wins, a 2.40 earned run average, 250 strikeouts, and a 0.92 WHIP. Verlander led the league in each stat you see above.
Verlander's 2011 campaign easily earned him the AL Cy Young honors and could even reel in the MVP award.
The reason why he is my third starter is because I want a righty-lefty pattern to the rotation. Halladay, Sabathia, Verlander and...
2011 Statistics: 17-8, 2.40 ERA, 238 K, 1.03 WHIP, 232.2 IP
Cliff Lee is another no-brainer pick for me. We've seen what he can do, especially in the postseason.
You can argue that he hasn't been the member of World Series champion. In fact, he was on the opposing side for the last two. However, Lee is easily one of the best big-game guys in baseball.
(Lee will be my last starter. Since it's a postseason roster, I'll use just four starters to expand the bullpen.)
2011 Statistics: 5-4, 1.47 ERA, 32 HLD, 74 K, 73.2 IP, 0.79 WHIP
For many baseball fans, Mike Adams is the best pitcher you've never heard of. So let me introduce him.
Adams is a 6'5" righty who broke through as San Diego's setup guy to Heath Bell.
He posted a sub-2.00 ERA in each of the last three seasons and has become a premiere arm in all of baseball. He was shipped to Texas before the trade deadline and solidified an already-deep bullpen.
Adams will eventually become a closer somewhere. But until now, he'll come out a put a 0 up in the eighth inning nine out of ten times.
2011 Statistics: 4-2, 2.37 ERA, 32 SV, 62 K, 60.2 IP, 1.15 WHIP
Let's play a little word association game. When I say I a word, you say the first one that comes to mind...
If you answered with down, right, and workhorse, you are a normal human being.
No other word can describe Philly's Ryan Madson better than workhorse. He has provided the team with a shut-down arm out of the 'pen and has become a fixture for the Phils.
2011 Statistics: 2-2, 2.17 ERA, 45 SV, 61 K, 58.0 IP, 0.91 WHIP
Back in 2006, J.J. Putz looked like the next big closer.
However, Putz simply folded after shipping off to Queens in 2009. (But you really can't blame him—every pitcher goes to the Mets to end his career.)
Fortunately, Putz was able resurrect his career after becoming Arizona's ninth-inning guy in 2011. Putz put (he-he) up great numbers for the D-Backs and was an intricate part in winning the NL West crown.
2011 Statistics: 2-2, 1.95 ERA, 46 SV, 86 K, 73.2 IP, 1.14 WHIP
For a guy who has 70 saves over the last two seasons, John Axford is pretty overlooked.
The Brew Crew's closer has been nothing short of shut-down and should receive some sort of recognition for it.
So I'll do my part by putting him on this roster. The numbers should back it up.
2011 Statistics: 4-0. 1.08 ERA, 34 HLD, 100 K, 60.2 IP, 1.13 WHIP
Do you see what I see? Yeah, that. The 100 strikeouts over 60.2 innings pitched. That's not a typo. Believe me, I checked three times to make sure I got it right. And that 1.08 ERA is also correct.
So to that I say, welcome to my roster, David Robertson.
The righty from 'Bama has truly shined bright in the Bronx this year. The numbers are flat-out ridiculous, and his value to Joe Girardi and the Yankees cannot be overstated. In fact, this 2011 campaign by the man they call "Houdini" is strikingly similar to that of Mariano Rivera in 1996.
Both heavily influenced their respective team as the setup guy—Mariano to John Wetteland, and Robertson to Mariano.
The only thing keeping this from going full circle is David Robertson moving into the closer's role. After Mo's illustrious career finally ends, Robertson is next in line for the ninth inning.
2011 Statistics: 2-4, 2.24 ERA, 49 SV, 69 K, 72.1 IP, 1.19 WHIP
You either love Jose Valverde, or you don't. His eccentric attitude and post-game celebrations have certainly raised some eyebrows.
You're either the fan who loves passion on the field, or you're the one who doesn't.
Either way, you have to respect his performance in save situations. Valverde was a perfect 49-for-49 this season. For Jim Leyland, that meant the Tigers won every time they gave Valverde a save opportunity.
Can you say clutch?
2011 Statistics: 1-2, 1.91 ERA, 44 SV, 60 K, 61.1 IP, 0.90 WHIP
As if there was a question.
The greatest closer of all-time closes out this fantasy postseason roster.
(You may have noticed I included zero lefties in my bullpen. But if you have the choice of picking seven guys who are closers or have closer-type stuff, why would you need a lefty?)