Tim Lincecum and the Players with Most on the Line in the Championship Series

Nathan PalatskyCorrespondent IIOctober 13, 2012

Tim Lincecum and the Players with Most on the Line in the Championship Series

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    Would you call 245 wins, a 3.86 ERA and a 1.352 WHIP a Hall of Fame resume?

    No?

    How about an MLB-record 19 postseason wins, 42 starts and 263 innings, including one ALCS MVP award, three All-Star Games and five World Series titles?

    Maybe it still isn't enough, but Andy Pettitte's October performances at least put him in the conversation.

    Legacies can be made or lost after the 162-game season ends.

    Alex Rodriguez may end his career with 700 home runs, 2,500 RBI and 350 stolen bases, yet Yankee fans will always go back to his repeated postseason failures when remembering the $250 million man.

    Who should fans have their eyes on, and who has the most on the line in the next two weeks?

    Read on to find out.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

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    Speaking of A-Rod, the Yankees third baseman was pinch-hit for in key late-game situations repeatedly in New York's ALDS against Baltimore.

    Rodriguez had nine strikeouts in the first four games of the series and was benched in favor of Eric Chavez in the crucial Game 5.

    In the postseason, Rodriguez is 11-for-66 since 2010. He has not had a postseason home run since the 2009 World Series.

    He is coming off a difficult season that saw him knock in just 57 runs and manage a .783 OPS, both lows since 1995.

    Rodriguez can, of course, make all those numbers go away with a resurgence in the ALCS and potential World Series to follow. Yankee fans will forgive many sins for a championship.

Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

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    Max Scherzer exploded this season for 231 strikeouts in just 187.2 innings, leading the league with his 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

    His 3.74 ERA reminds fans that he was not without the occasional implosion, but Scherzer can establish himself with a dominant playoffs.

    Tigers fans still remember that Scherzer allowed 10 earned runs in 15.2 innings during the 2011 playoffs, including a disastrous nine runs in 8.1 innings over two starts in the ALCS, which Detroit lost to Texas.

    He will need to perform against New York to be considered a trustworthy Robin to Justin Verlander's Batman.

Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers

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    Austin Jackson enjoyed a breakout season in 2012, raising his batting average from .249 in 2011 to .300. He also put up a career low in strikeouts, and highs in home runs, RBI and runs scored.

    However, Jackson is a .213 career hitter in 61 career postseason at-bats.

    With Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder entrenched in their lineup, and Justin Verlander sitting atop a solid rotation, the Tigers appear to be set for a long run of playoff appearances.

    A consistent leadoff man ahead of that lineup can make the Tigers an unstoppable force, setting the table for the league's best one-two punch.

    After an emergent performance in the regular season, Jackson needs to continue the success in the ALCS.

Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

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    First baseman Mark Teixeira is also getting old.

    From 2003-09, Teixeira was a .290 hitter with a .923 OPS. In the three seasons since, he has batted .252 with an .831 OPS.

    Perhaps even more troubling for the Yankees, Teixeira went 0-for-14 in the 2010 ALCS and 3-for-18 in the 2011 ALDS (New York lost both).

    He showed life in the ALDS against Baltimore (six hits in 17 at-bats), but he scored just one run and only hit singles.

    The window seems to be closing for New York at both corners, and it will need both players to produce in the ALCS to quiet the boo-birds.

Rafael Soriano, New York Yankees

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    Rafael Soriano can opt out of his contract at the end of the 2012 postseason, and many expect that to happen.

    Soriano posted a 2.26 ERA with 42 saves for the Yankees in the wake of Mariano Rivera's shocking injury.

    In 2010 for Tampa Bay, he posted 45 saves and a 1.73 ERA.

    This past offseason showed the potential payday for elite closers on the market, and Soriano has at least one more series to establish himself as just that.

    At 32 years old, the clock is ticking for Soriano to cash in.

Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers

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    Anibal Sanchez lost his ALDS start, but he pitched well, allowing only two runs in 6.1 innings.

    He finished 9-13 in the regular season with a 3.86 ERA combined for Miami and Detroit. He has one winning season since 2007, but Sanchez has a career 7.6 K/9 and has shown flashes of brilliance in his career.

    An impressive performance in the ALCS could add millions to the potential deal Sanchez will sign this offseason. Detroit may even be inspired to bring him back if he steps up.

    The rotation already includes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, with Drew Smyly coming off an impressive rookie year.

Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants

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    Having Tim Lincecum come out of the bullpen in favor of starting Barry Zito was a bold move from manager Bruce Bochy.

    Of course, the move made sense when one considered the collapse of one of the game's best young starting pitchers in 2012.

    Zito's 15 wins and 4.15 ERA were huge improvements on his 2011 numbers, when he was 3-4 and made only nine starts.

    Madison Bumgarner is set to start Game 1, followed by Ryan Vogelsong. Matt Cain is expected to pitch Game 3 (and Game 7, if necessary).

    Game 4 will either go to Zito, who gave up two runs and walked four in 2.2 innings of his ALDS start, or Lincecum, who came in to save the day.

    Zito is signed through 2013 (team option for 2014). He is running out of chances to prove to teams that he deserves a rotation spot for next year and beyond.

Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

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    There were those who expected Shelby Miller to earn a rotation spot out of spring training, which he did not.

    He struggled more than expected at Triple-A Memphis (4.47 ERA in 27 starts) but got a September call-up and allowed two earned runs in 13.2 innings. 

    Lance Lynn is slated to pitch Game 1 of the NLCS, probably followed by Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse. However, Miller could be tapped to make a late-series start or used out of the bullpen for the Cardinals.

    If he gets a chance to pitch in the NLCS, he would get a boost going into 2013 when he will again be competing for a rotation spot.

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants

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    Tim Lincecum went 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA and 1.468 WHIP. He still struck out more than one batter per inning, showing he still has the stuff to induce swing-and-miss outs.

    This is the same guy who won 33 games, struck out 536 batters and won two Cy Youngs between 2008-2009. 

    Lincecum was sent to the bullpen in favor of Barry Zito in the ALDS and ended up pitching 6.1 innings in the series, allowing one run and striking out eight.

    There is now debate about whether Zito or Lincecum should start Game 4 of the Giants' upcoming NLCS. 

    Lincecum is a free agent after 2013, and he could start rebuilding his image with a solid performance in these playoffs. While he will have all of 2013 to prove he is still an ace, general managers looking for pitching will be watching Lincecum closely in the next two weeks. 

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