Carlos Beltran Stating Case as Best Postseason Performer of All Time

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterOctober 4, 2013

After only one October game, Carlos Beltran is at it again.

It's only fitting that one of Major League Baseball's best playoff performers got the St. Louis Cardinals' 2013 postseason underway by smashing a three-run home run off A.J. Burnett in the bottom of the third to break open Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

The Cardinals went on to rack up seven runs in the inning on their way to routing the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-1, Thursday night at Busch Stadium.

In case you want another look at what got all of that started:

That 443-foot blast gave Beltran—count 'em—15 postseason homers, and according to John Schlegel of MLB.com, tied him with some pretty special company:

With [his homer], Beltran remained third among active players and moved into a tie for eighth place with Babe Ruth on the all-time list with 15 postseason homers. Only Derek Jeter (20) and Albert Pujols (18) have more homers under the October spotlight than Beltran among active players, and he has far fewer plate appearances than either one, with 153 through his homer (Jeter 734, Pujols 321).

That's not all. If you'd spent a few moments poking around Baseball-Reference's single-season and career postseason leaders prior to Thursday's game, you'd see that Carlos Beltran's name isn't merely sprinkled throughout the record books, it's flat-out smeared all over them. Here are just three highlights:

  • .470 career OBP: sixth-best
  • .782 career SLG: the best
  • 1.252 career OPS: the best

Of course, the 36-year-old outfielder's started writing his playoff résumé with his otherworldly effort back in 2004 after he joined the Houston Astros in a midseason trade and helped guide—nay, carry—them to the NLCS. His 21 runs scored that October remain the most by a player in a single postseason, while his eight home runs are tied with Barry Bonds and Nelson Cruz for the most.

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But don't for a second think that Beltran's been living off a performance that's nearly 10 years old. With his homer in Thursday's Game 1, broadcast by TBS, Beltran has now hit at least one four-bagger in each of his four playoff appearances—with the Astros in '04, with the New York Mets in 2006 and with the Cardinals last year and this year.

Overall, Beltran sports a .357 average, 39 runs scored and 28 RBI over 156 postseason plate appearances. No wonder the Cardinals faithful wanted—and got—a curtain call from one of baseball's best-ever postseason performers, even if it might have seemed out of place to a few folks.

At this stage of Beltran's career, the individual numbers, particularly the triple-slash statistics, are up there with just about anyone. What's hurting his case, though, is the fact that he's yet to win it all. In fact, what might be just as amazing as Beltran's October numbers is that despite all his heroics, none of his teams have ever even reached the World Series.

Oh, and because it can't go unmentioned, there's this:

Unfortunately, that strikeout looking to end the 2006 NLCS remains as a pockmark on Beltran's otherwise remarkable string of Octobers.

What's great about baseball, though, is that it often allows for second chances, make-goods and poetic justice. Which is why it would be pretty special if the Cardinals were to make a run to get Beltran that elusive championship this month.

Not only would Beltran more than likely be one of the driving forces behind such a push, so too would the very player who's directly responsible for Beltran's lone October outlier and who was on base when Beltran hit his bomb Thursday: none other than Game 1 winner, Adam Wainwright.

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