The Top Rookie Performances in MLB Postseason History

Karl Buscheck@@KarlBuscheckContributor IIIOctober 7, 2016

The Top Rookie Performances in MLB Postseason History

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    Corey Seager enjoyed a monster rookie season, and now he leads the Dodgers into October.
    Corey Seager enjoyed a monster rookie season, and now he leads the Dodgers into October.Associated Press

    As rookie stars Corey Seager, Kenta Maeda and Tyler Naquin get set for the MLB postseason, there's a question that begs answering: Which first-year standouts have authored the best October showings in baseball history?

    Before we set out to answer that question and rank the rookies, let's break down the selection criteria and just who exactly is eligible for this list.

    The idea here is to focus on a given player's entire body of work. For that reason, the rankings only include players from the Division Series era because those players had an extra round to stack up numbers and polish their respective resumes.

    All of the players who made the grade had monster postseason performances, so the tiebreaker was the magnitude of the moment. The higher the stakes, the more credit a player got.

    Subsequently, the vast majority of players on this list were members of World Series-winning teams. Additionally, several of them had rookie teammates who also landed a spot in the top 10.

Honorable Mentions

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    Xander Bogaerts posted an .893 OPS in his postseason debut in 2013.
    Xander Bogaerts posted an .893 OPS in his postseason debut in 2013.Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Before taking a look at the top 10, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention a few of the players who were under consideration but who ultimately missed the cut:

    • Xander Bogaerts, SS, 2013, Boston Red Sox
    • Chipper Jones, 3B, 1995 Atlanta Braves
    • Andruw Jones, CF, 1996 Atlanta Braves
    • Francisco Rodriguez, RP, 2002 Anaheim Angels
    • Yordano Ventura, SP, 2014 Kansas City Royals
    • Adam Wainwright, RP, 2006 St. Louis Cardinals

10. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, 2007 Boston Red Sox

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    2007 Postseason Stats: .360 AVG, .949 OPS, 4 2B, 4 RBI

    His Defining Moment: Collecting four hits in Game 3 of the World Series

    Jacoby Ellsbury is the first of two rookies from the 2007 Boston Red Sox squad to crack this list.

    The center fielder didn't get a ton of chances (he appeared in 11 games), but he was sure not to waste them. Swinging at a clip of .360, Ellsbury tallied four doubles, and two of them came in the third inning of his monster Game 3 of the Fall Classic.

    Ellsbury picked up four hits that day against the Colorado Rockies, becoming the third rookie in history—and the first since 1946—to post a four-hit game in the World Series, per Garry Brown of MassLive.com.

9. Buster Posey, C, 2010 San Francisco Giants

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    2010 Postseason Stats: .288 AVG, .744 OPS, 1 HR, 5 RBI

    His Defining Moment: Going deep in the World Series

    Just a baby-faced 23-year-old at the time, Buster Posey hammered 18 home runs during the 2010 regular season on his way to collecting National League Rookie of the Year honors.

    He hammered another one in Game 4 of the World Series. The long ball put Posey in an exclusive club, as the backstop became the fourth rookie catcher ever to homer in a World Series game, per Kenneth Plutnicki of the New York Times.

    That big fly was far from Posey's only contribution to the Giants' cause that fall, as he racked up 17 hits in 15 postseason games.

8. Michael Wacha, SP, 2013 St. Louis Cardinals

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    Michael Wacha owned the Dodgers in the 2013 NLCS.
    Michael Wacha owned the Dodgers in the 2013 NLCS.Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    2013 Postseason Stats: 4-1, 2.64 ERA, 30.2 IP, 16 H, 33 K

    His Defining Moment: Winning the NLCS MVP Award

    Michael Wacha earned this spot in the rankings because of his brilliant showing in the National League Championship Series in 2013.

    The right-hander made a pair of starts against the Los Angeles Dodgers and didn't give up a single run while striking out 13 batters in 13.2 innings of work. That showing earned the starter the MVP honors for the series.

    "I think I'll be able to process it a little bit more after our season is finished," Wacha told Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. "It's definitely been a crazy past year-and-a-half."

    A crazy past year-and-a-half, indeed. As McCalvy pointed out, Wacha was pitching in college 18 months prior.

    Wacha remains stationed in the No. 8 spot because the final round of the playoffs was not nearly as friendly to him or the St. Louis Cardinals. Wacha served up six earned runs in Game 6 of the World Series, and the Boston Red Sox grabbed their rings.

7. Derek Jeter, SS, 1996 New York Yankees

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    1996 Postseason Stats: .361 AVG, .744 OPS, 1 HR, 5 RBI

    His Defining Moment: The ALCS "home run"

    A .308 hitter in 158 career playoff games, Derek Jeter was born to play in October.

    That knack for providing the big hit in the key moment began back in 1996, when the 22-year-old batted .316 (22-for-61) to help the New York Yankees claim the title.

    As you can see in the video above, it was during the 1996 postseason that Jeter produced one of the more contentious moments in playoff memory—his solo shot in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

6. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, 2007 Boston Red Sox

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    2007 Postseason Stats: .283 AVG, .832 OPS, 2 HR, 13 RBI

    His Defining Moment: Homering to lead off the World Series

    Dustin Pedroia sure knows how to pick his spots. The second baseman, who has been a key cog for two of the Boston Red Sox's World Series-winning teams, made a memorable mark in his first October back in 2007.

    The right-handed hitter, who would go on to be named AL Rookie of the Year, homered in Game 7 of the ALCS and Game 1 of the World Series. Pedroia supplied the Red Sox with all sorts of thump during that playoff jaunt, as he also connected on six doubles in 14 games.

5. Evan Longoria, 3B, 2008 Tampa Bay Rays

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    Evan Longoria made an unforgettable October introduction.
    Evan Longoria made an unforgettable October introduction.Rerinhold Matay/Associated Press

    2008 Postseason Stats: .194 AVG, .786 OPS, 6 HR, 13 RBI

    His Defining Moment: Going yard six times

    Evan Longoria is the highest-ranked player on this list whose team did not go on to win the Fall Classic.

    He didn't earn this spot because of his .194 average through October of 2008. No, Longoria earned this spot because he just wouldn't stop hitting home runs.

    He left the park in each of his first two at-bats in the postseason, becoming the second player ever to do so, according to Paul White of USA Today.

    "It shows how special he is," teammate Cliff Floyd said, per White.

    "It's a treat to see a young guy work that hard," Floyd added. "This is nothing for him. ... He's Mr. October now."

    Longoria ended his first playoff go-around with six long balls in 16 games, but he hasn't lived up to the "Mr. October" moniker since. In three subsequent trips to the postseason, Longoria has totaled three homers.

4. Miguel Cabrera, LF, 2003 Florida Marlins

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    2003 Postseason Stats: .265 AVG, .786 OPS, 4 HR, 12 RBI

    His Defining Moment: Homering in Game 7 of the NLCS

    Miguel Cabrera did what he does best during the 2003 postseason: crush baseballs.

    Watch above as Cabrera destroys an offering from Kerry Wood in Game 7 of the NLCS as the Florida Marlins punched their ticket to the World Series. That was the third of Cabrera's four homers during his 17-game stretch in postseason play. The final one came in Game 4 of the World Series.

3. Livan Hernandez, SP, 1997 Florida Marlins

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    The 2002 Fall Classic MVP celebrates on the mound.
    The 2002 Fall Classic MVP celebrates on the mound.HANS DERYK/Associated Press

    1997 Postseason Stats: 4-0, 3.18 ERA, 28.1 IP, 23 H, 26 K

    His Defining Moment: Winning two World Series games

    Livan Hernandez was far from perfect in the 1997 World Series.

    The right-hander, who had made just 17 starts during the regular season for the Florida Marlins, served up eight runs in his two starts. But the upshot is that Hernandez and the Fish won both of those games, and the Rookie of the Year runner-up earned World Series MVP honors.

    As was the case throughout his career, Hernandez was a workhorse on the mound, piling up 28.1 innings of work in five games.

2. John Lackey, SP, 2002 Anaheim Angels

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    2002 Postseason Stats: 2-0, 2.42 ERA, 22.1 IP, 21 H, 17 K

    His Defining Moment: Winning Game 7 of the World Series

    Now 37 years old, John Lackey is about to embark on his ninth playoff run.

    For the current Chicago Cub, it all started way back in 2002, when he was the kid on the Anaheim Angels staff. As the Angels made their way through the postseason—ultimately topping the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the World Series—Lackey was responsible for a pair of wins.

    One of those was the final game of the Fall Classic. Facing a Giants lineup anchored by Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, Lackey navigated his way through five innings of one-run ball before handing things over to the bullpen and winning the first of his two rings.

1. Madison Bumgarner, SP, 2010 San Francisco Giants

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    Madison Bumgarner was an October star from day one.
    Madison Bumgarner was an October star from day one.Alex Gallardo/Associated Press/Associated Press

    2010 Postseason Stats: 2-0, 2.18 ERA, 20.2 IP, 18 H, 18 K

    His Defining Moment: Throwing eight scoreless innings in Game 6 of the World Series

    The legend of Madison Bumgarner began in the fall of 2010.

    That year, the left-hander posted a 2.18 ERA in the playoffs and became the fifth-youngest pitcher to start a World Series game, per Chris Haft of MLB.com.

    Bumgarner didn't just start the game—he owned it. Bumgarner allowed just three hits in eight scoreless innings, and the Giants took Game 4 3-1 over the Texas Rangers.

    "I just keep telling myself to relax," Bumgarner told Haft. "I've told myself [that] so much that it's starting to become second nature. It makes it a lot easier on me and the players, I think, to see somebody that's relaxed out there throwing."

    The strategy has served Bumgarner well. In his three postseason runs, he has a 2.14 ERA and has limited the opposition to a .199 average.

             

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com. All videos courtesy of YouTube.

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.

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