MLB Players Finding Their Own Lane in the Postseason

Karl Buscheck@@KarlBuscheckContributor IIIOctober 20, 2016

MLB Players Finding Their Own Lane in the Postseason

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    This postseason, Javier Baez has made the kind of introduction that will not soon be forgotten.
    This postseason, Javier Baez has made the kind of introduction that will not soon be forgotten.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    From Javier Baez to Clayton Kershaw, there has been no shortage of emerging talents and established megastars who are stealing the show this October. 

    Beginning with the Chicago Cubs' electric infielder and the Los Angeles Dodgers' indomitable ace, let's take a look around the baseball world to zero in on the five big leaguers who have taken over the postseason and helped carry their respective clubs onward toward the Fall Classic.

    The five players who crack this list have either rewritten the storyline from playoffs past or are in the midst of churning out an entirely new script. Two of those five share the same American League clubhouse of a team that has been defying logic throughout its postseason run. 

2B Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

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    His October Path

    Whether with his glove, bat, feet or brain, Javier Baez has enjoyed one crazy-impressive postseason run.

    From the jump, the 23-year-old infielder has been an integral part of the Chicago Cubs' charge through the playoffs.

    In the National League Division Series opener, Baez connected on an eighth-inning solo shot, which provided the lone run in the Cubs' 1-0 win over the San Francisco Giants.

    Off the bat, it looked like Baez's towering drive would clear the bleachers with ease, and Baez acted accordingly, trotting slowly out of the box. Instead, it got caught up in the wind and landed in the basket—just above the top of the wall. 

    “It scared me a lot,” Baez admitted to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. “I was gonna look so bad.”

    The Baseball gods were smiling on Baez that night, and he's done plenty to pay them back for the good fortune in the games that have followed. He produced the go-ahead hit in Game 4 against the Giants to send the Cubs to the NL Championship Series where he starred with his glove and his feet.

    In Game 2 of the NLCS, Baez let a soft liner fall to the ground, and he started the rarely seen 4-6-5-6 double play. The night before, Baez made his mark on the bases when he stole home on a failed squeeze bunt attempt. 

    “One percent or less of all major league players could have done what he did,” manager Joe Maddon said, per Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune. "He’s just that good on the bases."

    Perhaps one percent of big leaguers are capable of such a play, but far fewer have actually done it. As Skrbina pointed out, with his made dash, Baez became one of just 20 players in the history of the game to steal home in the playoffs.

RP Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians

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    His October Path

    Leave it to Brandon McCarthy—the Los Angeles Dodgers' occasional right-hander and prolific tweeter—to summarize the brilliance of Andrew Miller. 

    "Baseball is so rooted in traditions that hitters still take their bats to the plate against Andrew Miller even though they're not needed," McCarthy joked.

    The next time Miller serves up a run, it will be the first one he's allowed in three trips to the postseason.

    That's about all there is to say. Miller, who the Cleveland Indians picked up in a midseason swap with the New York Yankees, has spun an absurd stat line for the Tribe:

    • 6 G, 11.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 21 K

    Of those 21 punchouts, 17 of those have come via his weapons-grade slider, as ESPN Stats & Info noted via Twitter.

    As if that wasn't enough, what makes Miller an even more valuable piece for Cleveland manager Terry Francona is that the left-hander has an egoless approach to his job. The 31-year-old reliever is just as comfortable (and devastating) entering the game in the seventh or the ninth inning. 

3B Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

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    His October Path

    Who knows where the Toronto Blue Jays would be right now if not for double-threat third baseman and reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson?

    With the Jays staring at a 3-0 deficit in Game 4 of the ALCS, Donaldson hammered a third-inning solo shot to give the club a lead it wouldn't give back against the Cleveland Indians.

    Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports contextualized just how important that big fly was to the formerly slumping Jays.

    "Blue Jays desperately needed Josh Donaldson's home run. Before it, they were batting .179/.230/.245 with 37 strikeouts in 106 ALCS at-bats," Passan wrote.

    Throughout the playoffs, Donaldson has been wielding the one bat in the Toronto lineup that has remained loud. He tallied his sixth double of the playoffs in the second game of the ALCS, which is a club record, per Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com.

    Donaldson also brings his glove to work everyday, too. In Game 4 against Cleveland, Donaldson went full extension to steal what would have been an RBI base hit from Carlos Santana. As Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet Magazine noted, the ball jumped off Santana's bat at 102 mph.

SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

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    His October Path

    Francisco Lindor is one energetic dude. Just ask Jason Kipnis—his double-play partner with the Cleveland Indians.

    "The whole world turns into a trampoline when he hits a home run," Kipnis told Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. "He's a little jumping bean. It hurts my calves watching him and how much he jumps."

    Already, Lindor has turned that trampoline trick a couple of times in the opening rounds of the postseason. Lindor went yard in the openers of the ALDS and the ALCS. The latter home run—a two-run shot off Marco Estrada—proved to be the difference in the Indians 2-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. 

    But Lindor isn't just jumping when he's exiting stage left. The 22-year-old shortstop is also getting in on the leaping act in the field. Just watch the following video—via MLB.com—when Lindor ranged deep into the five-and-a-half hole in Game 1 of the ALCS to do his best Derek Jeter impression. 

SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    His October Path

    Andrew Friedman—the President of Baseball Operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers—refused to listen to the noise when it came to how Clayton Kershaw couldn't hang in the postseason.

    “I just never bought the narrative,”  Friedman told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. “There’s no one else I’d rather have on the mound than Clayton Kershaw. In a game in February, March, May, October, November, it doesn’t matter the month, there’s no pitcher in baseball I’d rather have on the mound.” 

    Friedman was spot on, as Kershaw has taken that narrative, crumpled it up and thrown it in the garbage.

    There's no debating that the Dodgers have relied heavily on remarkable organizational depth and the gutsy managing of first-year skipper Dave Roberts, but if it weren't for the lefty ace, this team would be taking in the postseason from the comfort of their respective couches.

    What Kershaw has done in the past couple of weeks has been downright Madison Bumgarner-ish. He's taken the mound on four occasions and the Dodgers have triumphed each and every time. 

    To this point, his signature moment came in Game 5 of the NLDS when he jogged out of the bullpen to retire the final two outs—just a couple of days after starting Game 4. 

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

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

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