MLB Playoff Prediction: 10 Reasons Evan Longoria Will Be ALCS MVP
As the Tampa Bay Rays prepare to begin their 2010 post-season quest, they are not wide eyed, or star glazed. This isn't their first rodeo. Their first postseason experience opened their eyes.
They are ready. They are hungry for more. Last time they made it to the big dance. This time they want to be the last ones standing.
If the Rays are to get as far as they did in 2008, they will need to ride the coattails of third year star third baseman Evan Longoria. Here are 10 reasons why Longoria will lead his team back to the promised land.
Longoria has played in nearly every crucial postseason situation possible. He's played in the World Series. He's played in a game seven, do-or-die, scenario. He's faced the pressure.
And he's thrived in it.
Second time around, there will be no first-time jitters. If he was able to accomplish what he did in 2008 as a rookie, imagine what he'll be able to do with a few years of experience under his belt.
Longoria was a 2009 Gold Glove recipient, and he's saved his pitchers countless runs with his outstanding glovework. Even if Evan isn't driving in runs with his bat, his run-saving defense can play just as much of an impact that can propel the Rays to 2010 post-season success.
8. Patience Is a Virtue
Longoria's eye at the plate continues to improve, as his walks per at bat has improved for a third consecutive year.
Being willing to take what is given to him, even if it takes the bat out of his hand, allows his teammates to produce with runners on base.
The more opportunities you have, the more you have the ability to keep playing deeper into October.
7. A Leader Is Born
Part of Longoria's maturation process has been seen in his leadership development. Earlier this season Longoria confronted a teammate for his lack of performance. This year Longoria has been more vocal than ever. And with the Rays preparing to lose Carl Crawford via free agency, it couldn't come at a better time.
But make no mistake about it: This is Longoria's team. And Longoria will be the one to keep his teammates prepared and focused, especially those who are participating in their first postseason.
6. Thou Shalt Steal
There are many ways a player can make an impact on a game. It's what makes five-tool prospects so tantalizing. While no one will mistake Longoria for Crawford on the base paths, Longoria amassed 15 steals this season, increasing his output for the third consecutive year.
Being able to do the little things (running from first to third, stealing a timely base) can be the difference between being in the position for a double play or a sacrifice fly, between staying alive and bringing in runs and beating yourself and making a quick inning exit.
If teams do not respect Longoria's base path ability, he can turn one of those walks into a runner in scoring position.
5. Driver Behind The Wheel
While Longoria may have been frustrated with the lack of lineup protection creating less quality pitches seen at the plate, he's still produced when it has mattered most. When all that stands between scoring runs or ending an inning is his ability to make a pitcher pay with two outs, he has delivered and delivered well.
In 71 attempts, Longoria has driven in 29 of his 105 RBIs. Compare that to the other 76 RBI in 500 at bats and you see a player who steps up in the clutch. A .296 batting average, and .432 OBP is very, very good. A 15 walk to 11 strikeout ratio shows he's not trying to do too much, but being productive in a variety of ways.
4. The Engine That Drives the Locomotive
If someone wondered just how good the Rays are without Longoria, they only needed to look at the Rays performance in their final 10 games. In 2008, Carl Crawford had his worst statistical year and battled injuries which rendered him ineffective and not able to play much during the team's best season of its short career. The Rays managed to make it to the World Series without much of his help.
The Rays will not be able to do that without Longoria.
For one, with the Rays offense in the shaky shape it's in, they cannot afford to lose their best all-around hitter and player. When Longoria's hitting well, the rest of the lineup is hitting well.
3. Head-to-Head Dominance
A lot could be said here, but maybe just seeing the numbers is enough
vs. Texas - .417 avg, 7 XB hits in 24 AB, 10 RBI,
vs. NY - .282 avg, .359 OBP, 10 RBI
vs. Min - .294 avg, .351 OBP, 7 RBI and 5 XB hits in 34 AB
Longoria has produced against every potential 2010 postseason team. While his HR totals may be down, his RBI production is as strong as ever, even against the best teams the AL has to offer.
2. New York, New York
While no Rays fan would be disappointed if Minnesota took down New York, the odds still have the Rays needing to get past New York one last time en route to their second World Series appearance in three years. Many players find New York and Yankee Stadium a challenging place to play.
Longoria is not one of them.
Take a look at these 2010 numbers at Yankee stadium: .353 avg, .419 OBP, with his only HR and 8 of his 10 RBI all coming in New York.
Longoria tends to shine when the light is at its brightest. At one of the biggest stages, Longoria takes his game to another level. And this leads to the final point:
1. Fear Factor
Longoria's good-to-great numbers against every potential playoff opponent only reminds just how solid and hard to get out the Rays slugger is. And it only reminds them of his dangerous potential, something he made very well known in 2008. Longoria blasted six postseason bombs in his last attempt for a World Series ring. And his performance almost sent the Rays home victorious.
There may be some mention about his hamstring, but it appears that has been more precautionary than anything. In 2008 Longoria made a name for himself with his postseason play. In 2010, look for Longoria to continue his rise towards postseason greatness.