Ahhh the World Series is here. Our grand game on the grandest stage. The one time the baseball aficionado’s, those who cheer for a particular team, and the casual baseball fan, in unison take a couple of shots of coffee in an attempt to watch these late night contests in their entirety. With all these eyeballs on the World Series there is no denying that this is the time that stars are born. While even the most casual baseball fan is familiar with the talent of Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Matt Holliday, the Fall Classic has the ability to make some of the lesser known stars shine a little brighter. With such a small sample size in the postseason (19 games max), there seems to be at least one player each year that rises from a level of anonymity to claim his fifteen minutes of fame. In 2010, the World Champion San Fransisco Giants were so enamored with Aubrey Huff’s (11 year veteran at the time) .294/.368/.588* World Series line that they rewarded him with a two-year 22 million dollar contract (the largest contract of his career) at age 34. In 2011, Huff quickly reminded the Giants why you do not give a 34-year-old outfielder 22 million dollars as he returned the favor with a replacement level performance of .246/.306/.370*. All to often, once the victory champagne dries and The Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel show stops calling these postseason celebs remind us that true star status does not one post season make.
Here is our attempt to introduce you this years potential World Series celebrities before the final out of the season has been recorded. Warning to all MLB general manager’s keep your wallet’s in your pocket, it’s just the post season!
David Freese – career .298/.354/.429*
The St. Louis Cardinal right-handed hitting 3rd baseman got off to a fast start in 2011, posting a .365/.396/.482* March & April. Freese pulled the short end of the wishbone in May after he was hit by a pitch resulting in a broken hand and nearly 2 months on the disabled list. In only his second full year in the major league’s Freese has shown an ability to hit for average and get on base. Having hit for power in the minor leagues the Cardinals have been waiting for him to turn on the power in the big leagues. Well thus far the postseason seems to agree with David Freese who has earned the nickname General Electric because the power has been on on a nightly basis. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs Freese has hit a Bondsian (yea I made it up) .425/.465/.850* with 4 HR’s and 14 RBI. With those kind of post season numbers and an NLCS MVP award in hand we would be insane to leave David Freese off this list.
Allen Craig – career .290/.339/.503*
Allen Craig has had a very limited role in his two years in the big leagues. Riddled with injuries for a majority of 2011 and forced to play multiple positions by the mad scientist manager Tony LaRussa, Craig was fighting for an everyday spot in the lineup. While his numbers suggested he should be on the field, Craig was finally able to blossom when he was able to pass the injury bug to left fielder Matt Holliday. With Holliday injured and the Cardinals chasing a playoff spot all September, Craig came up big hitting .327/.364/.692* with 5 HR’s for the final month of the season. His play being limited by the return of Holliday in the playoffs, Craig played in 5 games in the NLCS posting a line of .375/.375/.750.* If he continues to come up big when given an opportunity he may force the Cardinals to find him some playing time in that crowded outfield in 2012.
Mike Napoli – career .264/.359/.514*
It’s tough to pick a player from the Texas Rangers to rise from the level of unknown to playoff celeb as a majority of their lineup has already been featured in all-star games, and appeared in the postseason just last year. There is one guy in their lineup that has never been to the all-star game and is having a career year at the plate. Freed from the Anaheim Angels, where he was stuck splitting time with Jeff Mathis (.194/.257/.301)* because his manager questioned his defense, Mike Napoli was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Days later Toronto traded Napoli to Texas. Being traded twice in one off-season seemed to provide Napoli with all the fuel he needed as he led the 2011 Texas Rangers in OPS* (1.046) and posted the highest WAR* of his career (5.5). His stat line for the year .320/.414/.631 were all career highs. Look for Napoli to continue the hit parade in the World Series as the fans in Anaheim and Toronto cover their eyes and wonder what if…..
AVG/OBP/SLG – called a statistical line gives reader a summary of a players offensive output combing ones ability to hit for average, ability to get on base (OBP- on base percentage), and hit for power (SLG- slugging percentage). As a point of reference this is an example of a quality line .290/.350/.470.
OPS – OBP (on base percentage) plus SLG (slugging percentage)=OPS. OPS combines two key hitting statistics into one simplified number in an attempt to measure a hitters contribution at the plate.
WAR – taken from the baseball reference web site WAR combines a players offensive and defensive contributions into one statistic. The statistic takes into account the difficulty of ones defensive position so that each player is evaluated fairly. For example 3B is a tougher position to play than 1B, therefore, the average 3B gets a larger boost than the average 1B. WAR is a great statistic to measure players over a level playing field. Per baseball reference – WAR 0-2=bench player; 2+starter; 5+ all-star; 8+ MVP
On the eve of the World Series I’m reminded of an article I wrote at the start of the 2010 season. The article was written following Ron Washington testing positive for cocaine, and many national writers calling for his job. It’s not like I had a crystal ball or anything at the time but since I wrote the article Uncle Ron has led the Texas Rangers to TWO World Series appearances in two years. It’s not often I’m right so please indulge me and my repost. Here we go:
Let me begin by stating that in no way, shape or form do I condone Ron Washington’s behavior. I repeat…I do not condone his behavior. Read the rest of this entry »
To the uninitiated there was an odd scene at last night’s National League Championship Series clincher. So out of the ordinary, that I’m almost certain there was a ten-year old in the stands asking his dad what in the world was going on. “Why are we standing up cheering, aren’t we are losing 12-6?” That’s right, down 12-6 in the bottom of the 8th inning fans at Miller Park rose to their feet and gave Prince Fielder what appears to be the last standing ovation he will receive as a Milwaukee Brewer. Prince Fielder is a free agent this off-season and it appears as if Prince wants his agent Scott Boras to show him the type of money that makes small market Milwaukee cringe. Having already rejected a six year $120 million dollar offer from the Brewers it is unlikely that the team will be able to afford the slugging first baseman.
While not I’m not a Brewers fan I too had some of the same feelings their fans had yesterday evening. At home watching the game, the only thing keeping me in front of the one-sided competition was the outside chance that Milwaukee would come back and extend the series. I wanted more of the 2011 Brewers. No team has been more fun to watch this year than the Milwaukee Brewers. With a cast of characters that included the Prince, Ryan Braun, and the man with many alter ego’s Tony Plush (aka Nyjer Morgan) how could you not enjoy watching these guys inject some of their personality into the grand old game.
You can’t fault P dot Fielder for setting his sights on “MUCH GREENER” pastures. During his six seasons with Milwaukee he won rookie of the year, made three all-star teams, and helped lead Milwaukee to the playoffs twice. Prior to their first playoff appearance in 2008, Milwaukee had not been to the postseason since 1982. I say all that to say, he has earned the right to seek out the highest bidder for his services and I don’t begrudge him for taking full advantage, but it sure sucks for baseball. The Brewers with Prince Fielder were fun, brash, and exciting, everything football supposedly is and baseball isn’t. Prince was at the front of the home run celebrations, post game antics and brought BEAST MODE to baseball. Baseball needs Prince Fielder on the Brewers. It’s no wonder baseball is losing young viewers to the other major sports. You think that ten-year old fan at the Brewers game ever has to worry that his other hometown team, the Green Bay Packers, losing their beloved Aaron Rodgers. The short answer is no. Aaron will probably spend the prime of his career with the team that drafted him and in the process will not loss any of his earning power.
Baseball is much better off when the Milwaukee’s, Tampa Bay’s, and Pittsburgh’s can compete with the Yankees, Phillies, and Red Sox. I want to see Prince untucking his jersey as he rounds third following a monster home run, I need T Plush in the playoffs, and Ryan Braun’s swing deserves to be on prime time television. During last nights eighth inning I feared that I was watching Prince sit atop his throne for the last time. And with his last at bat, baseball fans everywhere were forced to say goodbye to baseball’s young brash royal family.