October 19, 2010
Since the advent of the divisional series round in 1995, we've seen a lot of familiar faces excel year after year in the playoffs.
You know, guys like Andy Pettitte(notes), Derek Jeter(notes), Mariano Rivera(notes), Manny Ramirez(notes), David Ortiz(notes) and Ryan Howard(notes). Each of them has won it all, played nine or more playoff series, and been a World Series or LCS MVP. They're known and justly celebrated for their postseason heroics.
But what about the guys who show up almost every autumn and continually stink up the joint?
Take Vladimir Guerrero(notes), for instance. In his 37th playoff game Monday night he went 1-for-4, adding to one of the worst postseason resumes in recent memory. He has only managed two home runs in 159 playoff plate appearances and his career playoff OPS is .687, compared to a .946 career mark. That 259-point dropoff is the second-worst I managed to find for any player with that many at-bats in the postseason.
• Alfonso Soriano(notes): If you thought Guerrero was bad, prepare to hold your nose. Once October rolls around, Soriano hits like a pitcher. In 44 postseason games, Soriano has managed just a .562 OPS, 272 points lower than his .834 regular-season OPS. In his last two trips to the playoffs, with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008, he went a combined 3-for-28 as the Cubs exited in the first round both times. Maybe the bright side of the Cubs' current situation is that they probably won't have to see similar performances from Soriano in future Octobers.
• Tim Wakefield(notes): He's the worst playoff pitcher in recent memory and the Aaron Boone(notes) homer is one of just 13 he's given up in the postseason. That is by no means the modern record — Andy Pettitte has given up 31 — but it's fitting, because while Pettitte's homers haven't prevented him from being the winningest postseason pitcher ever, Wakefield's have generally come at the worst possible time for his club. His overall playoff ERA is 6.75, a number compiled over 11 starts and seven relief appearances. That's nearly 2 1/2 runs higher than his regular-season ERA of 4.38. His knuckleball is always a tight-wire act in the regular season, but in the playoffs it becomes unpitchable.
• Reggie Sanders: He hung around for a long time on the periphery of stardom, but due to his inability to stay healthy and reputation as a journeyman, he never totally got his due. And he really was a very good player for a very long time: He's one of just seven members of the 300-300 club, along with Barry and Bobby Bonds, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez(notes), Andre Dawson and Steve Finley (!).
But Sanders was absolutely atrocious in the playoffs. He went 3-for-29 with 19 strikeouts in two rounds of the 1995 playoffs, the Reds' last playoff appearance until this year. He was scarcely better for the Braves, Diamondbacks, Giants and Cardinals, putting together a career .609 OPS in the playoffs — 221 points lower than his regular-season OPS — in 64 playoff games and 251 PA.
• Mark Teixeira(notes): The Yankees' $20 million first baseman has kept Guerrero company in ineptitude this series. After struggling through his worst season since his rookie year, he's been held hitless by the Rangers.
But that's nothing new for Teixeira: In 119 career playoff plate appearances, he has just a .668 OPS, 245 points lower than his career .913 OPS. Like Guerrero, he hasn't managed an extra-base hit since Game 1 of the Division Series, though his homer and double were decisive in the Yankees' 6-4 victory over the Twins. In the five games since then, he's 2-for-19. (He might just have a problem with the pinstripes: He hit .467 with the Angels in the 2008 ALDS, but is hitting just .176 for the Yankees' playoff squads in 2009 and 2010.)
• Jason Kubel(notes): He has a long way to go before joining the above company due to a lack of longevity, but he's off to a fast start. He has gone oh for his last two playoff appearances, and in three ALDS trips with the Twins — all early exits, in 2004, 2009, and 2010 — he's 1-for-29. (He was on the team but didn't play at all during the 2006 ALDS.) He'll have to wait till 2011 for a chance to try to get his second playoff hit.