He hasn’t had the chance to distinguish himself as much as some, but at-bat for at-bat, Carlos Beltran is the best postseason hitter of all-time.
At least until David Freese overtakes him.
Beltran and Freese both added to their remarkable postseason totals in Sunday’s Game 1 against the Giants, hitting two-run homers off Madison Bumgarner. Beltran’s exploits were covered in this space a couple of days ago. Now it’s time to look at Freese’s rather remarkable success these last two years.
Including Sunday’s victory, Freese has played in 25 postseason games with the Cardinals and hit .386 with six homers, 11 doubles and 25 RBI. He’s slugging a robust .739.
Among players with 100 postseason plate appearances — Freese’s total on the button — only Beltran (.824) and Babe Ruth (.744) have higher slugging percentages than Freese. Lou Gehrig is next at .731. Lower the total to 70 plate appearances and only one more person slips in higher than Freese: Troy Glaus came in at .756 in 88 plate appearances.
In 2011, Freese tied the all-time single postseason record with 25 hits and set new records with 21 RBI and 50 total bases.
Sunday’s homer was his first of the 2012 postseason, but he’s hit .360 with three doubles.
Freese has been a perfectly good regular-season player, too, but nothing like this. He’s averaged one homer every 32 at-bats and a double every 20 at-bats from April through September. In October, he’s homered every 15 at-bats and doubled every eight at-bats.
The Cardinals have a better lineup top to bottom this year than when they won the World Series last season, so they don’t necessarily need Freese to keep up this pace. Still, it certainly can’t hurt the cause if he does. No player in major league history has ever claimed an LCS or World Series MVP honors in back-to-back years. Freese won both last year, so he’ll have at least one and maybe two chances to make history.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.