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.
Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.
“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”
The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.
Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.
MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.
Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.
Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.