One of the things about playoff baseball that has bothered me from childhood has been the fact that the television networks broadcasting the games quickly grab ahold of players' postseason statistics and force them upon the viewing audience. For me it started with Mark Lemke back in 1991 when he turned in a postseason performance completely and utterly out of character. A prototypical middle infielder of his era, Lemke would dig in during those playoffs and on the screen would be his obscene batting average. I think it was over .400 for the entirety of the postseason but who can be sure these twenty years later? Even as a child it was astounding to me that this low-.200s hitter was hitting like Ted Williams. This was before sample sizes and all of that but even then I didn't understand why those covering the game were so quick to cast aside regular season stat lines.
TBS is carrying on this time-honored tradition this postseason. Very quickly the players' postseason stat lines took prominence on the display as the batters they belong to dig into the box to take their hacks. At least TBS has the decency to include a tiny footnote with their regular season stats on it so the viewers at home can get an idea of what we should probably expect from these hitters and pitchers.
Providing the regular season baseline does run contrary to those narratives that so often take hold in the chill of autumn. There is no denying that for that short six-game stretch in 1991 Mark Lemke did hit something like Ted Williams, at least in terms of average. Similarly, for a two starts in the 2006 NLCS Jeff Suppan resembled Bob Gibson if Bob Gibson didn't strike anybody out. This dynamic is at once the beauty and the sorrow of the postseason. The stats start over by rule and allow journeymen to ride a hot streak into the game's October lore.
The Cardinals are now six games into their October quest. This seems as good a time as any arbitrarily chosen time to take a gander at some of our hitters' 2011 postseason numbers and see who is likely to have their numbers even out--for better or worse--in the three to six games that remain in this Suds Series sequel.
Ryan Theriot: .429/.429/.571/1.000 If you believe Theriot is capable of maintaining this pace, which was actually slowed by yesterday's 0 for 4 performance, I suspect you belong to the Cult of Lemke. A career .282/.344/.353/.697 hitter, Theriot continued a career decline as his production slid downward to .271/.321/.342/.662 this 2011 season. It would seem that there are more outs made than hits in his near future.
David Freese: .286/.316/.667/.985 Many have wondered where Freese's power went to after he slugged at a higher level during his stint in the minors than he has in St. Louis. That power seems to have been found, manifesting itself in these playoffs. Freese has more than doubled his career .429 SLG mark as a big leaguer in the first six games. It seems a fair bet that his SLG numbers will fall. Hopefully they wind up closer to his .531 career minor-league SLG level than his major-league SLG level.
Matt Holliday: .308/.357/.308/.665 Benched due to injury in the early games of the NLDS, Holliday has an even smaller sample of PAs to his credit than others on this list. Nonetheless, his power showing has been the opposite of Freese's as it is far below his career mark of .541. It's difficult to know how his hand injury is affecting his power. So far his contact skills have been right on par with his career .315 BA as he has sprayed liners and sharp grounders around. Some longer liners and deeper flies would be nice to see in the days ahead.
Lance Berkman: .227/.320/.409/.729 A postseason that started with a bang in the form of his three-run dinger off of Roy Halladay in the first inning of NLDS Game 1 has been rather grounded since. A career .296/.409/.545/.945 hitter, Berkman's 2011 line is nearly identical. Even as his average slumps, his keen hitting eye keeps him from becoming a black hole in the lineup. Berkman missed several hittable pitches in Game 1. One shouldn't expect that to continue. Berk should soon start Berking.
Yadier Molina: .182/.250/.182/.432 Undeniably colored by his heroics in the 2006 NLCS, I did not expect Yadi to post such a line this postseason, especially coming off his best season with the bat to date of .305/.349/.465/.814. This production valley is far deeper than one should expect from Yadi this postseason.
Albert Pujols: .333/.385/.458/.843 It speaks to Pujols's track record that a BA-heavy .843 OPS somehow feels disappointing. This is likely due to the fact that his four-hit game was a Cardinals loss. Pujols's walk-light line isn't that different from his regular season one, save the power. He swatted three doubles in Game 3 of the NLDS and those are all of his extra-base hits these playoffs. Pujols posted a career-low SLG of .541 this season. One wonders how long opposing pitchers can keep Pujols without a postseason home run.
If this column were written six games into the 1991 postseason, Mark Lemke would have been highlighted as a player very likely to regress to his true talent level of a .250 hitter. Lemke finished the 1991 playoffs with a .426 batting average. That's the thing about the postseason. A slump can swallow it. A hot streak can last through its final PA. Anything can happen. Even so, these are the Cardinals hitters that seem most likely to regress one way or the other in my mind.