Well, that title was vague. With the league championship series having wrapped up and the World Series beginning tomorrow, there's been a lot of post-season baseball to digest so far. It also means that 80% of 2012's post-season stats are in the books. With so few games going on at once (and them being more important), it makes total sense that we, collectively, focus on the positive and negatives with a much greater magnifying glass than the regular season. But should we let post-season successes or failures affect the fantasy values of players for 2013 and beyond?
Last year had its share of post-season heroes and goats. On the positive side, no one did more for their household name above replacement (HNAR) during the 2011 post-season than David Freese. He not only hit .397/.465/.794 with 5 HR and 21 RBI in 63 post-season AB, but he had the biggest part of St. Louis' incredible Game 6 comeback. Freese also spun this success into the best season of his career in 2012. On the negative side, C.J. Wilson (5.79 ERA in 5 starts) and Zack Greinke (6.48 ERA in 3 starts) were much worse than anticipated - though poor performances are much less likely to transform themselves into reflections upon that player the following year.
So who are the stories of the post-season so far in 2012, and should we extrapolate any of this performance as an indicator going into 2013? We'll look at ten players who are getting either more press than they're used to, or different press than their used to, and what to take away from it:
Amazingly, Vogelsong has been the biggest reason San Francisco is still alive this post-season. For the guy who was supposed to be the biggest question mark in their rotation entering October, 2 wins, a 1.42 ERA and 18 K in 19 IP is much more than could have reasonably been expected. I expect this success to not only completely undo the narrative of his August/September long-awaited regression, but carry him out beyond regression territory. As Sam Miller put in his Game 6 recap ($) at BP, maybe he is just good now, without qualifications.
Sergio Romo/Jason Motte
Whether it's just anecdotal or not, it seems like closers that are relied on heavily during the post-season are more likely to struggle and/or get hurt shortly thereafter. I think it started with Keith Foulke, who was never the same after being used heavily in the 2004 playoffs for the Red Sox. So I took a look at the last five years of closers for WS teams. Starting with 2007, Jonathan Papelbon has been fine, while Manny Corpas was not and only saved 15 more games in his career. 2008 saw Brad Lidge and his "perfect" season make the series with the Phillies and his decline started the following year (he made it back to the series anyway). The 2008 Rays didn't have a true closer, but they worked JP Howell harder than any other reliever in that bullpen. Howell hung on in 2009, but missed all of 2010 with a shoulder injury. In 2009, the Yankees won the Series, but Mariano Rivera is a machine. 2010 was a battle of two closers who have both had Tommy John surgery since (Brian Wilson and Neftali Feliz). Finally, 2011 was Feliz again (Tommy John) and Jason Motte (elbow/shoulder still intact).
Now, with all of that said (assuming you're still awake), I'm not claiming that Jason Motte or Sergio Romo will get hurt next season -- it's just something to be aware of. Two post-seasons of extra high leverage innings can take a toll, but Motte is also a converted catcher, so he has less mileage in general. Romo is the guy I'd be more concerned about, as he has injury issues; so much so that the Giants went to great precaution to protect his arm during the regular season. It's true that the flame out rate of relievers is high to start with, but it's just food for thought.
Yes, Rosenthal has been dominant. And yes, I find it endearing when Will Leitch tweets "Trevor Rosenthal is my spirit animal" every time he pitches. But Rosenthal won't close for the Cardinals next year and he's either seventh or eighth in line for a rotation spot. Long-term, he's an exciting arm, but he's neither the Cardinals most exciting prospect arm for the rotation (Miller) nor the bullpen (C. Martinez). Value accordingly.
A-LOL-CS MVP. Nothing to see here.
It looks like Jim Johnson picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. Our BABIP overloads may have had their way with JJ during the Division Series, but don't let that scare you from considering him a solid closer for 2013.
He's been hitting so well in the NLCS, you'd be hard pressed to believe that Scutaro only hit .150 in the Division Series. Maybe that Matt Holliday slide really did contain magic. All he's done in the NLCS is hit .458 with 4 RBI in 24 AB heading into Game 7. But with Scutaro, it's just as much about the press as it is the performance. Yes, Scutaro put up a 5.4% K-rate since coming over to the Giants (which is miniscule even for Scutaro), but he's not magically become a batting title contender. In fact, I wouldn't bet on him hitting over .300 in 2013. When you combine that with his inability to hit for power or steal bases, you get a player who may be overrated solely on the back of an increased HNAR.
Alex Rodriguez/Curtis Granderson
We have to cover this again. I wrote a detailed piece on why I'm not terribly concerned about A-Rod falling off a cliff earlier this month. But all people will take away from his post-season are the strikeouts and benching. Let's see what he does when he's healthy before we bury the guy, shall we? Granderson's a slightly different animal, but how much stock should we really be putting into a 3-for-30 stretch from a guy who hit 43 HR this year? The answer is none. If this drives the price down on him in drafts this March, I'll be glad to scoop up the additional value. Just don't expect his batting average to come back.
Bumgarner is the one that scares me here. He's not only been struggling in the post-season to the point where he was pulled from the rotation in favor or Barry Zito (this Barry Zito), but he's lost velocity as well. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that's happened either. The fact is that he's thrown a ton of innings at a very young age, and carries more risk than other similarly valued pitchers for that reason. Bumgarner is a guy who I'm dropping down in my rankings -- I'm concerned.