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On Nelson Cruz and the Long Postseason

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About ten days ago, Nelson Cruz was a God among men and the subject of breakout video sessions on ESPN and MLB Network. Here is Cruz's postseason this year:

  • ALDS v. Tampa Bay: .067/.067/.067. In fifteen trips to the plate, Cruz hit one single. For good measure, he also grounded into a double play.
  • ALCS v. Detroit: .364/.440/1.273. Cruz goes insane, hits six homers and throws in two doubles as well. At this point, it was brought to our attention that Cruz hit well in last year's postseason.
  • WS v. St. Louis: .250/.438/.500. Cruz has another homer in the World Series, along with two singles and four walks. He's still hitting near the bottom of the lineup however, and he's only scored one run when he didn't drive himself in.

In postseason play, Cruz has hit .245/.339/.714, which isn't far from his season line of .263/.312/.509. While I suppose Cruz has had a "good" World Series, he's hardly put the Rangers on his back. Essentially, he had a terrible series, an absurdly awesome series, and is now having a Nelson Cruz series (with a few more walks, probably semi-intentionally).

There are a few, somewhat disconnected ideas here. In the Selig-era, the postseason is a slog. The Rangers played their first postseason game on September 30, which was now well over three weeks ago. Now guaranteed to go at least six games in the World Series, Cruz's postseason will end up being very near to a month long. In the three (and soon to be four or five) postseason series era, we need to keep in mind just how much additional baseball is being played. In one postseason alone, Cruz has had a tremendously awful and a tremendously awesome series. Sequencing, also, is important. Imagine if half of Cruz's homers had come against Tampa, instead of 100% of them coming against Detroit? Do the Rangers still beat the Tigers? Probably, but that series is likely very different.

Secondly, Cruz's up and down postseason reminds us that this is how baseball is played. In small samples, baseball remains the most random and unpredictable sport. We still hold on to the notion that post-season baseball is special or different. There are often different strategies used (sometimes justifiably, sometimes not) but fundamentally, the game is the same. Players can have good weeks or bad weeks. Nelson Cruz, ultimately, is Nelson Cruz.