Justin Verlander is the most extreme example of the impact a Trade Deadline acquisition can have on a team. He's not the only reminder of how important the next few weeks are to contending teams, just the best.
"He changed us in a lot of ways," Astros catcher Brian McCann said, "and we were already in a good spot."
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Could the Astros have won the World Series without him? That's unlikely. Verlander joined the team minutes before the Aug. 31 deadline for setting playoff rosters, which is the ultimate deadline.
The Astros were having one of their few tough stretches when Verlander walked in the door and ignited a month-long charge into the postseason. The Astros won all five of his regular-season starts and four of five in the playoffs. Throw in a postseason relief appearance, and Verlander had a dazzling 1.66 ERA for his new team.
As various names -- Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas, J.A. Happ, etc.-- are discussed, every general manager might want to hang Verlander's photo on his wall.
Or maybe Albertin Chapman.
Or Benjamin Zobrist.
Baseball's last eight World Series winners have gotten important contributions from players acquired at or around the July 31st non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The 2009 Yankees were the last team to win a World Series without a significant addition, so that's the starting point for this list.
Here's a snapshot of the last eight champions:
Player: RHP Justin Verlander.
Numbers: 5-0, 1.06 ERA in regular season; 4-1, 2.21 ERA in postseason.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow acquired his new ace at the very last minute for playoff eligibility. Verlander gave the entire team an emotional lift, and his seven shutout innings against the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS forced a Game 7 and will stand as one of the most important games in the six decades the Astros have been in business.
Player: Closer Albertin Chapman.
Numbers: 28 games, 16 saves, 1.01 ERA in regular season; 13 games, 4 saves, 3.45 ERA in postseason.
Chapman transformed the back of the Cubs' bullpen after his arrival from the Yankees, and manager Joe Maddon worked him hard. Chapman got into 13 of the Cubs' 17 postseason games and clearly was out of gas by Game 7 of the World Series. But the Cubs do not break a 108-year championship drought without him.
Players: 2B/OF Benjamin Zobrist, RHP Johnny Cueto.
Numbers: Zobrist had an .816 OPS, 16 doubles, 7 HR in 59 regular-season games; .880 OPS, 8 doubles, 2 HR in 16 postseason games. Cueto was 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA in 13 regular-season starts and 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA in four postseason starts.
Zobrist had a nice run, helping the Royals win a World Series in 2015 and then being named the World Series MVP for the Cubs in 2016. For the Royals, he started games at second base, third base, right field and left field. Cueto had two huge postseason appearances, allowing two runs in eight innings to beat the Astros in a deciding ALDS Game 5 and then going the distance to beat the Mets in World Series Game 2.
Player: 1B/OF Player Page for Travis Ishikawa
Numbers: .731 OPS, 3 doubles, 2 HR in 47 regular-season games; .710 OPS, 2 doubles, 1 HR in 16 postseason games.
The Giants added Ishikawa because injuries had decimated their outfield. Never mind that virtually his entire career had been at first base. Only that's not what people remember. His legacy with the Giants will forever be the walk-off home run that clinched the NLCS.
2013 Red Sox
Player: RHP Jake Peavy.
Numbers: 4-1, 4.04 in 10 regular-season starts; 0-1, 7.11 ERA in 3 postseason starts.
He helped rescue a tired pitching staff down the stretch by pitching at least six innings in eight of 10 starts. He allowed one earned run in 5 2/3 innings to help the Red Sox win a clinching ALDS Game 4.
Player: RF Hunter Pence
Numbers: .671 OPS, 11 doubles, 7 HR in 59 regular-season games; .521 OPS, 2 doubles, 1 HR in 16 postseason games.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy had Pence on his 2011 NL All-Star Team and was so impressed that he encouraged his front office to go get him. Pence hit .390 while helping the Giants win the World Series in 2012 and 2014.
Players: RHP Edwin Jackson and relievers Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Arthur Rhodes, infielder Rafael Furcal.
Numbers: Jackson was 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 13 regular-season appearances (12 starts), and the Cardinals won three of his four postseason starts. Furcal started 47 games at short. But the real impact was Dotel, Rzepczynski and Rhodes, who helped give the Cardinals a championship-caliber bullpen.
Players: OF Cody Ross and reliever Javier Lopez.
Numbers: Ross .819 OPS in 33 regular-season games and 1.076 OPS in 15 postseason games. Lopez 1.42 ERA in 27 regular-season games and 1.59 ERA in nine postseason games.
Two acquisitions that raised nary an eyebrow became huge contributors. Ross was claimed off waivers from the Marlins in late August and had a great postseason run, including being named NLCS MVP. Lopez was acquired from the Pirates for two Minor Leaguers on July 31st and ended up being a part of three championship teams.