These stars can make history this October

September 24th, 2021

Remember back when the Wild Card Era began, when one of the primary concerns everybody had was that it would skew postseason records? How could Mickey Mantle’s postseason records last in a world where there were multiple playoff rounds? The answer of course was that they couldn’t, though you’ll find plenty of Mantle on those World Series leaderboards.

By now, however, our postseason records have plenty of weight behind them: It's been 26 years since the Wild Card was introduced in 1995, and at that point, it had been 26 years since MLB instituted divisional play in 1969. These records truly mean something now.

More specifically: There are several players who are likely to be a part of this postseason who have already carved their names into playoff history and will only have more opportunities to burnish those résumés this October. Here’s a look at some players who are no strangers to the biggest stage -- what they’ve done so far and what they might accomplish yet.

1. , OF, Rays
Arozarena, amazingly, is still considered a rookie, yet he has appeared in two postseasons: He was hitless in four postseason at-bats with the Cardinals in 2019, and then went gangbusters in 2020 while with the Rays. After his epic performance last October, Arozarena is 32nd all time in postseason homers -- he needs one to tie Paul O’Neill and Jorge Posada, if you can believe that -- and among qualified players, he’s seventh in batting average, 12th in OBP and first in slugging (.790). Right behind him: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and … Troy Glaus. Other active players in the top 20 for all-time slugging: Nelson Cruz (seventh), Paul Goldschmidt (12th), Albert Pujols (20th) and Gleyber Torres (18th). Of course, it’s more likely than not that Arozarena’s slugging percentage goes down the more postseason games he plays, but what if it doesn’t?

2. , RHP, Dodgers
Mariano Rivera is obviously the greatest postseason closer of all time: He has a stunning 42 postseason saves. (In 47 opportunities, if you’re counting.) But it’s Jansen who is second all time in postseason saves with 18, tied with Brad Lidge. He’s not the only active closer in the top 10: Aroldis Chapman is seventh with 10. The most impressive Jansen stat? He has the lowest batting average against, .152, of any pitcher with 40 or more postseason innings in history.

3. , LHP, Dodgers
Kershaw finally got his postseason breakthrough last year, but the idea that he had struggled before 2020 is not evidenced by the facts: He has 13 wins (fifth all time, one behind Tom Glavine and Justin Verlander, and two behind John Smoltz), and batters have hit just .221 against him. More to the point: He’s the all-time leader in postseason strikeouts, with 207.

4. , OF, Dodgers
Bellinger has a strange, curious spot on this list: He’s 10th all time in postseason strikeouts despite having played in only 54 games. He has 72 strikeouts in 201 postseason at-bats … which is really quite a lot, even for this era. Bellinger just went on the IL with a rib fracture and has had a rough season to begin with, so it’s an open question how much he’ll even play this October.

5. , 1B, Dodgers
Pujols, in 2011, was well on his way to dominating the postseason record books the way he currently dominates the regular-season ones. Unfortunately for him, he played in only three postseason games with the Angels, all losses. He’s got a chance to surpass that total this very October. He’s tied for 13th all time in postseason games played with Matt Holliday and Reggie Jackson; he’ll tie Paul O’Neill and David Ortiz if he somehow makes it into eight. His .599 slugging percentage is higher than anyone else in the top 25 in games played. He needs one postseason homer to tie Derek Jeter for third all time. He’s three behind Bernie Williams for second and 10 behind Manny Ramirez for first. So, basically: He needs to have Arozarena’s 2020 postseason to catch up with him.

6. , 3B, Dodgers
One of the nice things about making what will be eight consecutive playoff teams is that you start racking up the numbers. Turner is 20th all time with 72 postseason games played, and he could get into the top 10 if the Dodgers make a run. Thirty-two at-bats will give him 300 for his career, which is more than Paul O’Neill and only four short of David Ortiz. Eleven hits will put him in the top 10 in all-time postseason hits as well, and one double will put him in the top five, moving him past Manny Ramirez and Yadier Molina. (Assuming Molina doesn’t hit a few himself.)

7. , LHP, Cardinals
He’s not the best or most currently heralded old guy in the Cardinals' rotation; Adam Wainwright, for his part, is 23rd all time in innings pitched, with a 2.89 ERA, but he is dinged for missing the entire lengthy 2011 postseason. Still, Lester is definitely the most historically accomplished.

He’s 14th all time in wins with nine, and he’d enter the top 10 if he can get one more in October. (Tying Dave Stewart, Chris Carpenter, CC Sabathia, David Wells and Whitey Ford. Though he’s only one ahead of Gerrit Cole.) He’s also eighth all time in innings pitched, and his ERA, 2.51, is better than every single pitcher above him on that list. He’s ninth in strikeouts too, but he’s not likely to catch the guy just above him: That’s Max Scherzer, who is known for striking a few guys out himself. (Of course, Lester probably won’t get a chance to pitch this October unless the Cardinals win the Wild Card Game.)

8. , C, Cardinals
Derek Jeter is the only player to have played essentially a full season of postseason games: He ended up with 158. But Molina is close to a full-season-for-a-catcher number. He’s at 101 all time, good for sixth overall and easily first among active players. If he gets into 10 games, he’ll tie Manny Ramirez for fifth, and he needs 11 to tie David Justice for fourth. He’s fifth in hits and will pass Jorge Posada for fourth with three hits this October.

9. , C, Giants
We’ll save what might be the most notable achievement for last. Posey’s historical postseason feats come entirely from his three years winning the World Series with the Giants in 2010, ‘12 and ‘14: He’s the only active Giant who was on all three teams. (Brandons Belt and Crawford weren’t there until 2011.) He does have an opportunity to become the first National League player (and the first non-Yankee) to win four World Series with the same team in the divisional era, which began in 1969. The last NL players to win four for their team? Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres with the Dodgers.

Posey is not the only player currently with a chance to win his fourth World Series, though: Sergio Romo won those three Series in San Francisco and is still in the running with the A's (though their postseason hopes are dwindling).