Rookies to win postseason series MVP Awards

November 6th, 2022

Winning a postseason series MVP Award is no small feat. And it's an even greater accomplishment if someone does it as a rookie. When the lights are brightest in October, it takes a special player and a special performance to take home an MVP trophy, especially when that player doesn't have much Major League experience to draw from.

Here's a look at the six players to win a postseason series MVP Award:

Jeremy Peña, 2022 ALCS and WS

Peña hit safely in all six games of the World Series, batting .400 with 10 hits and a homer that ended up being decisive in a Game 5 victory. He was the first rookie position player to be named World Series MVP and joined Marlins right-hander Livan Hernandez in 1997 and Dodgers righty Larry Sherry in 1959 as the only rookies ever. He also became the ninth player and second rookie along with Hernandez to win LCS and World Series MVP honors in the same season.

In a four-game sweep of the Yankees in the ALCS, Peña hit .353 with two doubles, two home runs and four RBIs. He launched a game-tying three-run shot in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium to get the Astros on the board in a contest they would win, 6-5, to clinch their AL-record sixth consecutive pennant. The 25-year-old also shined defensively at shortstop, proving the big stage didn't faze him as he delivered under pressure.

Randy Arozarena, 2020 ALCS

Arozarena's 2020 postseason was record-shattering. Overall, the 26-year-old rookie outfielder played in 20 playoff games that year for the Rays and hit .377/.442/.831 with 10 home runs. In the ALCS against the defending AL champion Astros, he smashed four homers with a 1.152 OPS in the seven-game series to help lift Tampa Bay into the World Series for the second time in franchise history. Though the Rays lost to the Dodgers in a six-game Fall Classic, Arozarena finished with single-postseason records in hits (29), homers (10), extra-base hits (14, tied) and total bases (64).

Michael Wacha, 2013 NLCS

The Cardinals selected Wacha 19th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, and just over a year later, he was pitching for St. Louis in the NLCS against the Dodgers. The right-hander threw 13 2/3 scoreless frames against Los Angeles, yielding only seven hits while walking two and striking out 13 to help the Cards reach the World Series for the second time in three years. That included seven scoreless frames in the Game 6 clincher, a 9-0 St. Louis victory in which the 22-year-old outpitched Clayton Kershaw.

Livan Hernandez, 1997 NLCS and World Series

When he took the mound to start Game 5 of the 1997 NLCS against the Braves, Hernandez had only 17 Major League starts to his name. But the emergency starter handled the pressure with aplomb, throwing a complete-game three-hitter, yielding one run while walking two and striking out 15. After receiving MVP honors for that series, the rookie sensation from Cuba continued to impress in the World Series against Cleveland, in which the right-hander outpitched Orel Hershiser twice as the Marlins won the first World Series title in franchise history in a seven-game thriller.

Interestingly, Hernandez is one of eight players in postseason history to be named MVP of both an LCS and World Series, and at the time he was the first since Hershiser, who was named NLCS MVP before taking home World Series MVP honors in 1988.

Mike Boddicker, 1983 ALCS

Replacing a legend and future Hall of Famer in a starting rotation is a daunting task. And it's even more daunting for a rookie. But that's exactly what Boddicker, a crafty right-hander who changed speeds and arm angles to fluster hitters, did in 1983 for the Orioles after Jim Palmer was injured. Boddicker ended up being the best starter in Baltimore's rotation, posting a 2.77 ERA and leading the Majors with five shutouts. 

In Game 2 of the ALCS against the White Sox at Memorial Stadium, Boddicker was brilliant, tossing a shutout on five hits while walking three and tying an LCS record with 14 strikeouts. The Orioles won the best-of-five series in four games before winning the World Series in five games over the Phillies. Boddicker threw another gem in Game 2 of the Fall Classic, giving up just one unearned run in a complete-game three-hitter that Baltimore won, 4-1.

Larry Sherry, 1959 World Series

Though he only appeared in 23 games (nine starts) for the Dodgers during the 1959 regular season, Sherry had his best campaign of an 11-year MLB career at age 22. In the World Series against the White Sox, the right-hander posted a 0.71 ERA in 12 2/3 innings out of the bullpen, including 5 2/3 scoreless frames in the Game 6 clincher to help the Dodgers win their first World Series title since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles the prior year.