“SIX STATS…” is a bonus feature of Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ and is published every Friday.
Over the history of the American League Championship Series and the National League Championship Series, there have been many memorable moments and many memorable performances. Some of those performances have come from players who are currently enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Included in that group are seven Hall of Famers who were LCS MVPs in their career: Willie Stargell, Ozzie Smith, George Brett, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson, Kirby Puckett and Roberto Alomar.
Of the 65 players, however, who have received an LCS MVP honor, there have been a few players who were the unexpected stars of the series; players who, if you would have set odds at the beginning of the series on the possibility of them winning the ALCS or NLCS MVP, would not have received much consideration.
Here are my choices for the six most unlikely LCS MVPs. Let the debate begin…
1. Eddie Perez, Atlanta, 1999. Known as a defensive standout, Perez took over as the Braves starting catcher when Javy Lopez was injured in late July. He batted .249 with 30 RBI in 107 games. In the NLCS, Perez collected 10 hits in six games and batted .500 for the NLCS with two home runs and five RBIs. He had only one hit in eight at-bats in the World Series. He had a career .253 batting average in 564 games.
2. Sterling Hitchcock, San Diego, 1998. A left-handed pitcher, Hitchcock had a very average career with 74 win and 76 losses and a 4.80 ERA. In 1998, he had a 9-7 record. In the NLCS, however, Hitchcock pitched two games against the Braves, winning both. He compiled a 0.90 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 10 innings of work. He got a no decision in one game of work in the ’98 World Series. He won Game Five of the 2001 World Series as a member of the New York Yankees.
3. Craig Counsell, Arizona, 2001. A two-time World Champion with the Marlins and Diamondbacks, Counsell is probably best known for scoring the winning run for Florida in Game Seven of the the 1997 World Series. A career .255 hitter, Counsell hit .275 in 141 games with Arizona during the 2001 regular season. In the NLCS he went 8-for-21, batting .381 and scored five runs while driving in four to earn NLCS MVP. He collected only two hits in 24 at-bats in the World Series that year, although he did hit a solo HR.
4. Mike Devereaux, Atlanta, 1995. A fleet-footed outfielder, Devereaux was a late-August trade acquisition of the Atlanta Braves in 1995. He hit only .255 with the Braves that season, but had the game-winning RBI in Game One of the NLCS and hit a three-run HR in Game Four leading the Braves to a sweep of Cincinnati on his way to MVP honors. He had only one hit in the 1995 World Series. He was a career .254 hitter with 105 home runs.
5. Adam Kennedy, Anaheim, 2002. Kennedy proved that one great game can make you a playoff series MVP. After hitting only seven home runs in the regular season, Kennedy hit three HRs in the deciding fifth game of the ALCS as the Angels beat the Twins four games to one to make it into the 2002 Fall Classic. Kennedy hit .357 in the ALCS with all of his RBIs coming in Game Five. He hit .280 in the 2002 World Series. He is a career .272 hitter
6. Marty Barrett, Boston, 1986. The Red Sox second baseman played 10 seasons in the majors compiling a .278 career average. Not only did he win the ALCS MVP after hitting .367 in the Red Sox seven-game series win over Anaheim, he also starred in the World Series by hitting .433. In that ’86 playoffs he set a major league record with 24 hits in 14 playoff games. He was known as an excellent bunter and led the A.L. in sacrifice bunts three consecutive years. Even though he hit .367 and .433 in those two ’86 series, Barrett hit over .300 in only one season.
Did you know? Kirk Gibson, MVP of the 1984 ALCS, never played in an All-Star Game.