Here's something I find interesting. . .
Since baseball switched to the League Championship Series format in 1969, 58 postseason series have ended with an at-bat that had the potential to drive in the tying or go-ahead run. Only two players have had the misfortune of being that batter twice.
Ryan Howard. . .
. . .and Chipper Jones.
Howard, of course, had the added misfortunes of making those outs in two consecutive postseasons and blowing out his Achilles tendon in one of them.
Jones was at the plate in the ninth inning of the 1997 NLDS with runners on the corners and a 7-4 deficit on the scoreboard and the Braves down to their final out. He hit into a 6-4 fielder's choice to end Atlanta's season.
Five years later, Jones was again at the plate with the opportunity to tie or win the game, the Braves trailing 3-1 with one out and runners on first and second. This time, he hit into a 3-6 double play.
Jones also made the final out in a third postseason series, but he was not in position to tie or win the game.
He and Omar Vizquel are the only two players to make the final out of three different postseason series during the modern playoff era.
Other two-timers include Alex Rodriguez (2010-11), Rod Carew ('69, '82), Mike Piazza (2003, 2007), Roberto Alomar ('91, '97), Shane Victorino (2007, 2009) and the immortal Paul Bako (2000, 2003). Again, though, none of those players were in position to single-handedly stave off elimination on both occasions.
Jones isn't bad company to be in. We tend to put a lot of stock in postseason performances, but as I wrote today, Howard simply did what even the best hitters do in 7 of every 10 at-bats. He simply had the dumb luck of being the last guy we remember doing so.
Just for fun, here are Howard and Jones' numbers in their first six full big league seasons (400+ PAs):
Here is Bob Brookover's take on Howard's polarizing status. I think it is hard for a lot of us to look at Howard objectively. Our opinion is shaped in large part by the lofty expectations he created with his first two seasons in the majors, as well as the five-year, $125 million contract extension he signed a couple of Aprils ago. But the fact is, none of that changes the fact that the Phillies will miss what he brings to the table when he is out.