Michael Cuddyer, a guy not necessarily known as Mr. Clutch throughout his career as a Twin, was very consistent in the playoffs. Here's his slash line: .338/.372/.473, in 74 at-bats. Those figures are all above his regular season career averages. In 2010, he hit a home run in Game 1 of the ALDS at Target Field against the Yankees, and I thought for a second that things were going to be different this time around. And then, just like Lucy pulling the football from Charlie Brown for the hundredth as he went to kick it, the Twins fooled me one more time. So, say what you will about Cuddyer and his penchant for swinging at sliders in the dirt, but the man was at least consistent when it counted the most, and he in fact played better in October than he did during the regular season. The Twins' playoff struggles certainly can't be blamed on Cuddyer.
How about Kubel? I had remembered that he struck out a lot in the 2009 ALDS, but that was about it. The stats are not encouraging: in 29 at-bats, here is Kubel's slash line: .069/.156/.103. 13 strikeouts; 2 total hits -- a single and a double. Simply stated, Kubel has been horrific in the playoffs. As consistent as he was in helping the Twins compete and win in the regular season, his playoff track record is abysmal. Without looking into the detailed, game-by-game stats, I'm guessing that some of Kubel's failures are the result of facing tough leftys, including CC Sabathia, in October. Kubel, never known for hitting southpaws very well, would have been put in a situation where he was very likely to fail. Add that to the stress of the playoffs, and you apparently end up with a slash line that makes Drew Butera's look like Ted Williams'.
As consistent as Joe Nathan was in the regular season throughout his career saving games in Minnesota, he was equally inconsistent in October when it mattered the most. For his playoff career, Nathan owns a 7.88 ERA in 8 innings of work, having allowed 2 home runs, and striking out 10 while walking 7. According to my notes, he has 2 blown saves, 1 save, and 1 loss in 8 appearances. Unfortunately, Nathan's playoff legacy in Minnesota is that he was unable to get the job done when it counted most. Sure, some of the blame rests on the Twins as a whole, for not scoring more runs or not fielding a better playoff lineup, but Nathan couldn't earn his closer money when the Twins most needed a closer.
What about Matt Capps, who the Twins re-signed a few weeks ago? Well, for the definition of a small sample size, here you go: 1 total inning pitched, 2 hits, 1 earned run. Sadly, the man we traded Wilson Ramos for, the man who was supposed to help our playoff run in 2010, pitched 1 lousy inning in the playoffs.
So there you have it, a quick rundown of what the Twins have given up, in terms of playoff performances, from their free agents that have left for (perceived) greener pastures. Of course, the big caveat with these figures is the extremely small sample size, with the exception of perhaps Cuddyer. But isn't that what the playoffs are about -- who can succeed, and who fails, in an extremely small window for success that has extremely large implications? Perhaps there's a reason that Cuddyer has been more successful in October than in the regular season, and that otherwise-reliable players such as Kubel and Nathan have been dreadful? I don't know much about clutch hitting as a reliable statistical measure, but it certainly is worth exploring. And, of course, not every at-bat in the playoffs is a clutch situation. But how else do you explain Kubel's absolute inability to play the game of baseball -- even the inability to make contact in nearly half of his at-bats --when the calendar turns to October? I'm sure others have more informed views on this topic, and I'd love to hear them. In any event, however, if we are thinking about the Twins, either in the short term or the long term, as a playoff team, the only major loss statistically was Michael Cuddyer. The problem, though, is that players such as Nathan and Kubel were huge reasons that the Twins ever got to the playoffs in the first place.