The Tampa Bay Rays lost Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’re playing in only their second World Series appearance in franchise history, last losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2008 series.
The Rays’ 2020 run to winning their division and then the American League has been aided by the breakout performance of rookie outfielder Randy Arozarena.
Arozarena already has a number of postseason accomplishments, including seven home runs — the most by a rookie in a single postseason and tied for the second-most all-time by any player in a single postseason.
First rookie position player (fourth rookie overall) to win LCS MVP (Michael Wacha, Liván Hernández, Mike Boddicker).
47 total bases are tied for the second-most in a single postseason in MLB history, trailing only David Freese (50 in 2011).
Can the Rays and Arozarena’s magic carry them to a World Series win?
Great rookie postseason performances are always worth celebrating. Here are some notable rookie playoff runs:
Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) was the star of the Bucks in only their second season as a team. In the 1970 postseason, his stat line was jaw-dropping: 35.2 PPG, 16.8 RPG and 4.1 APG. Despite dropping nine straight 30-point games in the postseason — he only played 10 games — the Bucks did not make it out of the second round. His 352 points are still a rookie playoff record, and a reminder that he accomplished that playing in only 10 games. The Bucks would win an NBA title the following season.
With a stuffed stat line of 18.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 9.4 APG in 16 games, Johnson nearly averaged a triple-double in his first postseason. The postseason run is remembered for Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. With Abdul-Jabbar out with an injured ankle, Johnson filled in at center. He went for 42 points (a rookie record), 15 rebounds and 7 assists in the series-clinching game. In winning his first of five NBA titles, Johnson became the first rookie in NBA history to ever win finals MVP.
Hello Fernandomania! Valenzuela became the first player to win both the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young award in the same year. In pitching a rookie-record 40 2/3 innings with a 2.21 ERA in five postseason starts, he went 3-1. That included a complete-game, four-hitter to prevent elimination in Game 4 of the division series and a 147-pitch, complete game in Game 3 of the World Series. The Dodgers won the 1981 World Series against the New York Yankees in six games after losing the first two.
Just 20 years old, Roy became the youngest player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1986, awarded to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Final. He went 15-5 with 1.93 GAA — pushing the Canadiens to a surprising Stanley Cup title win over the Calgary Flames. Considered one of the greatest goaltenders of all time, Roy won two Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and two with the Colorado Avalanche.
At the age of 23, Smith set a rookie playoff record with 342 rushing yards — 204 of which came in Washington’s 42-10 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. That is the most rushing yards by any player in Super Bowl history. Wildly enough, Smith’s first career start came in Super Bowl XXII, in which he also punched in two touchdowns.
Derek Jeter (1996 New York Yankees)
At the age of 22, Jeter won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1996 and, in the playoffs, turned in a rookie-record 22 hits. Hitting leadoff in the playoffs, Jeter batted .361 in 15 postseason games and the Yankees won the World Series.
Murray won two Stanley Cup titles — and was considered a rookie both times. In 2016, he appeared in just 13 regular-season games with the Penguins but was the starting goaltender throughout the playoffs and started every game of the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals. The Penguins won again in 2017. In the 2016 postseason run, he posted a .923 save percentage and 2.08 GAA. Murray also has the rookie record for wins by a goaltender with 22.