October is a special time for sports fans. College football is starting conference play, the NBA and NHL are right around the corner, and the NFL takes control of our lives every Sunday. Still, what October is really for is playoff baseball. We will see several clutch at-bats during the postseason play, but how will they compare to the best clutch hitters in postseason history?
For Your Consideration
These players might not be the first ones to come to mind, but we think they’ve more than proven themselves worthy of the title.
Unless you’re a Dodgers fan, the 2020 MLB season is one to forget because the pandemic made it feel phony. But one amazing thing came from it: Randy Arozarena’s performance for the Tampa Bay Rays. The rookie single-handedly carried the Rays to the World Series. In every round of the playoffs, the eventual 2021 Rookie of the Year hit over .320 and had 10 home runs.
In his first postseason in 2011, Freese led the Cardinals to a World Series win over the Texas Rangers, thanks to his clutch game-tying triple and eventual game-winning home run in extra innings in Game 6.
The 1988 MVP had a solid 17-year career, yet the two-time champion rose to the occasion in the World Series. We all remember his epic home run off Dennis Eckersley on two injured legs, but he also had a 1.145 OPS in the 1984 World Series with the Tigers.
Colby Rasmus didn’t win any rings, nor does he have a memorable postseason moment. Nevertheless, we’d like to acknowledge Rasmus for having a ridiculous slash line from the three postseason appearances of his career. In nine games and 35 plate appearances, Rasmus has a .423 batting average, four taters, and a 1.610 OPS.
Legends of Years Gone By
It’s been years since these players have stepped on the field, but they have stood the test of time and are the best of the best.
One unfortunate thing about comparing postseason statistics from past stars is that they didn’t have the same opportunities as others with multiple rounds to accumulate numbers. Hank Aaron is a prime example of this technicality, considering the 23-year veteran only had 74 career playoff plate appearances. Aaron made the most of trips to the dish, hitting .362 with over a .700 slugging percentage.
When the Bronx Bombers decided to take a break from winning championships in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Philadelphia Athletics took advantage, especially the powerful Jimmie Foxx. In three straight World Series appearances from 1929-1931, which include two rings, Foxx had a 1.034 OPS, proving Lefty Gomez’s right when he said that Foxx had muscles in his hair.
With a postseason OPS of .828, “Charlie Hustle” may not have the power numbers to warrant a shoutout, but it’s hard to ignore the all-time hit king. Rose’s .321 batting average and vigor made him one of the game’s most feared hitters during his 268 postseason at-bats.
As everyone knows, the Boston Red Sox didn’t have the best luck in the postseason from 1918-2004. Therefore, one of their all-time great players, Carl Yastrzemski, only appeared in two World Series. However, the 1967 Triple Crown winner made it count with a .369 batting average. And if you’re curious about what Red Sox great Ted Williams did in the postseason, he had five hits (all singles) in 25 at-bats against the Cardinals in the 1946 World Series.
These players are still fresh in our minds. We bet you’ve seen a few of their games in person or on TV.
David Ortiz & Manny Ramirez
It’s impossible not to link David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez because they broke “The Curse of the Bambino” for Boston in 2004 and have historically great postseason numbers. Manny leads all players with 29 postseason dingers because of the extra rounds. Manny had his moments for the Red Sox, including winning the 2004 World Series MVP, but it pales compared to David Ortiz’s memorable moments.
Big Papi’s game-winning home run in the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees catapulted the Red Sox to the only 3-0 series comeback in baseball history en route to their first championship since 1918. Ortiz’s best postseason performance was in 2013, winning the MVP award with an astonishing .688 batting average.
Sneakily, Carlos Beltran had an amazing career, but his postseason prowess is what makes him extraordinarily special. What most baseball fans remember about Beltran was his eight-home run performance in 2004 for the Houston Astros. Yet, Beltran appeared in many other series with several teams, eventually winning a ring with the 2017 Houston Astros*. Beltran called it quits after that win, finishing his career with a playoff slash line of .307/.412/.609/1.021
Speaking of those trash cans beating Houston Astros, Jose Altuve is a pretty good and clutch baseball player. Although his chest might have been buzzing to alert him that Aroldis Chapman was going to throw a breaking ball, you must tip your cap to a guy with 23 home runs and a .899 OPS.
He didn’t get the fade away into the sunset like most Cardinals fans were hoping for after the Phillies swept them in the 2022 Wild Card round, but that doesn’t diminish what “The Machine” did in his playoff career. Pujols is one of the select few who hit three home runs in a World Series game, and he hit a ball off Brad Lidge that may still be in orbit, cementing himself as one of baseball’s most clutch hitters.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have so much history that they needed their own section. We think that after reading about these iconic players, you’ll agree.
Let’s start with the incomparable Babe Ruth. To the surprise of no one, Babe Ruth vaporized baseballs when his Yankees got to the World Series, including his legendary called shot against the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series. His best performance was in the 1928 World Series when he finished the Redbirds with an eye-popping 2.022 OPS.
Ruth’s partner-in-crime, Lou Gehrig, was also an outstanding playoff performer. In that same 1928 World Series against St. Louis, Gehrig topped Ruth’s 2.022 OPS with a 2.433 OPS, which is the highest for any player in the World Series. In the four-game sweep, Gehrig went 6/11 with four dingers and drove in nine runners.
Surprisingly, Joe DiMaggio wasn’t that great of a postseason hitter, so next in line is “The Mick.” Mickey Mantle’s World Series record of 18 career home runs is one record not tainted by the extra games current players get to play today. Mantle didn’t hit for a high batting average (.257) during his 12 appearances, but you can’t dismiss the homer record.
Reggie Jackson’s career postseason slash line is close to his regular season numbers; however, you don’t get the moniker “Mr. October” if you weren’t clutch. Jackson’s performance in the 1977 World Series, which included a three-homer game, immortalized him in Yankees’ lore.
What better way to end the list of the best clutch hitters in postseason history than with “The Captain”? Derek Jeter played in enough postseason games that it was almost like he added a new season to his 20-year career. The four-time champion had so many unforgettable moments donning the pinstripes that it’s hard to single out just one. His walk-off home run against the Diamondbacks once the clock struck midnight should take the cake.
With the 2022 postseason in full swing, you should take advantage of Pregame’s MLB expert picks against the spread, so there’s not only one winner in the postseason. With the insightful advice from our experts, you can feel confident with your selections.